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What Is React Native? A Comprehensive Guide for 2024

vikas singh
Vikas Singh
February 13, 2024
Clock icon mins read
Calendar iconLast updated February 13, 2024
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Quick Summary:- Are you curious about React Native mobile development? This blog comprehensively introduces this in-demand framework, guiding you through its core concepts and capabilities. Learn how React Native simplifies cross-platform app creation and discover if it's the right choice for your mobile projects.

The past decade saw smartphones evolve from communication tools to pocket-sized powerhouses. Apps, once a luxury, are now business essentials. This mobile revolution wouldn't be possible without tools like React Native, which democratized app development. 

Introduced in 2015 by Facebook engineers, React Native has rapidly emerged as a dominant force in the mobile app development world.

report by Statista reveals that it was the second most popular cross-platform mobile app development framework among developers globally from 2019 to 2022.

In the tech world, things change fast. React Native is big now, letting developers create apps for different platforms easily. But will it stay relevant? React Native is working on keeping up with new trends and user needs, which is good news if you're wondering about the future of React Native.

 In this article, we will delve into what React Native is and explore its potential. Understanding React Native will help you make an informed decision about whether you should start using it or not.

What is React Native?

React Native is an open-source, JavaScript-based mobile app development framework developed by Meta (formerly Facebook). It enables the development of cross-platform applications with a single codebase, allowing faster development for both iOS and Android. 

React Native primarily utilizes JavaScript, enabling developers to create programs that can run on both Android and iOS platforms. Additionally, it supports native languages for platform-specific development. Recently, it has added support for TypeScript, which further benefits developers by providing enhanced type safety and improving the developer experience.

Released in 2015 and supported by the Meta team along with a massive community of developers, it has rapidly evolved into a dominant player in the cross-platform development world. 

popular mobile development frameworks

It is widely praised for its ability to allow native-style application development with one common language - JavaScript. 

With its powerful features facilitating the development of applications nearly as performant as native ones, coupled with a rich library and tools for rapid application development, React Native has gained traction among major companies like Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, Shopify, Wix, Discord, Coinbase, and Flipkart.

It aims to make mobile app development easier and faster. Firstly, you can build apps for both iOS and Android using just one codebase, saving you tons of time and effort. 

Secondly, even though you're coding with JavaScript, you get performance close to native apps, so your users won't notice the difference. And finally, you don't need to learn different languages or tools to develop apps for different platforms. 

So, are React Native apps native or not?

You might have observed the term "Native" in React Native's name. While it suggests a native appearance and experience, it's important to clarify that React Native apps aren't truly native. This is because they're not developed using platform-specific languages such as Java/Kotlin or Swift/Objective-C.

In many cases, React Native apps can achieve performance comparable to native apps, especially for applications with moderate complexity. 

While some control over native features like deep system access might be limited compared to purely native apps, React Native generally provides a very close-to-native experience in terms of look, feel, and responsiveness, especially when following best practices and proper optimization. 

You will also encounter React, which is a different JavaScript library upon which React Native is built.

React vs React Native

Many times, you come across the term "React" or "React.js," which is a JavaScript library for web application development. On the other hand, React Native is a framework built on top of React.js, essentially serving as a wrapper around React.js with extended functionality specifically designed for mobile application development.  Both are maintained by Meta. 

We will delve into React.js in another article, sharing how this library revamped the Facebook UI and laid the foundation for dynamic web page development.

React Native Features

react native features

React Native achieves a fine balance between performance and development speed through its vast array of pre-written libraries, reducing development efforts and time significantly. It leverages powerful tools like the Hermes JavaScript engine and efficient UI rendering to enhance performance further. 

If you prioritize cost, development speed, and performance, exploring React Native is a good option. Let’s explore the top features of React Native to understand how it helps reduce time and effort in mobile app development. 

Cross-platform development

It allows writing apps for iOS and Android platforms with one codebase using JavaScript, and it has added first-class support for TypeScript. This further enables developers to utilize the distinct features of TypeScript.

Large ecosystem of libraries

Several features such as Virtual DOM, integration with third-party libraries, and its architecture that promotes code reusability, pre-built UI components will help you develop applications in an efficient and faster way. It further allows you to write user interfaces using individual pieces called components that can be reused across the application.

Powerful JavaScript engine

React Native leveraged JavaScriptCore until 2022. Now, Hermes has become the default engine for all React Native apps, starting from React Native 0.70. JavaScript code execution is faster with Hermes, leading to reduced lag and more responsive user interactions within the app.

Hermes is a lightweight JavaScript engine for React Native with a smaller memory footprint compared to JSC. This results in smaller app sizes, which is especially beneficial for users with limited storage space and devices with restricted resources. This JavaScript engine pre-compiles JavaScript code ahead of time into bytecode, similar to native apps. This bytecode is smaller and easier to execute, resulting in significantly faster app launches. 

Declarative Development

This popular development approach, known as declarative programming, focuses on describing the desired UI state and data flow rather than explicitly specifying how to manipulate the DOM. This means React takes care of the complexities of rendering and updating the UI efficiently. Developers can focus on the "what" instead of the "how,".

You can describe what the UI should look like based on the component's state and props, and React handles the underlying rendering logic. This declarative style simplifies your code and makes it easier to reason about how UI changes will impact the app.

JSX

JSX is a syntax extension for JavaScript that lets you write HTML-like structures within your code. This makes it easier to visualize and write React components, which represent the UI building blocks of your application. While it resembles HTML, JSX is transformed into JavaScript function calls that create React elements during the build process.

Hot reloading & Live reloading

Hot reloading allows you to make changes to your code and see them instantly in the preview window, making it a useful feature when you are making quick changes to your UI or debugging it. On the other hand, live reloading automatically reloads the app when you save the changes, saving you from triggering the reload manually every time. 

Component-based 

It allows writing an app's interface entirely from modular, reusable components. These components are self-contained building blocks, each responsible for a specific part of the UI, such as a button, a list, or a navigation bar. This reusability saves development time, allows scaling of components independently, and enables multiple developers to work on different parts simultaneously.

NPM Libraries Support

React Native includes built-in Core Components and APIs, and you are not limited to these components bundled with React Native. You can find and install libraries from the npm registry

Cost-effective

React Native can offer significant cost savings compared to native development due to code reusability across platforms. With React Native, you write code once and deploy it on both iOS and Android. It eliminates the need for separate development teams and codebases for each platform. This translates to reduced development time and effort, directly impacting cost.

Large community 

React Native's ecosystem is wide, far beyond its powerful features and cross-platform capabilities. It's the React community that truly sets it apart, offering a multitude of ways for developers to connect, collaborate, and elevate their skills.

Community Size:

1. GitHub: Over 2,600 contributors to the React Native repository.

2. Meetup: Over 150 active groups dedicated to React Native globally.

3. Discord servers: Numerous active servers are dedicated to React Native, with thousands of members each.

Future of React Native

When it comes to businesses or developers, they're reluctant to invest in technologies that might phase out soon. In the case of React Native, it's evident that it's held up strong. It backs millions of apps, including several top Fortune 500 apps.

react native interest - future of react native

Taking a different approach, as we delve into the trend in cross-platform application development, we can observe the cross-platform development market surging to USD $547 billion by 2033, experiencing a growth rate of 16.7% from 2023 to 2033. In this segment, React Native emerges as a frontrunner among JavaScript-based frameworks, indicating its likely expansion in the years to come.

cross platform development market size between 2023 to 2033

Google’s Flutter has surpassed React Native in terms of usage, it utilizes Dart, a language developed by Google as being faster than JavaScript. However, Dart's relative niche status compared to JavaScript's widespread adoption means there's a smaller pool of developers familiar with it. This can affect accessibility and resource availability.

 On the flip side, React Native takes advantage of its immense popularity and extensive developer ecosystem. This easily takes advantage of a talent pool that can offer a significant edge for projects aiming for rapid development and support. 

So, it's evident that JavaScript is a widespread language and will continue to be the most utilized, so the React Native community will keep expanding the platform's potential in the years ahead.

How does it work?

React Native operates by converting JavaScript code into native components and vice versa through a bridge. This bridge is a crucial component that translates the code into various platform languages. With the React Native Bridge, you can utilize native code to execute tasks like accessing device hardware and sensors, interacting with other apps, and managing intricate business logic.

react native architecture

1. Code Structure:

You write your app logic in JavaScript using React principles.

You use pre-built UI components or create custom ones using native elements.

Some platform-specific functionalities require writing native modules in Java/Kotlin or Objective-C/Swift.

2. Communication Bridge:

A "bridge" connects the JavaScript and native code, allowing them to communicate.

JavaScript code tells the bridge what changes need to be made in the UI. The bridge translates those changes into instructions for the native code to render the UI elements.

3. Rendering and Updates:

 Native code uses platform-specific APIs to render the UI elements on the device. When you make changes to your JavaScript code, the bridge sends updates to the native code, triggering a re-render. React's "virtual DOM" efficiently calculates the minimal UI updates needed. 

Examples of React Native Apps

React Native powers over millions of applications, including some well-known companies. For instance, Meta (formerly Facebook) uses React Native in applications such as Facebook, Facebook Ads Manager, Messenger, and Oculus. 

Similarly, Microsoft leverages React Native in Microsoft Office, Outlook, Microsoft Teams, and Skype. 

Amazon uses React Native with its core technologies for applications like Amazon Shopping, Amazon Alexa, and Amazon Kindle. 

In addition, there are many leading companies that have adopted React Native to develop modern and feature-rich applications across various platforms.

popular apps built with react native

React Native's Benefits for Businesses

  • Reduced Development Costs: Sharing code across platforms will potentially lower development costs compared to native development.

  • Large Talent Pool: JavaScript developers are plentiful, potentially making it easier to find and hire qualified JavaScript developers. You can easily find qualified engineers when you choose React Native. 

  • Extensive support and resources: With a vibrant community of thousands of developers across the globe, React Native boasts over 2600 contributors. This translates to a wealth of resources and support readily available to developers during the development process.

Basically, all the benefits you get with this framework can be achieved by choosing cross-platform development. Additionally, the backing of Meta, the vibrant community of developers, and the ease of developing with JavaScript are icing on the cake.

Limitations of React Native

  • Performance Limitations: While performance has improved, some complex functionalities may still perform better in native apps.

  • Limited Access to Native Features: Accessing platform-specific features may require additional development effort.

  • Security Considerations: Maintaining a single codebase can require different security strategies compared to native development.

  • Maturity and Community: While rapidly evolving, React Native is still younger than native development frameworks, and its community may not have solutions for all challenges.

 React Native offers potential benefits for businesses looking for a cost-effective solution at a reduced cost. However, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. 

Tips for React Native Development Success

Building cross-platform applications with React Native can be both rewarding and challenging. To navigate this journey effectively and achieve success, here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

Understand the Fundamentals: Before diving into React Native, you or your team should have ensure a strong understanding of React concepts like components, state management, and props. This foundation will help you write efficient and maintainable code.

Learn the Native development: While React handles core logic, you still need to understand the basics of Android (Java/Kotlin) and iOS (Swift/Objective-C) development, especially for native component integration and debugging.

Optimize for Performance: Performance optimization requires extra effort beyond the features. React's Virtual DOM is a great component that makes it a valuable framework; however, rendering could become a performance bottleneck if unnecessary re-renders are not optimized.

Follow Best Practices: Adhere to the established React and React Native practices like component naming conventions, clear code organization, and consistent formatting.

Continuously Learn and Adapt: As technologies evolve, be open to adapting your skills and staying updated with the latest developments in React Native and mobile development in general.

Profile Your App: Regularly profile your app to identify performance bottlenecks and optimize accordingly.

Consider Offline Support: If your app requires offline functionality, explore libraries and techniques for managing data persistence and functionality without an internet connection.

Conclusion 

This article provides you with a comprehensive understanding of React Native, its potential for businesses and individuals, and its exciting future outlook. Whether you're looking for cost-effective app development or a native-like user experience, React Native has the potential to be your key to success.

One of its key advantages lies in its cost-effectiveness. By building a single codebase that seamlessly deploys across Android and iOS, you can significantly reduce development expenses compared to traditional native app creation. This allows you to reach a wider audience without breaking the bank, ensuring your app doesn't remain confined to a limited platform.

Furthermore, React Native thrives on the vast pool of JavaScript developers. This readily available talent pool eliminates the need for specialized knowledge in various native languages. 

 However, starting your mobile app journey shouldn't be done alone. At Brilworks, we provide professional React Native development services tailored to support you at every stage. 

FAQs

1. What is React Native used for? 

React Native is a powerful JavaScript framework specifically designed for building native-style mobile apps for Android and iOS, with growing support for other platforms like Windows and macOS. It allows you to create visually stunning and high-performance apps using a single codebase. 

 2. What is React Native vs React.js? 

While both React Native and React.js share the same core principles and JavaScript syntax, they have distinct purposes and target environments. React.js is used in web application development, while React Native is a mobile application development framework. 

3. What is React Native best for? 

React Native is well-suited for developing social networking apps, e-commerce apps, news and media apps, simple games, productivity tools, and building apps that require dynamic rendering.

4. Is React Native a front-end or back-end framework?

React Native is primarily a front-end framework, meaning it's used to build the user interface and interactive elements of your mobile app. While it can access native device APIs and interact with back-end services, it's not designed for back-end development tasks like database management or server-side logic.

5. Which language is used in React Native?

JavaScript and now TypeScript are the primary language for writing the app's logic and UI in React Native.

vikas singh

Vikas Singh

Vikas, the visionary CTO at Brilworks, is passionate about sharing tech insights, trends, and innovations. He helps businesses—big and small—improve with smart, data-driven ideas.

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