5 min. read

October 17, 2021

mobile development

Flutter vs React Native: The Battle of the Cross-platform Arena

Who will win?

Dulanka  Karunasena

Dulanka Karunasena

I bet you'll agree when I say we are here to discuss the biggest argument in the cross-platform development world: Flutter vs. React Native. Bare with me, I will try my best to choose the winner in the end!

Quick Intro

Flutter is a cross-platform software development kit (SDK) used to build natively compiled applications.

Since its inception in 2017 by Google, Flutter evolved from a mobile application framework to a more platform-agnostic tool by extending its support to Windows, macOS, and Linux. Flutter is built around Dart, which is an object-oriented programming language. (If you want to learn more about Flutter you can read more here.)

React Native was introduced back in 2015 by facebook to develop native Android and iOS applications.

At present, it has huge community support as React Native is based on JavaScript and React. So, enough of introductions, it’s battle time!

1. Designing UI: Widgets vs Components

Widgets are the core building blocks of Flutter UI. It provides a set of prebuilt widgets which have powerful and rich UI features. We can create our own widgets based on them. Additionally, Flutter ships with platform-specific widgets based on Material and Cupertino design languages.

flutter react native
Flutter Widget Structure

Components are the secret sauce behind React Native interfaces. React Native also has a set of Core Components to give a kick start to the app design. These components are based on React’s syntactic JSX and JavaScript. In addition, RN components have the ability to compile into native Android and iOS views.

react native flutter
React Native Component Structure

Moment of truth

When comparing the two with respect to UI, Flutter has a rich set of widgets compared to React Native. But RN components require third-party libraries to give a similar experience.

On the contrary, RN has the ability to render the native appearance specific to a platform, while Flutter apps look almost similar in both Android and iOS. You have to explicitly use Cupertino Widgets in Flutter to give an iOS-like look and feel.

Considering the overall UI design aspect, Flutter ranks best. But remember, Flutter was inspired by React!

2. Performance Comparison

Flutter and React Native aim at 60 fps performance. For this, frames should update every 16ms.

React Native isn’t native, as the name suggests. As RN apps are written in JavaScript, it requires a bridge to communicate with native modules. This bridge adds a layer that ultimately eats up extra resources.

Flutter ships with native components by default and compiles to X86 and ARM out of the box. Therefore, the need for a bridge is avoided making Flutter apps more performant. This is referred to as ahead-of-time (AOT) compilation. Additionally, Flutter has a C++ engine for graphics rendering, making it fast, especially when animating.

flutter vs react native
Flutter vs RN Architecture

In comparison, Flutter has the upper hand when it comes to performance. But it doesn’t conclude that React Native performs less. So Flutter might be the best option if you are running complex computations or animations.

3. Debugging: Hot Reload & DevTools

Debugging is a win-win for Flutter and React Native. Both platforms support the Hot Reload (or Fast Refresh) feature, which enables to see code changes in real-time without breaking the current state.

Flutter’s DevTools comes with a wide range of debugging tools. You can run it in a browser as well as your favourite IDE as an extension. Flutter DevTools offers insights into UI inspection, CPU profiling, memory and network profiling, etc.

We can use Chrome DevTools for debugging React Native applications. This is fast and efficient because RN is based on JavaScript. React Native also comes with a built-in performance monitor. Finally, it is really hard to choose the best from a debugging perspective.

4. What Community has to Offer

Needless to say that the community support for React Native exceeds the population of Flutter. Undoubtedly, RN is well established and has been used by many developers since 2015, especially because JavaScript developers can easily get on board with RN.

Even though Flutter has a steep learning curve, the community has been growing rapidly since 2017. Flutter is the most starred cross-platform framework in Github with 128K stars and ranks overall 16th.

StackOverflow’s ‘Most popular frameworks and libraries’ survey shows a head-to-head fight between the two, as React Native ranks 6th and Flutter ranks 7th.

react native vs flutter
Most popular frameworks and libraries’ survey by StackOverflow

Both frameworks are heavily backed by the community in terms of development, support, and documentation. But Flutter’s increasing fame relative to its age is worth noting.

5. Global Playground

It’s time to boast! Many big names have adopted Flutter and React Native. You guessed it right, RN being the oldest, has a higher adoption rate. RN is behind top companies like Pinterest, Skype, Tesla, Uber, and Netflix.

As usual, Flutter won’t give up the competition and shows better results compared to its maturity. Canonical, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, and Toyota are the big names that use Flutter.

As an established and heavily used framework, the demand for RN will remain the same over the coming years. Apart from that, there is a higher demand for React Native jobs, and it's easy to hire or train an RN developer compared to a Flutter developer.

Final Takeaway

flutter vs react native

Finally, if your goal is to build an android and iOS-friendly app in the least possible time, React Native will be the best solution. You can use your existing JavaScript knowledge and conquer the mobile world.

But looking at its journey, Flutter has a better future! The only thing that crosses your way is the Dart learning curve. With Flutter, you can build powerful and better-looking apps plus deploy them on multiple platforms with a single codebase. So why not learn some Dart?

Thanks for the read!