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React Native vs. Ionic

Smartphones are increasingly becoming more and more popular. In 2018, 58% of all website visits were from mobile devices; this attributed to the fact that mobile apps offer a faster and more streamlined user experience when compared to traditional websites. Over the years, mobile app development services have grown exponentially, and a lot of frameworks and libraries introduced in the ecosystem. Frameworks like React Native and Ionic offer an excellent alternative to the native app development, as they follow the “write once, run anywhere” philosophy. Mobile app developers are embracing these frameworks with open arms as they reduce development time and increase productivity. Platforms like Squareboat offer comprehensive mobile and web development services, with the latest cutting edge technologies in the market.

React Native and Ionic are frameworks used to develop mobile apps, but they do so in a completely different way, and there are a few noticeable differences between these two:

 

Native vs. Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps are web apps enclosed inside a native app shell. Because of this, developers only need to write the code once, and then the hybrid app can run on a multitude of devices. As they have an extra layer between the source code and the mobile target platform, they are usually a bit slower in performance than the native apps. Native apps are developed specifically for a target platform using a specific programming language, e.g., Java is used to develop native Android apps. Native apps have complete access to the native APIs and the device’s sensors like camera, accelerometer, GPS, gyroscope, and more, but Hybrid apps have moderate access to the Native APIs. Native apps are generally faster and more reliable than the hybrid apps, but this gap is shrinking as the performance of hybrid apps is improving.

The ionic framework, generally used for developing hybrid mobile apps using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Ionic can be used to develop apps for various platforms like Android, iOS, and desktop.

 

React Native, on the other hand, is used for developing native mobile apps using the widely popular JavaScript framework, React. React Native is neither completely native nor hybrid, as React Native apps are a mixture of both. React Native partly compiles your code, which is written in JavaScript, to the native code. Only the UI elements like a button or a slider compile to the native code, but not the business logic part of the JavaScript code. The JavaScript code run inside JavaScriptCore, which is a JavaScript virtual machine. React Native then bundles the compiled code and the JavaScript code together in a single app, along with JavaScriptCore, which deploys to the app store for distribution. React Native Bridge ensures that the communication between the native and JavaScript thread goes seamlessly.

 

Performance

 React Native apps are faster when compared to Ionic because it produces close to native apps. Ionic apps can be a bit slower as limited by the capability of the browser container, which encloses a hybrid app.

Development Time and Cost

React Native has a steeper learning curve and can be harder to debug when compared to Ionic. A React Native developer has to learn new technologies and languages like the React library itself, jsx, and build tools like webpack. Due to the added complexity in the codebase, it becomes equally demanding to debug the app. On the other hand, an Ionic developer mostly has to learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, that’s why most web developers find it easy to create Ionic apps, as they already know the tech stack. Ionic is also relatively fast to set up and start developing apps when compared to React Native. Due to these reasons, hiring a React Native developer could cost more than an Ionic developer.

 

Ecosystem

React Native has quickly become one of the most popular libraries for mobile app development and has a vast community of passionate developers who are working with the community to troubleshoot the issues. Also, there is a large number of third-party plugins available for React Native, which help in extending the functionality of the app to a great extent.

Ionic also has a vibrant community of mobile app developers, and if you are developing Ionic apps, you would most likely use frameworks like PhoneGap or Cordova. These frameworks offer a vast number of third party plugins to be used in your Ionic app.

 

Other Factors

Let’s summarize these differences along with other key distinguishing factors between React Native and Ionic in tabular form:

React Native Ionic
Technology Stack React and Javascript HTML, CSS, JavaScript, TypeScript
Developers Facebook and community Drifty Co.
Performance Closer to native and relatively faster Slower due to webview component
Learning Curve Steeper learning curve Relatively easier to learn
Development Time Requires comparatively more time to set up and develop the app Requires less time to set up and develop in comparison to React Native
Development Cost Costlier compared to Ionic. Requires a real mobile device to test the code. Relatively cheaper than React Native. The code can be tested inside a browser.
Popularity Widely popular with strong community

Github stars: 82k

Github contributors: 2027

Relatively less popular than React Native

Github stars: 39k

Github contributors: 340

Platforms Supported Android, iOS, Universal Windows Platform Android, iOS, Universal Windows Platform, PWA (Progressive Web Apps)
Companies using Facebook, Instagram, Walmart, SoundCloud, Bloomberg, Wix MarketWatch

, Pacifica, Sworkit, JustWatch, ChefSteps, Untappd

 

Which one to chose?

Both React Native and Ionic serve different purposes, although the gap with performance is closing day by day. If the app uses large amounts of data processing and media, like video, then it is probably better to go with React Native. React Native is also a better choice if you need quicker response times from your app. 

If the app doesn’t deal with vast amounts of data, and you can deal with a little bit of lag in terms of response time, then Ionic can do the job and also quicker and faster to develop on. Ionic apps are better suited for small or medium-sized businesses and rapid prototyping.

 


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