React vs React Native – Key Difference, Advantages, and Disadvantages

This blog describes a comprehensive comparison between these two technologies (React vs React Native) for you to choose for your next project.

February 2, 2020
8 mins read
Last Updated November 21, 2023
reactjs_vs_reactnative

React vs React Native – Key Difference, Advantages, and Disadvantages

React and React Native are two prominent development tools at present, and the React vs. React Native dilemma has existed for a long time now.

React is one of the top JavaScript libraries today and is known for its component-focused architecture and virtual DOM manipulation, which enable efficient web interface design.

React Native has emerged as an extension of React’s essence. It is used to craft native-quality mobile experiences across multiple platforms driven by a unified codebase.

If we talk about the popularity, then React has been used and loved by more than 41% of developers worldwide. On the flip side, React Native is preferred by 32% of software developers globally.

Both options enjoy significant popularity, making choosing between them more difficult than expected.

Here’s our take on a detailed comparison of these development giants, emphasizing their pros, cons, limitations, and key differences.

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React vs React Native – Comparison

Comparison Factors

React

React Native

Installation

React is a JavaScript library installed via the npm package manager.

React Native requires Node.js and the React Native CLI for its command-line toolkit.

Technology

React is a JavaScript library that builds interfaces using a Virtual DOM.

React Native is a cross-platform mobile framework that uses native components for an authentic app look and feel.

UI Components 

React components are usually written using HTML. Before you can use these components in your app, you need to import them to the app.

In React Native, components are made using JSX, a blend of JavaScript and HTML. These components are then turned into the code on your device, making your app function well.

CSS Support

React for web offers full CSS support for building responsive web applications.

React Native relies on a subset of CSS properties and styles optimized for mobile development

Feasibility

More feasible for web app development

More suitable for mobile application development

SEO-friendly

Yes

No

 

What is React?

React is a JavaScript library that supports both front-end and server. Furthermore, it can be used to create user interfaces for mobile apps and websites.

Advantages of React

1. Blazing Speed with DOM

From a business perspective, one of the USPs of React is its ability to bring in blazing fast speed for the applications and websites developed, using the DOM or Document Object Model. 

This is how it happens: React creates an in-memory data structure cache that computes the resulting differences, and then updates the browser’s displayed DOM seamlessly. The programmer writes the code as if the entire page is rendered on each change, wherein in reality, only those sub-components which are changed are rendered. 

This gives an edge to React, compared to other platforms for developing mobile apps since speed is one of the important factors for making a successful mobile app.

2. Component-Based Architecture Saves Time

React introduced the concept of component-based architecture, which enforces the reusability of components, and thus, saves an enormous amount of time. 

This component-based architecture takes individual pieces of a larger user-interface and converts them into an independent, self-sustaining micro-system.

Thus, for example, if any component within the Adset tab in Facebook Ads needs some major changes, then only that component will be reused and re-defined, rather than the entire UI of Facebook Ads.

3. React Gives Powerboost To SEO

Since React is capable of server-side rendering, it gives a power boost to the SEO of a  webpage/app and attracts more organic traffic. When a Google bot visits a server, which has already rendered the content and images, indexing and caching of the content becomes faster. It gives a huge heads up to the overall SEO strategy of the website. Besides, if the Google bot directly indexes the content from the server-side, the page load time also decreases. This fast visibility of web-pages gives the end-users a better user experience, thereby a win-win situation. 

4. Huge Ecosystem Of Developer Tools

React is blessed to have a huge community of developers, who have created a massive ecosystem of tools, component libraries, IDEs, extensions for code editors, web browsers, and more.

The availability of a wide range of third party tools and extensions unleashes a new dimension of innovation while saving time and resources at the same time. Community-powered innovation makes React one of the most popular options for creating innovative path-breaking apps and websites.

So, these are the major advantages of React that make it unique.

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What is React Native?

React Native is a cross-platform mobile framework that uses React for building apps and websites. React Native compiles to native app components enables the programmer to build mobile applications that can run on different platforms such as Windows, Android, iOS in JavaScript.

What’s more, React is used to build components under React Native, and React Native implements React under their framework.

Advantages of React Native

1. Advantage Platform-specific Code

One of the biggest USPs of building apps and websites using React Native is the ability to generate platform-specific code

When you use React Native to build an app, the framework automatically detects the platform it’s being run on. This way, it generates the right code for the right platform.

2. Even a Front-End Web Developer Can Create App Using React Native

Since most of the code present in React Native is Javascript, it gets easier for a front-end developer to create an app quickly.

It is rather simple for a front-end developer to grasp the technology and all they need to know is Javascript (specifically Reactjs), platform APIs, some native UI elements, and any platform-specific design patterns. 

This easy usability and learning curve enable non-programmers to create apps without much effort. This has induced a kind of transformation in the way apps and websites are created today. So all you need is an idea and plan to execute that idea. Even if the ideator is not a great programmer, that idea can materialize into reality.

This changes so many things.

3. Development Takes Less Time Due To Hot Reloading feature 

Reactjs/React supports the Hot Reloading feature, which gives developers the liberty to reload a mobile app automatically.

This makes the process of development fast, and it saves time.

4. Ready-to-use UI libraries for smoother UI experience

Component UI libraries exist in the React Native ecosystem. Developers can use it for a smooth UI experience.

Such sharing of UI libraries such as Shoutem, Expo, native base, and others save the time required to build them from scratch, and this means that more focus on innovation and ideas can be given, rather than creating libraries from scratch. 

So these are some major benefits of React Native that make it unique.

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React vs React Native: How Do They Work?

Let’s find out what goes behind the scenes when it comes to the workings of React vs React Native.

How React Works

  • React operates by breaking down the UI into reusable components, such as buttons or forms.
  • It employs a Virtual DOM to efficiently update only the parts of a web page that change, reducing performance bottlenecks.
  • React uses a declarative approach where developers describe how the UI should look based on the data, and React automatically manages updates when data changes occur. This includes state management for dynamic content and event handling for user interactions, resulting in a more maintainable and performant way to build interactive web applications.

How React Native Works

  • React Native is a framework for mobile app development that allows developers to write code in JavaScript or TypeScript.
  • It employs native components for the user interface, ensuring a native look and feel on both iOS and Android.
  • A bridge connects JavaScript logic to native modules, enabling access to platform-specific features when needed.
  • Developers can reuse a substantial portion of their codebase between platforms, making it a powerful tool for cross-platform mobile app development.

What are the main differences between React and React Native?

While there are several similarities between React and React Native, however, there are some notable differences as well. Let’s have a look:

  • React can be described as a base derivative of React DOM, for the web platform while React Native is a base derivative in itself, which means that the syntax and workflow remain the same, but components alter.
  • React, eventually, is a JavaScript library, which enables the programmer to create an engaging and high performing UI Layer while React Native is an entire framework for building cross-platform apps, be it web, iOS or Android. 
  • In React, virtual DOM is used to render browser code in React while in React Native, native APIs are used to render components in mobile.
  • The apps developed with React renders HTML in UI while React Native uses JSX for rendering UI, which is nothing but javascript. 
  • CSS is used for creating styling in React while a stylesheet is used for styling in React Native.
  • In React, the animation is possible, using CSS, just like web development while in React Native, an animated API is used for inducing animation across different components of the React Native application.
  • If the need is to build a high performing, dynamic, and responsive UI for web interfaces, then Reactjs is the best option while if the need is to give mobile apps a truly native feeling, then React Native is the best option.

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React vs React Native –  The drawbacks and limitations

Both React and React Native have some limitations and drawbacks when it comes to developing apps and websites. Before starting on either of them, the developer should be clear on these limitations and plan in advance how to overcome them.

Limitations Of Using React

  • Overhead Costs & Time: Often, it becomes a necessity to download another react-enabled library, which increases cost and time overheads. For instance, if the developer is using the Carbon framework for UI experience, then it becomes crucial to download Carbon components with react.
  • Learning curve: For a new developer, learning React may take much more time, compared to React Native. It means that the learning curve for React is more, and this can be an issue for new developers who are attempting to build an app using React.
  • External library support: Although React supports lots of external, third-party libraries, there are very few native libraries for React. Now, external libraries can help the developer to utilize both HTML and CSS functionalities and build it into JSX, which has its complexities and steep learning curve.
  • Long data hierarchy: Data navigation within React is complicated and complex. For example, React doesn’t support parallel data handling, unlike other JS Scripting tools. To navigate from one Div to another Div in React, the user will need to first navigate to the parent node, then to the topmost parent node, and then navigate to the second hierarchy of the tree node. 

Limitations Of Using React Native

  • Lack of native libraries: In case the app has heavy functionalities, then React Native can slow down the development process, and the reason is lack of native libraries, and reliance on external, third-party libraries. When one needs to make complex calculations at the same time, then Swift, Objective-C, and Java are observed to have more speed, compared to JavaScript, since there are overheads within JavaScript for controlling native elements. 
  • Loosely held abstraction layer: React Native is a loosely held framework, wherein programmers can get tags like HTML, stylesheets like CSS, and code from Javascript. This seems to be a positive aspect, as it provides more freedom to the developers, but at the same time, it poses challenges as well. For example, unlike Swift and Java languages, it doesn’t enforce any parameters or rules, and practically speaking, at any given time, a variable can be literally anything. This may cause a clash of logic, which is unlikely to happen with Swift or Java.
  • Takes more time to initialize: The issue with React Native is that it takes more time to initialize the runtime for gadgets and devices. It is mainly due to JavaScript thread which takes time to initialize. 
  • Requires a lot of native workarounds: If specific functionality is not found in React Native, then developers have two options: Either write the native modules in Swift/Objective-C and Java or ask any native developer to write a new one. In a word, React Native increases overheads on both expenses and time. 
  • License & Patenting Issues: License and Patenting Issues also persists, and since Facebook controls React Native, the issue isn’t solving anytime soon. Now, React Native has received Version 2, Additional Grant of Patent Rights from Facebook along with a BSD-style license. But in 2017, Facebook updated the Open Source Licensing and Patent for React Native, as well as React and other open-source projects. As per this new update, in case any developer uses these open source platforms for any purpose which Facebook doesn’t like or violates the patent, then Facebook has a right to stop that developer from using that open-source platform. This has impacted both React and React Native developers, as their apps developed on these platforms can be actually stopped from operating, at any time. 

Which is better React or React native?

Both React and React Native are important pillars for app and web development, and due to their flexible functionalities and an evolving eco-system of libraries, they are gaining momentum with each passing day.

While React is basically a JavaScript library and React Native is the entire framework, the former is the heart of the latter, and compliments each other.

If React is optimal for creating apps with high functionality and complex calculations, then React Native is ideal to give a native feeling to your mobile apps.

Every technology or framework in the developer universe has some limitations, and so does React and React Native. This is why, it is advisable to map the pros and cons of both of these technologies, and then make an informed decision based on the priorities and expected outcome.

Whether it is React js or React Native, we are here to help you build a high-performance application!

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Working from last 10+ years into consumer and enterprise mobility, Hardik leads large scale mobility programs covering platforms, solutions, governance, standardization and best practices.

  1. Amit Agrawal

    With React Native you don’t have to hire two separate teams to build apps for iOS and Android. React Native devs handle both versions. As the result, the team is smaller, costs are lower and the project easier to manage.

  2. Adit Gandhi

    Really good explanation of both technologies.

  3. Tony Koordom

    Sweet

  4. Sumit

    Now i have clear point of view about both technologies.

  5. Ekpenyong Junior

    Explicite and insightful. Great job sir.

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