Flutter vs React Native: Choose the best cross-platform framework for your learning app

How to ensure your app runs across multiple platforms with the least effort?

The global online e-learning space received its biggest trigger in 2020, with the pandemic forcing closures of schools and colleges worldwide. The already buoyant market is forecasted to grow even further to a massive $374 billion by 2026, averaging a compounded growth rate of 14.6%.

If you are building an education or learning app, you probably want to know your development framework options. This article attempts to capture the essence of what stands out for each prospect, especially in developing a learning or educational app.

Flutter vs React Native: Mindshare

When it comes to cross-platform development frameworks, Flutter with 42% and React Native with 38% together controlled about 80% developer mindshare in 2021. This is as per the data drawn from the JetBrains Statista 2021 study with 31.7k developers surveyed worldwide. Essentially this means that you are in good hands between these two frameworks from a development stack perspective.

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Impressive Deployed base

React Native wins hands down when it comes to popular consumer apps with a large volume user base: For example, Pinterest with over 250 million MAUs (monthly active users) and with 82% mobile users, FB Ads with over 5.4 million advertisers and 18 billion ad variations market to over 1 billion users, Instagram with over 500 mil daily active users (DAUs) and with 1 billion searches per day, are all built using React Native.

Examples of popular applications built using Flutter are Google Ads, the world’s most busy e-com marketplace – Xianyu by Alibaba, PostMuse (Instagram photo editor), Groupon (discount coupon and group deals marketplace), and eBay Motors. These apps also have significant scale, seamlessly work across platforms, and provide a superior user experience.

Genesis

Flutter is an open-source UI SDK (software development kit) from stables of Google (2017) that helps develop cross-platform apps for Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Windows, Google Fuchsia, and Web platform. The first version was code-named SKY and ran on Android. By September 2021, Dart SDK and Flutter version 2.5 were released. The update was targeted at improving Android, iOS full-screen mode, and other enhancements.

React Native is an open-source UI software framework created by Meta Platforms, Inc. (formerly Facebook) in 2013 and is used to develop applications for Android, iOS, macOS, Web, and Windows.

How Flutter Works

Flutter components: Flutter consists of the following parts briefly summarized here with their core functions.
Dart Platform Flutter runs in Dart VM with a JIT (Just in Time engine allowing stateful hot reload while the app is running, thus avoiding a restart or loss of state.

Flutter engine: C++ code is a portable runtime software for hosting Flutter applications and implements Flutter core libraries, file, and network I/O, plugin architecture.

Foundation Library: written in Dart, provides basic classes and functions used to construct Flutter apps and design specific widgets of 3 types: stateful, stateless, and inherited widgets. These are widely used for most Flutter applications.

How React Native Works

React Native runs in a background process, interprets Java Script directly on the end-device, and communicates with the native platform via serialized data over an asynchronous or batched bridge.

Syntax of React Native is like CSS, but it does not use HTML or CSS. The messages from JS threads are used to manipulate native views instead. React Native allows developers to write native code in Java, Kotlin for Android, Objective -C for iOS, C++, or C# for Win 10, making it even more flexible.

You may also like: Flutter vs Xamarin: Choose the best cross-platform framework for your project in 2022

Ease of Start

Kickstarting Flutter development is simple. All you need to do is download the file for the OS you need, and you are ready to go with all documentation built into the official site.

React Native is also easy to use. Since the framework uses the UI library developed by Facebook, code creation is further simplified.

Learning Apps throw unique challenges based on specific use cases: a substantial volume of simultaneous users for test prep, online class streaming lessons, or gamified lessons with animations.

Both React Native and Flutter have several examples of holding forth in such challenging environments.

Cross-platform framework capabilities

Flutter: A single code base allows programmers to quickly adapt to a new platform avoiding detailed system study and planning, saving time and energy.

Flutter comes with high-performance widget ergonomics allowing low data exchange between the app and mobile platform. It also comes with the ability to compile into native code for Android and iOS.

A React Native project contains an iOS directory and an Android directory. These directories act as entry points into each platform. They include the code specific to each platform, and this is where the JS code is bridged for each platform.

Code Reuse

Flutter’s components are all in-built, allowing cross-platform development from the get-go. Apps on Flutter are widget-based with customization allowing native-app look and feel. Code reusability in Flutter is about 80%.
With React Native, there are reports of large chunks of code base reuse – in many cases up to 80-85%.

Development Ease

Hot reload is a term used to describe a framework’s ability to insert code changes live on a running app without bringing it down and restarting. It is a powerful feature as it completely avoids restart and saves time in educational/learning environments.

React Native also supports the ‘Hot Reload’ feature allowing users to see code changes without compilation.

Developer Support

Google’s strong global support makes the developer community comfortable taking the plunge into Flutter.
Facebook has an enviable record of some of the largest software talent pools to support you on your development journey. On this front, too, there is not much difference between the two approaches, and either way, you will safely reach your goal.

End-user Experience

The amazing thing about React Native apps is that they render an on-par experience to Native apps. Whether the context is text-heavy or fast transactions with rapid-load requirements, React Native has delivered at scale. This is what you see on Instagram and Pinterest with hundreds of millions of simultaneous users.

However, some users believe that React Native adds unnecessary complexity and is not best suited for CPU-intensive applications, typically leading to performance issues or degraded end-user experience.

Flutter or React Native?

Both Flutter and React Native are powerful platforms running large-scale businesses with widely available global developer support. The key parameters that will determine the choice of the platform are app requirements, use cases, user experience, and budget. Sage wisdom recommends – bringing in the experts.

Work with a suitably talented, experienced partner who can take a consultative position and advise you based on the need.

Build your cross-platform app with Trigent

That partner could be Trigent: a software development partner who can bring in expert opinion on multiple frameworks such as Xamarin, Flutter, Angular UI, JQuery, Appium, Cordova, and React Native and deliver to your exact requirements.

Looking for an expert assessment? Call us for a quick consultation

Challenges in Cross-platform Mobile App Development That I Wish I Knew Before

There’s a buzz around cross-platform mobile app development lately. From start-ups to entrepreneurs, everybody’s looking into the potential of cross-platform frameworks. While many are enticed with the speed of development and simplicity of having to manage a single code base, wider reach is a big draw for companies.

What’s tricky is that the mobile app development landscape is constantly evolving, with new frameworks and updates constantly being added. Ionic apparently is not great for gaming apps, while React Native is just not what you would want for large products or heavy industry applications. Flutter is the youngest, yet very powerful and popular platform. So how do you determine the way forward? While the choices can be overwhelming, you will need a perfect solution for your business yet not too much for your development teams to handle. 

The shift from native to cross-platform development may make good business sense, but you should be ready with hard facts to know it’s worth diving into. You will have to ask the right questions, understand things from a developer’s perspective without losing sight of your business objectives. A developer will be more inclined to choose a framework based on ease of development, programming language prerequisites, and the libraries offered. However, the organization may be keen on having something agile, effective, cost-efficient, and easy to maintain.

Cross-platform solutions for mobile app development

Cross-platform mobile app development continues to offer countless benefits to developers and users alike. User engagement with an app often depends on the ease of use associated with app navigation. Intuitive user experience increases the popularity of an app and, in turn, leads to better conversions. If you are battling with the native versus cross-platform dilemma to deliver fluid user experiences, you are not alone. 

While native and cross-platform strategies are strong contenders, cross-platform are gaining popularity and mobile time with apps that promise consistent user experience across mobile platforms, smoothness, efficiency, and flexibility. What’s more, they are a huge help while integrating phone functions and ensuring shorter time-to-market. A report by Statistica1 suggests Flutter is the most popular cross-platform mobile framework used by 42 percent of software developers, followed by React Native in popularity.

Things are often easier to manage at the start, with few features and user requirements. As the apps scale, new features are added and user needs grow, the development complexities and operational limitations emerge.  A classic case in point is Airbnb, which decided to invest in React Native to enhance agility and experience. In its post on Medium, the company highlighted the challenges they faced and called it immature compared to native iOS and Android. They grappled with JavaScriptCore inconsistencies, maintenance issues, and other challenges they were least prepared for, ultimately deciding to go back to native.

Native apps promise superlative performance since they are created for a particular platform and are fast and responsive. But developers need to code in 2 different languages for Android and iOS. Maintaining feature parity and consistent user experience across the two code bases is the biggest challenge – Invariably, there are situations where some features are available on Android, but not iOS, and vice versa. Version management and feature upgrades are doubled with 2 independent code bases. 

So how would you know if choosing cross-platform would be the right decision for your business?

Cross-platform solutions for mobile app development would be great for you if:

  • You need to target a large user base via multiple platforms.
  • If you wish to build it with a small team of developers using a single codebase. 
  • You want to build an app quickly and ensure that it hits the market fast.
  • You want an app that can be amended easily for changes and updates. 
  • You wish to save money with reusable codes that save development time as well as cost.
  • You want flawless cloud integration for better compatibility and versatility.
  • The app does not require high-performance access to device resources like GPS, camera, accelerometer, etc. unlike gaming and AR/VR apps.

Of course, there will be challenges, but none that cannot be fixed with proper preparation in the planning and design phase. 

Some of the top challenges include:

Coding issues in cross-platform mobile app development

Developers often use JavaScript objects for cross-platform frameworks that cause issues while using reusable codes. Finding and fixing issues in the entire code becomes an arduous task that eventually increases the development time as well as cost.

Also, there is the problem of slow code. It happens when inexperienced developers resort to cross-compliance while developing cross-platform apps. This results in sluggish code and a slower application.

A lengthy integration process

While using cross-platform, the integration process with local settings can take a long time. This further increases the development time. The integration issues with certain operating systems often impede performance due to the lack of compatibility between the native and non-native components of different devices.

User experience (UX) concerns

While cross-platform aids in ensuring feature parity and user experience, access to device-specific resources involves overheads. This slows the app load time and dampens the user experience. App abandonment is a major concern and the inability to deliver the perfect UX can be detrimental. As per Statistica2, 25 percent of the apps downloaded by users worldwide were accessed only once.

 Limited updates

The operating system may not always support all the features of a framework and thus affect the overall experience. For instance, every time there is an iOS update or a new feature gets added, you can use it only after updating the iOS version of your app. But until Google releases the same update or feature, you will not be able to update the Android version.

Security

Every app is vulnerable to cyber-attacks. While frequent updates give native apps the power to rectify loopholes, cross-platform apps struggle on the security front due to limited updates. Organizations that need to deal with colossal amounts of business data on a daily basis, therefore, are less inclined to use cross-platform apps. Cross-platform app development companies are now relying on cutting-edge tools and architecture to address this issue and enhance the security of their apps.

Understanding the unique challenges of iOS and Android

When considering native application development, companies must have the right skills. Both iOS and Android apps are expected to be identical in looks, functionality, aesthetics, and experience but the structural building blocks of both these applications are completely different. Besides, these apps need to be built for different devices and need very experienced developers to build flawless apps. Apps are being used on smartphones, laptops, and tablets which means the challenge is not limited to multiple operating systems but involves varying screen sizes too.

It is important to look into their user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) peculiarities and understand the acceptance criteria laid down by official app marketplaces. Apple is known for having very strict guidelines to ensure a certain look and feel of iOS apps. Apps that fail to adhere to these guidelines are often rejected by the App Store. On the other hand, Google Play Store despite not being so rigid does not offer much relief either. This is mainly because Android users are accustomed to a certain level of experience and performance from their apps and anything that strays from these de facto levels is likely to get low ratings.

Even UI rendering and hardware features for both these platforms differ. Each OS renders UI standards differently and calls for unique coding approaches. Having one codebase to manage all these requirements can be extremely challenging. Hardware features too are realized differently and each feature will work differently on multiple platforms. While a certain feature may be accessible on one platform, it may not be on another. The fact that both Android and iOS are constantly evolving further adds to the challenge of forcing developers to play catch-up all the time.

A robust team of developers that has adequate experience in using modern tools and frameworks can however build the perfect cross-platform app despite all these challenges. You need to determine the essential features you would like to include in your app based on customer needs and then work on other aspects such as timelines and budget.

The cross-platform mobile app development frameworks dilemma 

Among the many cross-platform frameworks available today, React Native, Flutter, Xamarin, and Ionic are some of the most popular ones. Greater device compatibility and faster development make them a dependable choice for building enterprise-grade apps.

The biggest challenge for a developer however is choosing the right cross-platform framework, especially since there are many distinct pros and cons.

Alibaba and Google Ads, for instance, use Flutter for their apps. It supports Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac, and its architecture is based on reactive programming. But it comes with limited libraries and extensive application size. React Native, on the other hand, used by Facebook and Skype, comes with native functionalities and platform-specific code. However, its navigation is not as seamless as Flutter.

Companies like Pinterest and Slack rely on Xamarin which complies with native code for better performance and experience. But it has platform-specific limitations that hinder multi-touch functionality and platform-specific gestures. 

Others like Node.JS, Ionic, NativeScript, PhoneGap, and Sencha Touch are distinct and useful. It takes an expert to know what’s best for your unique business objectives.

Cross platform development services – Work with experts

If the whole idea of developing an app is overwhelming for you, you may consider partnering with app development experts. There will be crucial decisions to make both before and during app development. For instance, with windows becoming passé, how equipped is your app to serve Android and iOS users? Cross-platform technologies like Flutter, React Native, and Xamarin are all very popular, which one’s right for you? 

You need a development partner who not only understands app development but also your market to give you a competitive advantage. The experienced ones know exactly how to optimize to save costs. For example, the Facebook mobile app merely extends the same set of features as its web counterpart.

The development partner you choose can do the same for your company by extending your existing software’s logic and components to your mobile app using APIs. This ensures a consistent connected customer experience while keeping the development cost low.

 Build high-performing Omnichannel apps 

Enterprises are aware of the role apps play in augmenting their business revenue. You need a large user base to do so, and that will happen only when you are able to reach a broader audience in cost-effective ways with an app that offers excellent performance and experience. Industry experts believe cross-platform apps ensure a better reach. 

The only way to build a high-performing cross-platform app is to research, analyze, and choose the proper framework. What’s easier is to reach out to experts who know the app landscape like the back of their hands.

Build your app and customer base with Trigent

Trigent has been a tech partner for several organizations in diverse sectors offering unique solutions tailor-made for them. We leverage advanced tools and technologies to keep you on top of your game. 

We can assist you too in building your app to increase customer acquisition while minimizing development costs. 

Call us today for a business consultation

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