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React Native vs Kotlin: What Everything You Need To Know

Lavesh Katariya
Lavesh Katariya
April 6, 2023
Clock icon6 mins read
Calendar iconLast updated May 1, 2024
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Quick Summary:- Considering building your next mobile app? This blog explores Meta's React Native and JetBrains' Kotlin to help you decide which might be the best fit for your project.

Before we delve into a detailed comparison between these two, let's take a cursory glance at React Native vs Kotlin:

  • React Native is an open-source mobile app development framework, while Kotlin is a programming language. Both are used in cross platform app development.
  • React Native is developed by Facebook and has a strong community, whereas Kotlin is developed by JetBrains and has a smaller yet growing community.
  • React Native development is cost-effective for multi-platform development, while Kotlin is an ideal choice for Android app development.
    In terms of popularity, both are widely acclaimed. React Native has been the second most-used framework since 2019, while Kotlin has been the fourth most popular language since 2018.
  • React Native is utilized by companies such as Meta, Microsoft, Shopify, Wix, Pinterest, Tesla, and many other top-rated companies. Kotlin is employed by companies such as Google, Twitter, Reddit, Netflix, Uber, BMW, Coursera, Slack, and Trello, among others.
  • React Native enables the development of mobile apps using web technologies, while Kotlin, along with Java, is Android's native language.

React Native vs Kotlin: Head to head

What is React Native?

React Native is a JavaScript-based framework for building high-performing apps for iOS and Android platforms. It was developed by Facebook as an extension of its popular ReactJS library.

Shortly after its launch, it took the application development space by storm, allowing companies to develop native-like applications rapidly. Discord, Wix, and Walmart are some popular examples of React Native

The key feature of React Native is that it helps developers to create programs using web technologies without writing OS-native code. This approach helps developers to build native-like applications without writing much OS-native language. 

What is Kotlin?

Kotlin is a statically typed, object-oriented, and functional programming language. It was developed by JetBrains in 2011. Since its creation, it has been around us, but it gained massive popularity after Google announced Kotlin as an official language for Android app development in its I/O 2017.

It is primarily used in Android app development. However, with Kotlin Multiplatform, developers can use it in cross-platform development. 

Since both are used in mobile app development, it is important to understand differece between them. 

React Native vs Kotlin

React Native is a JavaScript-based framework offering a library for mobile app development. It promotes faster development by utilizing a modular architecture. This allows you to break down complex applications into smaller, self-contained modules with specific functionalities.

This is ideal for visually complex user interfaces with many components like buttons, forms, and navigation bars. Popular social media, e-commerce, news, and information apps often leverage React Native for this very reason. Examples include Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Walmart, and Bloomberg.

In contrast, Kotlin is a programming language primarily used for Android development. It allows you to build native Android apps and can even be used for multi-platform development beyond mobile. Developed by JetBrains, Kotlin offers a more concise coding experience compared to Java.

While it can be used for cross-platform development, Kotlin Multiplatform is a separate extension that enables writing cross-platform apps using the Kotlin language. Similar to React Native, Kotlin Multiplatform lets you share code across different platforms, extending beyond mobile applications.

Both React Native and Kotlin can be used for cross-platform development. Here's a breakdown of when to choose one over the other.

When should you choose React Native?

1. When you want to develop apps using web technology!

The magic of React Native lies in its ability to empower developers to create applications using only JavaScript. A developer proficient in web development can seamlessly transition to mobile app development with React Native.

2. When you want one codebase for all platforms!

With React Native, you can rapidly develop cross-platform apps that maintain a native look and feel. This approach significantly reduces the costs associated with developing separate apps for different platforms, while also simplifying code management with a single codebase.

By choosing React Native, companies planning to build cross-platform apps can avoid the need to hire different developers for each platform. In contrast, apps developed with OS-native languages require separate codebases for each platform, which is not only time-consuming but also costly.

3. When you want to develop an app in less time!

Do you need your app developed and published quickly? React Native incorporates a plethora of pre-built tools that facilitate faster app development. Features such as hot reloading enable developers to build apps more efficiently, resulting in reduced development time.

When should you choose Kotlin?

1. When you have an enormous amount of Java code and want to reduce it!

If you have a large Java codebase and seek to streamline it, Kotlin is the solution. Kotlin seamlessly integrates with Java, allowing it to call Java code and coexist harmoniously with existing Java projects.

Kotlin stands out as a language requiring fewer lines of code to achieve the same functionality compared to Java. Its streamlined syntax eliminates unnecessary keywords, making code more concise and readable.

Consider the following "Hello, World!" programs written in Kotlin and Java:

```kotlin
fun main(args: Array<String>) {
    println("Hello, World!")
}
```
```java
class HelloWorld {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        System.out.println("Hello, World!");
    }
}
```

If your current app is developed in Java and you want to scale it, Kotlin provides a smooth transition option. Kotlin's concise and streamlined syntax enhances code readability and maintenance.

2. When you are developing the app for the Android platform only!

Google has designated Kotlin as its preferred language for Android app development due to its Java interoperability and ability to reduce code complexity. Transitioning to Kotlin not only reduces code volume but also accelerates the expansion of existing Java projects.

When considering these advantages, Kotlin emerges as the optimal choice for Android app development over React Native.

3. When you have an experienced team of Android developers!

Kotlin is an excellent choice for Android development if your team already possesses expertise in Android development. Leveraging the latest Kotlin features, your team can build cutting-edge applications efficiently.

Key Features of React Native:

  • Hot Reloading: Allows instant reflection of code changes in components without affecting the entire app state, reducing development time.
  • Reusability: Facilitates building multiplatform apps using one codebase, enhancing efficiency and popularity.
  • React Native Bridge: Enables communication between the JavaScript side and the native side.
  • Easy Testing: React Native apps can be easily tested using tools like Expo without opening them in Xcode or Android Studio.

Key Features of Kotlin:

  • Lazy Loading: Improves application loading time by delaying the loading of resources that are not immediately required.
  • Java to Kotlin Conversion: Provides interoperability with Java, allowing easy conversion of Java code to Kotlin.
  • Full Control Over Native Elements: As the native language of the Android platform, Kotlin offers complete control over native components, making it ideal for Android app development compared to React Native or other cross-platform stacks.

Pros and Cons of React Native

React Native: Pros

1. Write once and use it everywhere: One of its significant advantages over Kotlin is that the same code can be shared across various platforms, eliminating the need for separate teams of developers for different platforms.

2. Ready-to-use components: React Native offers faster development compared to traditional languages because it includes a rich library of pre-built tools that developers can use multiple times without starting from scratch.

3. Live Reload: This feature significantly enhances development speed by enabling developers to see changes instantly without reloading the entire app.

4. Cost-efficient: Reusable code across various platforms greatly reduces the overall development cost. Additionally, React Native code requires less maintenance as the same code sharing between platforms reduces maintenance costs compared to maintaining separate codebases for each platform.

5. Large community: A strong developer community provides invaluable support. When facing challenges, developers can seek assistance from others worldwide.

React Native: Cons

1. Performance is lower than native apps: While React Native apps are impressively fast, native apps still offer better performance. React Native apps include a bridge called the "React Native bridge" between the UI thread and JavaScript functions, which can act as a bottleneck.

2. Upgrading can be challenging: Upgrading from one version to the latest version can be tedious, and even a small mistake can cause delays. This may hinder the adoption of new features and tools aimed at improving application performance.

3. Lack of custom modules: Although React Native is suitable for native app development with a wide range of modules for building various components, it still lacks some custom modules. This may require developers to create components from scratch in certain cases.

Pros and Cons of Kotlin

Kotlin: Pros

1. Concise coding: Compared to Java, Kotlin syntax is more concise, reducing the significant amount of boilerplate code needed to declare variables, classes, and methods.

2. Recommended by Google: Google strongly recommends using Kotlin for Android development; many new APIs, such as Android FTX, JetPack compose, etc., are built around Kotlin.

3. Functional programming: Kotlin is a functional programming language that features modularity, reusability, concurrency, parallelism, and concise coding, making it a great choice for modern app development.

Kotlin: Cons

1. It is still a young language: While Kotlin has gained significant popularity and adoption in recent years, it is still a relatively new programming language compared to others, like Java. As a result, the resources and community of developers available to support and assist with Kotlin development may be more limited compared to other languages.

This can sometimes make it challenging for developers to get help or find answers when facing problems or challenges during app development with Kotlin.

2. A bit slower than Java: Although considered an enhanced version of Java, Kotlin is comparatively slower than Java in terms of application speed within the Android ecosystem.

3. Limited resources: Despite its increasing popularity, Kotlin has yet to achieve the maturity seen in other programming languages. Consequently, when encountering issues with your app, you may find it difficult to receive assistance from the developer community due to its limited size.

Which one is better? React Native or Kotlin?

The selection of the right development stack depends on many factors, such as the operating system, cost, app features, and more. For example, when you want to develop a universal app for all platforms, React Native is arguably a great choice over Kotlin.

However, the apps developed using React Native are not truly native and cannot match the performance of native apps developed using OS-native languages such as Java, C, C++, and Kotlin.

On the other hand, you can develop more complex apps in terms of GUI and layout for the Android platform with Kotlin since you have more access to its native APIs.

Summing up…

In this article, you have walked through React Native vs. Kotlin – both languages are very popular for cross-platform app development and are also supported by big, established names in the market. Speaking of React Native, it is a well-established tech stack supported by Facebook and a strong community of developers.

On the other hand, Kotlin is prominently used in Android app development and has strong support from Google. Additionally, it has gained traction in multiplatform app development, as there are very valid and good reasons to choose Kotlin. Not to mention, it is powerful and able to utilize native components effectively.

To summarize, the tech stack for your mobile app development may be finalized after your needs are clear.

Have you decided on the cross-platform stack for your next project?

What are your requirements?

Do you prefer a native app or a hybrid app for your business?

Feel free to contact us for more information. Brilworks is one of the top-rated React Native development companies with an experienced team of React Native developers. We offer both hybrid and native app solutions at an affordable cost and provide round-the-clock support.

Lavesh Katariya

Lavesh Katariya

With over 8 years of experience in the MERN stack, I specialize in building robust and scalable web applications. Proficient in MongoDB, Express.js, React.js, and Node.js, my passion for clean code and innovative problem-solving ensures high-quality solutions.

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