A lot of people these days simply cannot imagine their lives without mobile devices (smartphones, wearables, tablets). This is held true for smartphones that have increasing rates of penetration each year. We use mobile devices to pay for bills, arrange certain appointments, ordering food and the like.
Over the previous decade, the percentage share of mobile devices in internet browsing has increased from 1.56% to 51.5%. Thanks to the COVID-19, this increased even more.
It is no wonder that so many website owners have decided to create two versions of their sites where one is for wide-screen personal computers and the other for narrow-screen mobile devices. They are doing this to ensure the best possible experience for their users.
The solution however turned out to be a problematic one. Issues ranging from maintaining multiple applications and problems with the search engine optimization (SEO) to the challenge of detecting whether the device is a smartphone or a PC.
Hence, professionals from a top-ranking app development company Toronto suggested something better: a responsive web design adapting well to the device on which it is displayed. As a result, they only need one code to operate both platforms for a website to look good on any screen.
A similar problem takes place in the mobile app development process. A lot of apps are made based on a non-standard look (compatible with the company’s branding guidelines and other customer requirements) whilst maintaining the same design across multiple platforms (Android and iOS, with minor differences required by each platform).
In many instances, developers of individual platforms duplicate their work through writing the same functionalities (like login, registration, adding a product to the basket and the like) in the language native to a given platform. This has had a monumental impact on the developed app’s cost. A lot of developers and companies have tried fixing this issue over the course of time (app ideas).
Hybrid application – what is it?
One solution to this issue is creating a hybrid app. The basis for this application is a web appt that can be made using any front-end libraries (ReactJS, Angular or JQuery).
The next step is building a mobile application using the Apache Cordova framework, which places the completed app in WebView. WebView is a native component on both Android and iOS for displaying websites.
Also, Cordova provides solutions allowing hybrid applications to use native functionalities like Bluetooth, geolocation and battery.
This approach allows creation of one application (one code used on each platform) without using native programming language of a given platform. It also helps in maintaining consistency between the platforms. What is more, we can also use it as a web app.
Now that we have noted its advantages, the hybrid solution has its drawbacks:
- When creating a hybrid app, more time needs to be spent on making a user experience compatible with the native app (this is often difficult and boils down to imitating the native impressions).
- Another downside is the app’s track performance. It relies heavily on a web rendering engine creating an app bottleneck in the performance.
- It is also worth noting that, because a hybrid application operates as a web application, you might see issues which are typical for such apps (caused due to inconsistency in the operation of individual rendering engines on platform).
In recent years, a decline in popularity of hybrid apps is being witnessed and cross-platform applications are becoming more popular. Examples of libraries based on this solution are PhoneGap and Ionic.
Cross platform app – what is it?
Cross platform technologies allow code to be written in one language, using components provided by a given technology, then creating an app for multiple platforms. One code is written which is then used to make apps for platforms intended.
Particular frameworks differ in details of implementation but all of them use code native to a given platform.
Thanks to this, cross-platform apps can achieve much better performance than most hybrid applications (in most cases, they perform just like native apps). UX delivered by cross platform apps is similar to that of native apps using the native language for a given platform.
React Native and Flutter are popular technologies showcasing this approach.
React Native – what is it?
Facebook uses React Native in most of its applications, including the Facebook mobile application (for instance, the Marketplace functionality is created through React Native) and Instagram. Hence, coders and developers are ensured that it is a high-quality framework and has practically guaranteed support in the future from the Facebook team.
Popular apps using React Native
In addition to Instagram and the Marketplace functionality in the Facebook mobile app, React Native is also used in making the following apps:
- Uber Eats.
- The iOS version of Discord.
- Bloomberg App.
It is worth highlighting that not all of these apps are created completely in React Native. The framework allows for integration with ready-made native applications, something a lot of the above-mentioned projects took benefit from.
Microsoft recently has also exhibited interest in this technology. Its developers have released the React Native XP library. Based on React Native, the tool allows you to create applications for iOS, Android, Web and Windows 10 – UWP.
Also, teams who made individual Microsoft products are experimenting with React Native. The new Skype application is an example worth noting because it was implemented in React Native for some time (which was then replaced by Electron Library), whereas the latest version of the Xbox application for PC was written again from Electron to React Native.
A brief history of React Native
React Native was made as a result of an internal Facebook hackathon in the summer of 2013. In January 2015, Facebook released a preview of React Native and, during a conference in May, the company announced the official launch and release of the framework to the community as an open-source project.
Initially, React Native only supported the iOS platform until September 2015 when support for Android came in as well.
Recently, Facebook engineers have been working on raising the performance of the framework, have added new architecture, and further reduced the application’s size.
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