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React Native FAQ

Grzegorz Błachut

Grzegorz Błachut

Senior React Native Developer

What’s a react native?

React Native is one of the most popular open-source frameworks for creating natively rendering iOS, Android, Web, and UWP multi-platform apps. It was released in 2015 by social giant Facebook and based on React (Facebook’s JavaScript library) for building UI. Using React Native, developers can build mobile apps that are identical to native apps based on Java or Objective-C. 


What’s the purpose of React Native? / Why build a react native?


React Native's main idea is to make the development of mobile apps easier, faster, and more agile. Now developers can build a well-performed app without having to understand languages that are used natively separately for iOS and Android, such as Objective-C / Swift or JavaScript / Kotlin. Moreover, developers can add native code segments when it's necessary, that, in consequence, makes the app perform as a natively developed. This feature reduces the development cost, as well as save time in comparison with writing two different codes.


What’s in a React Native? / Which components does it include?


React Native combines two main threads: JavaScript and Native (or UI). Both of them are communicating using a bridge. This concept allows native functions to be called by JS code via a specific platform.


For example, you want to create an element, let's say button_1 that can be done via the React DOM. React Native passes the instruction to the native platform over a bridge, then calls JavaScript function to build a native button for Android and Objective-C - for iOS.


What are the key advantages of using React Native over the native approach?


Cross-platform development has become a great alternative to the development of exclusively native mobile applications. This system has the key benefit of saving development time and costs. It's achieved due to reusable code and pre-built components.


Developers do not need to build a separate mobile app for each platform with React Native's ease because 80-90 percent of a codebase can be shared across platforms, depending on the application's complexity. Besides, the JavaScript development team can build an efficient app for iOS and Android using this framework without digging into the nuances of each OS's ecosystem.


What product/company is a good fit for React Native?


A native app coding usually means higher costs, longer release time, and, sometimes, inefficiency. React Native, on the contrary, allows cutting development time and bringing agility while creating an app, as well as efficient processing and providing better user experience. Therefore, it is considered as one of the best options for development teams that want to support the same code base between a website and a mobile app for iOS and Android. 


What apps are built with React Native?


When talking about Facebook as a React Native creator, it seems not surprising to mention that this biggest social network is using its components in own products. Their Ads Manager has become the first creation of the company written with React Native. Apart from this, tech and business giants such as Instagram (which belongs to Facebook too), Pinterest, Bloomberg, Uber Eats, Walmart, Tesla, Wix, and many others are using this framework to a greater or lesser extent in the app architecture. 


What are React Native competitors?


There are various cross-platform tools that should be considered by the needs, specifications, and concerns of a product. Apart from React Native, the most well-known open-source development tools are:


  • Flutter - released by Google in 2017. The main programming language of the framework is Dart;

  • Ionic- founded in 2012 for developing hybrid mobile applications with JavaScript, CSS, and HTML5. Ionic is primarily focused on the look and UI interactions of an app. Along with these, developers may also use a different front end framework like Angular or React.

  • Xamarin -  powered by Microsoft. With C#, Xamarin apps can utilize a shared codebase that covers up around 90% of a platform’s language, APIs, and data structure. 

  • Apache Cordova - supported by Adobe, and also known as PhoneGap. Combined with a UI framework such as jQuery Mobile or Dojo Mobile or Sencha Touch, this allows a smartphone app to be developed with just HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.


All those platforms offer certain benefits of their own, and the best tool comes down to the specific needs of your team. It is worth mentioning, however, that React Native comes with Native modules and components that boost app performance. And unlike Cordova, for example, or other frameworks that render code through WebView, React Native renders certain code components with native APIs.


React Native tools


Various React Native tools play a crucial role in speeding up the app development. Here we would like to split them into 2 groups, with a few examples:


Tools for development

  • Atom - a free text editor. Its features include a built-in package manager, cross-platform editing, multiple file navigation, user templates, and themes.

  • Visual Studio Code- provides a good set of plugins to support other languages such as Java, Python, C++, C#, and PHP and runtimes like Unity and .NET.

  • Expo - an open-source platform which tools allow developers to build, deploy, and quickly iterate on native Android, iOS, and web apps from the same JavaScript codebase. It offers many features including reporting, a rich library with native APIs, a shared native runtime, and not only. Expo tools and features are updating constantly due to the support of the open-source community and contributors from Software Mansion.

  • More examples: Redux, Reduxsauce, React Navigation, TypeScript/Flow


Tools for testing 

  • Jest - it’s JavaScript testing framework designed to ensure the correctness of any JavaScript codebase. It allows developers to write tests with a familiar, approachable, and feature-rich API that gives results quickly.

  • More examples: Detox, Cypress, Reactotron, Enzyme, ESLint


The variety of React Native tools emphasize another significant advantage of this platform - React Native does not force developers to work in Xcode for iOS, or Android Studio for Android development. There are dozens of tools that make work with this framework productive and comfortable. If this post made you feel interested in React Native framework, we also encourage you to check our guide How to become a React Native developer.

Easter egg ;)