The Superior Cross-Platform Framework: Flutter vs React Native
Flutter and React Native are two of today's most popular and productive tools for cross-platform application development. Both have exceptional performance credentials, supporting libraries, communities, and tools to support their use in building a wide variety of apps and services. When it comes to deploying Flutter vs React Native within your teams, the choice between these two competing tools isn't an easy one to make.
Both technologies have strengths and weaknesses relative to each other. Each one suits specific kinds of applications, teams, and organizations uniquely. When it comes to our mobile app development resources we recommend and use both for different kinds of application development and construction.
Here, we take a detailed look at the differences in tooling, functionality, and support when it comes two choosing between the two most highly popular cross-platform development tools. By carefully analyzing the key resources that come with each technology we make a case for how, why, and where you should use each platform and the key metrics you should rely on to support their application.
What Are the Flutter and React Native Frameworks?
Both React Native and Flutter are most commonly deployed for cross-platform mobile application development. They allow developers to build applications capable of running on Android and iOS devices alongside deploying to desktop and web environments all from a single codebase.
While Flutter and React native each feature on our list of the ultimate mobile app frameworks, both technologies approach application design and development in slightly different ways. In many cases, some of the similarities and differences between the two platforms can be subtle, interesting, and play more of a role in defining the success of a project than you might otherwise think.
Flutter vs React Native Feature Comparison
Popularity and use
The growth in popularity of both Flutter and React Native has been fascinating to watch. With React Native being released to developers back in 2015 the more mature of the two platforms has had additional time to claim a foothold in the marketplace and grow with engineers. Yet, since Flutter's release in 2018, Google's flagship framework has rapidly caught up with and even surpassed React Native in some cases.
In 2019, the response to Stack Overflow's annual insights survey suggested use of Flutter among developers was at just 3.4% in comparison to React Native's well-established 10.5% developer share. This year, however, Flutter has risen to be the single most popular cross-platform tool—used by 12.6% of developers. React Native follows close behind with a 12.5% developer share.
Ease of learning and introduction
Both sets of tools have abundant learning resources and tutorials to support them. Google has provided a vast array of Dart language tutorials to support Flutter. A similarly rich set of React native guides have been produced by Facebook to introduce developers to the advantages of React Native.
Flutter has been shown to have markedly improved runtime performance in our cross-platform framework comparison. Google's framework has markedly improved UI rendering capabilities that can be a distinct advantage in building apps with a responsive look and feel in the hands of users.
In comparison, React Native has a code repository of its own that is rapidly growing in size and use amongst developers. While Dart's repository is notably smaller than NPM, its code is typically more modern and its libraries more up-to-date and dependable for developers.
Although React Native is a much more mature technology solution, Flutter's documentation is notably more developed, detailed, and complete in comparison to Facebook's resources. Google is generally well-known amongst developers for creating high-quality documentation to support its technology solutions and services.
Flutter documentation is no exception to Google's usual high standards in supporting developers when learning, deploying, and making the most out of the platform. While React Native documentation doesn't feature the same breadth or depth to its insights, the platform does still have an array of well-written guides and documents to help developers get to grips with the platform.
Both technologies have comparably strong communities that are consistently growing and evolving alongside their technologies. To give you an idea of their relative sizes, React Native's Github repository has 193,000 stars to its credit in comparison to Flutter's 143,000.
On Stack Overflow both platforms are almost exactly even with around 130,000 questions raised and answered on each of the two cross-platform technologies. Regardless of the platform chosen, developers are guaranteed to find a strong and helpful developer community to meet their requirements in either camp.
Both frameworks have recently expanded to include additional platforms for developers to target. With the release of Flutter 3 earlier this year, Google placed truly cross-platform capabilities into the framework's stable release phase.
React Native can also be capable of building for targets such as the web or desktop through React or additional tooling currently being developed and maintained by third party companies.
React Native and Flutter each have development tools and resources aimed at reducing the amount of time it takes developers to build applications. Flutter has hot reload capabilities to allow engineers to rapidly iterate over code, while React Native has its own counterpart technology in Fast Refresh.
This additional challenge can make it difficult to get started with Flutter development. Our Ultimate Guide to the Flutter Framework is a key resource that can help you figure out how to jump into the technology.
The companies and teams that have deployed technologies to success are a big motivating factor for developers. A chance to use a production app and see how it performs, looks, and feels can go a long way to figuring out what's possible in any given technology.
Flutter has an impressive honor role of external tech companies and brands using the technology for their services including:
React Native has a similarly notable honor role of brands including:
- Uber Eats
Flutter vs React Native vs Native Development
One thing to carefully consider when evaluating any mobile app frameworks is how they stack up against native application development.
Flutter apps are notably more visually distinct from the platforms they run on in comparison to React Native applications. This can be an advantage in creating a single look and feel that carries across multiple platforms but can make users feel like something isn't quite right in comparison to native-looking apps on the same device.
Flutter and React Native
When it comes to Flutter vs React Native there's no single definitive answer that covers every use case, project, and organization. Both technologies are exceptionally productive, offer a lot to their teams, and are capable of creating remarkable apps to serve your users.
How your team uses each technology and the developers you hire to deploy them will play the single biggest role in their success.
Q1. Is Flutter faster than React Native?
In benchmark testing Flutter has been shown to be notably faster than React Native. The platform's Skia engine renders UI widgets internally, packaging all the tools and resources the app might need into the application bundle. The major advantage of this technology is that it means Flutter applications don't require a bridging technology to turn framework-specific code into platform-specific instructions and components.
While React Native has always been a less performant solution, the gap between the two frameworks has continuously closed over time. Recent changes to React Native Architecture has brought the performance of the framework closer than ever to that of Flutter. Notably, both solutions are faster than native application solutions. While the specific speeds will differ from one app and use case to the next, both Flutter and React Native are consistently more performant than native application development.
Q2. Will Flutter replace React Native?
Flutter has been consistently gaining in popularity over time, rapidly closing the gap to React Native and recently surpassing Facebook's flagship technology framework. It's unlikely that either technology is going to entirely eclipse or replace the other any time soon.
Both Flutter and React Native are exceptionally performant and capable technologies for cross-platform application development. They enable a lot of new avenues of exploration for their developers and provide the tools and resources to come up with new kinds of solutions.
React Native has a wide array of use cases and advantages that ensures it retains a significant market share besides Flutter. For developers, this means an exciting new era of competing technologies and tools are expected to be continuously added to the marketplace. In the next few years to come expect Flutter and React Native to trade users, popularity, and features to create ever more productive and useful tools.
Q3. Why you should not use Flutter?
Despite being one of the most popular and productive tools of modern cross-platform development, there are a handful of situations and scenarios where you wouldn't want to use Flutter to build your applications. Some reasons you might want to choose an alternate development technology include:
- Instant apps. Application size is critically important to instant apps, and Flutter applications are necessarily larger to accommodate the framework's in-built tooling and resources.
- Platform-Specific Look and Feel. Flutter apps look unique to the platform. If your app must look and feel native in users’ hands, then almost any other technology is a better choice.
- Third-Party Integrations. Flutter is still lacking a lot of third-party integrations that native application development often benefits from. If integration is a critical part of your application, then Flutter is not the right choice.
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