November 26, 2020

Flutter vs React Native: pros, cons, cost

Aleksander Kazantsev

An App in Need

Having a dedicated mobile application that shows off your products or services is essential in today’s competitive market. It’s particularly vital for smaller businesses that might have a hard time getting their name out there.

But this is a loaded issue since development takes time and money, both of which can be pretty scarce for a fledgling startup. Thankfully, there are a few budget-friendly options you can turn to and today we’re going to examine the two most popular ones: cross-platform development via Flutter vs React Native. From what they represent to their flaws and highs, we’ll determine which is the more affordable and, thus, viable option for your company.

Finding a Middle Ground

Before we go any further into the subject, we feel the need to stress one thing.Flutter and React Native mobile app development may be more reasonably priced than other models but it’s still not cheap.

And that shouldn’t put you off because, in app development, cheap pretty much equals “compromising on quality”. It’s best to invest more right away and get a high-quality solution unless you want to spend more money on maintenance and damage control in the long run.

Besides, if you allocate your budget correctly and choose a team of reliable developers, mobile app development on React Native and Flutter shouldn’t put too substantial of a dent in your budget. You just have to make informed choices about your tools and goals and that’s exactly what this post is for.

“Your mobile device has quickly become the easiest portal into your digital self.”
Quoted by Phil Nickinson, Editor of Android Central

Getting to Know the Competitors

First up, our young underdog of a contender – Flutter.Developed by Google to be a lightweight framework for hybrid development, it’s one of the youngest technologies out there and yet it’s already taken the dev market by storm. This SDK prioritizes quick accessibility, fast development, and a built-in tool set that allows for substantial customization options without any need for third-party modules.

With the first stable release in December 2018, Flutter is the “hot new thing” and the community around it is very lively with plenty of professionals trickling in every day. It’s tough to predict what the long-term future holds for this technology but with backing from Google and widespread adoption by tech giants, you can trust it to stay relevant for a while and, hopefully, grow further.

Second is the React Native framework. Created by developers from Instagram and Facebook, this is a JavaScript-based tool that rapidly gained users and features in the 4 years since its release. Right now, it’s one of the leading choices for Android and iOS app development and the framework shows no signs of slowing down.

It’s a bit similar to Flutter in terms of how people interface with the technology and a few shared features but the choice between two frameworks remains topical. But before we head into the analysis of why you should or shouldn’t use Flutter and React Native, let’s see why they’re unquestionably high-tech and popular. Namely, let’s quickly touch upon their hybrid development capabilities.

“The future of mobile is the future of online. It is how people access online content now.”
Quoted by David Murphy, Founder and Editor of Mobile Marketing Daily

Two Birds with One Stone

While there are still a few professionals out there that prefer developing apps separately for all platforms, the advantages of doing cross-platform development are pretty broad. Whether you want to save money, get the product quicker, or simply capture a huge audience with few resources, this mode is the way to go. We’ll quickly describe some of the features that you get when relying on hybrid development:

  • Faster results
  • Lower cost
  • Reusable code
  • Unified look across all platforms
  • And we won’t omit the possible downsides either:
  • Possibility of glitches
  • Non-ideal performance

Now to elaborate.First off, the use of cross-platform development means you get an app for iOS and Android each in the time it’d take to develop one just for a single platform. So why separate the creation processes when you can halve the time-to-market? Second, the cost of creating a unified app for both popular mobile OSs is not only substantially lower, but it’s also often a bit more transparent.

When working with frameworks, you can predict how long the task will take, how easy or difficult it will be, and what external tools you’ll have to use. But a clean slate for single-platform development often comes with unpredictable expenses and an ever-expanding scope of work.Speaking of work, developers can reuse code when working cross-platform, which can be beneficial for the project at hand as well as future ones.

Similarly, you don’t have to come up with new designs that will work on both platforms. Instead, a single unique look will be adapted to the platform. Thanks to the frameworks’ native capabilities, your app will be indistinguishable from ones that were developed specifically for the OS.

Admittedly, as you develop for two platforms at once, it’ll be tough to make the app fully adapted to each of them.This means that bugs and glitches are likely but patching those out is part of any app’s maintenance cycle. The one true flaw of cross-platform development is that you can’t optimize the app to fully take advantage of the platform’s processing power. It’s going to run well, provided your dev team is good, but it’s still not the maximum performance that you could potentially squeeze out.

Thorns on Our Roses

Both of the frameworks have their particular flaws and the best way to see which one is optimal for you is to list and contrast them. So that’s what we’re going to do, starting with Flutter.

First and foremost, Flutter’s main current problem is its age. With a technology that new, you can’t reliably predict how well it’s going to do in the market. Sure, people are raving about it now and using it all the time but who knows what will happen to this framework in a year or two? It wouldn’t be fun to see this technology abandoned while your apps hinge on it.

Second, and we hope it’s one that will be remedied soon, is the lack of integration with third-party services. You can’t sync up your Flutter-based app with the majority of payment systems, for example. That could be a dealbreaker if your app is designed to sell your services/products directly. There are, of course, promises that this support will come so, hopefully, this will become a non-issue in the nearest future.

And the third major problem is the size of the apps built on Flutter.They tend to be up there in size compared to similar applications made on, say, React Native, largely because they’re self-contained and hold all UI elements and necessary modules inside of them. But, frankly, size isn’t that big of a deal, especially since storage space is getting dirt cheap nowadays.

Now onto React Native and its few shortcomings. The main problem on this one is performance as the linking element of JavaScript makes RN apps run just a tad slower. It might not be an appreciative difference in the grand scheme of things but, when you’re competing against similar apps, every aspect matters. So make sure you have techniques in place to cover up the micro-lag, if necessary.

Also, since React Native is built on a pre-existing technology, it can be combined with the native frameworks to add features that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. However, that also means getting new devs that know how to work with that native tech. Basically, it’s a double-edged sword that offers the possibility of innovation while restricting it behind additional expenses.

Another important flaw is React Native’s tendency to work on simpler apps.While simple isn’t bad, React Native works poorly with complex solutions, which is, yet again, a restriction. If you’re actually looking to make a simple cross-platform mobile app – it’s more than fine. But any complexity is better off done via Flutter.

To sum up, if you want a simple and lightweight app – React Native is the way to go. If performance and a promise of innovation is more important – Flutter reigns supreme. Both flounder a bit when it comes to future implementations as Flutter is still new and React Native’s updates are struggling to keep up with the native platform ones. But enough about the bad, let’s talk about the good.

The Project’s Aflutter

One of our favorite features that Flutter brings to the table (and one that leaves developers giddy) is the hot reload. You won’t need to continuously restart your app to see changes in its state after you input new code, instead, it updates on the fly. This saves time and makes changes and additions a hassle-free process. To be fair, React Native has this feature as well but that doesn’t take away from Flutter’s convenience of use.

A pro that’s more important to users than to the devs is the performance.Since Flutter isn’t hampered by a JavaScript interceptor, it processes complex events faster and apps built on it work better than React Native ones.

In terms of looks, Flutter makes unique designs readily available thanks to a huge library of built-in widgets. Sure, that means you’ll have to adapt them for your platform of choice but at least you’ll be able to stand out thanks to brand-friendly UI.

Last but not least, remember that Flutter is backward-compatible, meaning you can run apps built on it on any Android or iOS phone running Jelly Bean/8.0 or above. This expands your potential user base and gives you an edge over the competitors that are only targeting people with up-to-date OSs.

“Tech will transform from something we actively use to a more seamless integrated experience that is ‘on’ all the time.”
Quoted by Daniel Bæk, Co-founder of Nodes

Positive Reactions Only

Despite simply masking as a native framework, this JavaScript-based tool still lets you take full advantage of the native UI on your platform of choice. This means that the apps you develop will look in place regardless of the system you’re working on. And looks are important in mobile solutions.

We’re not going to stress the ease of using this framework too strongly since we’ve already mentioned it and it’s one of the main selling points, known to anyone planning to use it. We will, however, point out that the community has grown React Native with countless solutions and libraries that a smart developer can use to improve their product and finish it quicker. Besides, while we’re on the subject of structure, it’s important to remember that React Native is modular, which makes development and future updates much more streamlined.

If you want to talk about a pro that specifically puts React Native above Flutter – third-party integration is the one. This framework is older than its Google-designed counterpart and, thanks to its credibility, works with many services, effectively expanding your tool and feature sets. Not something that Flutter can boast of, at least for now.

How Much for the App?

While it’s impossible to accurately assess the cost of Flutter or React Native mobile app development because it depends on the dev team, the scope of the project, and the magical power of negotiations.

However, expect the cost to be half of the price you’d get on any other technology, which means Flutter and React Native are still your best bets if you want a budget-friendly app. With faster time-to-market and quicker onboarding of specialists, you can expect a big discount thanks to fewer work hours and smaller team size. This kind of project is nearly self-regulating and the smartest choice for those with limited funds.

“In my opinion, the future of mobile is the future of everything.”
Quoted by Matt Galligan, Co-founder of Circa

Making the Choice

With so much said about both Flutter and React Native, you can clearly see which one of them is more suitable for the particular app you have in mind. In this battle of Flutter vs React Native, choices are tough but the result will be worth it when you get your app.

Hopefully, our pros, cons, and cost breakdown for these two frameworks helps you out and you find the right tool. And, once you’ve done that, we’re right here, waiting to bring your ideas to life via both Flutter and React Native. And if you have any further questions, contact us and we’ll guide you along!

Incode Group offers free consultations on both Flutter and React Native development with outsourcing options available for your convenience. We have experienced devs for both technologies and can bring even the most ambitious project to life. Contact us now to start a fruitful partnership!

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