React Native App Development vs. iPhone & Android App Development

How to Choose the Best Mobile Programming Language for Your Project

Research shows that digital consumers, on average, own at least 3 connected devices. It’s no surprise then that the demand for high-quality mobile app development has never been higher. In this article, we’ll discuss what a React Native app development company might experience building a winning product versus an Android or iPhone app development company. With a comprehensive list of criteria, we’re putting our comparison skills to work and evaluating every aspect from animation capabilities to speed of development, API support, documentation, and much more.

Only a few years ago, it seemed impossible for a mobile app development company to create a cross-platform application that would give the user the impression it was a native one. Developers would resort to using Phonegap, Cordova, Xamarin and other cross-platform frameworks when it was ok to sacrifice on some of the user experience by not being able to use the phones’ native features or trying to save on app development costs. But now that Facebook has launched its open-source framework React Native, hybrid app development has changed a lot. React Native was built on top of React.js — a JavaScript (JS) open-source library for building interactive web interfaces. It was first launched for developing iOS applications in JS, and then a few months later, the Android libraries were rolled out.

To build a mobile app with React Native, a developer largely follows this basic process— an engineer writes code in JavaScript templates and then renders them to native components using Java APIs (Android) or Swift/Objective-C APIs (iOS). As much as 80–85% of the code base can be shared. This is basically what sets React Native apart from other cross-platform frameworks, which use web APIs to render browser-based views. Because of this, more and more business owners and developers are switching to this framework instead of developing an app natively. For the first time, the look and feel of React Native applications truly feel native. There are some very popular React Native apps in the market that most people don’t realize they use on a daily basis. If you have used Airbnb, Skype, UberEats, Discord or Instagram, you’ve been using a React Native app that feels just like a native one.

How to compare React Native vs. native iOS/Android app development?

As we learn more about how React Native development is different from native Android or iPhone app development and cross-platform app development, the question now becomes, as a business owner or developer, which technology is better for your particular need. To answer this question, we’ve put together a list of criteria to compare react native with Objective-C/Swift (iOS/iPhone) and Java (Android) so we can go through each point one by one.

React Native Performance: animations, CPU, GPU and memory usage

Most of the issues around lagging (the experience where things just move slowly or aren’t as responsive when touched as they should be) with mobile applications is caused by animated objects. Animations have been effectively used to create great user experiences and more interactive user interfaces. If we get a bit more technical, using native drivers helps improve the performance, and luckily this is what RN does well. RN’s Animated API allows native drivers to interpolate animated values without needing to go back to JavaScript to calculate them one by one. For the non-technical person, this means that your app’s animations and transitions will move faster and without delays.

Still, problems may arise with larger applications that have more animations, effects or transitions. The reason is that React Native uses native drivers through a bridge transpiler, which works well for one or two animations but starts to have trouble the more that are added. This puts extra stress on the GPU and CPU, causing the device to lag. Please note that you can still have multiple animations in native code that can also cause lagging.

Besides animations, React Native, Objective-C/Swift and Java use about the same amount of device memory and processing power, so in terms of performance, it comes out to about a tie.

UI/UX design process

User interfaces created in React Native are made up of native widgets, some are included in the framework and others are third-party packages. If you aren’t able to find a library that you need but you’ve built a similar feature in some other native app previously, you can simply wrap that code and integrate it into your application. You could run into roadblocks if you need to build something truly custom. In this situation, you need to build a custom library in Java or Objective-C/Swift and then include it into your application.

APIs support

This is probably the area where React Native is the weakest. We’ve already mentioned that there are quite a few third-party libraries in addition to out-of-the-box ones. You may encounter some hidden dependencies between the libraries you are using or the libraries might have bugs that haven’t been reported if they aren’t well supported or have been tested by the market for a while. Adding a library to your project might not always be as simple as it seems.

Documentation and packages

Though React Native hasn’t been around nearly as long as Objective-C, Swift or Java, the amount of developers learning this new tech has grown tremendously since its launch in 2015. The framework’s documentation has steadily grown as well. Of course, it is still a lot less than what we have in the native languages that have been around longer, but React Native’s section on GitHub has a ton of guides and detailed descriptions around its components and APIs, and there is also a dedicated website for its libraries.

Coding skills required

Most developers report that it is far easier to learn JavaScript (JS) than to pick up Java for Android development or Objective-C or Swift for iOS app development. Plus there are more Javascript engineers than ones who know the native languages. For companies looking for mobile application developers this means that they have better chance to find JavaScript engineers faster and at a lower rate. In addition, a web engineer can more easily move into mobile app development if they know Javascript. When a company hires a JS engineer, this person can support both an iOS and Android app (written in React Native) and the company’s web application or website which kills up to three birds with one stone.

It’s important to remember that even if most of the development is done using the cross-platform framework, knowing native languages might still be necessary to make the app work with other areas of the phone, like the camera, pushing notifications or building a custom native library. Nevertheless, you can definitely develop an application without any knowledge of Swift or Java, unless you need something that is extremely customized.

Speed of development

With native mobile development, the underlying APIs for Android and iOS are vastly different from that of the other platform. For example, the differences in the ways an engineer creates animations, how GPS is used or the way you make network calls are different between Java and Objective-C/Swift. With React Native, the mobile development process can take less time because the two applications share most of the same code base. You can think of it like this. Just compare these two situations — two separate projects where each of the underlying APIs are vastly different vs. one common/shared code base with a few platform-specific add-ons.

In addition, for some mobile development projects, React Native requires less actual code than even a single native iOS or Android language app, without sacrificing great features or your designs. The reason is that while both Java and Swift/Objective-C are languages of strict typization, JavaScript doesn’t require you to specify all the types of your variables, including interfaces. Besides that, native languages don’t have the pre-built implementation for handling events and animations, which requires some extra code, unlike JS which is a functional language.

Speed of releasing updates

Expo is a free and open-source toolchain built on top of React Native. One of its’ features allows you to roll out updates over the air (OTA). This means that when an update is ready for production, Expo minifies the code in the update and sends it to Amazon S3, making it super easy to publish. The update will be downloaded automatically from the app store and to the users phone the next time the app is opened. This is a big time saver and it doesn’t force the end-users to update their application each time there is an update available. This also makes pushing your app updates much easier now, compared to native applications.


One of the major advantages of this cross-platform mobile development framework is that you develop an app once and deploy it to both iOS and Android users. This also relates to bug fixes — the issues you fix are made to both versions at once. JavaScript is also easier to debug as opposed to Java, Objective-C or Swift.

When should a business use Swift/Objective-C and Java (Android) instead of React Native?

OK, we’ve just figured out the major differences between React Native and real native mobile app development in iOS and Android. To sum this up, let’s get a list of situations when a company shouldn’t use React Native, either because of the nature of the app or its specific functionality.

Obviously, when you need to build a single platform app, you might be tempted to use React’s advantages everywhere. However, if you don’t plan to release an app for both platforms, using the cross-platform framework might be overkill. You already have an in-house team of Java or Objective-C/Swift developers with no experience with JS or React Native.

The app is computation-heavy or has a lot of animations, effects or complex transitions. In this case, the application could drag along. Some critical functionality requires a native tool to be built. For example, media players use a lot of GPU, background processing, device-controlling capabilities, and more.

The app is intended to work in the background, like messengers or some other utilities. Background processes are harder to implement using RN than coding natively.

How to Know When to Use React Native?

The framework is extremely useful for an app development company looking to build a small or medium-sized application that needs to be available on both platforms.

However, for some types of larger-scaled apps, itthere might be better choicesIf you already have Javascript engineers on your team and don’t have native app developers, you might have another reason to select React native over trying to hire iOS or Android mobile engineers.

Still can’t decide between React Native vs. native iOS or Android mobile application development? Reach out to us at Spiral Scout, a leading software development company in San Francisco. We’ll be happy to provide you with a thorough consultation on the technology stack that’s best suited for your company’s mobile app development project.

Turn your ideas into innovation.

Your ideas are meant to live beyond your mind. That's what we do - we turn your ideas into innovation that can change the world. Let's get started with a free discovery call.
Scroll to top