Flutter vs React Native: Which Is Best? (2023)

In today's smartphone-driven world where 86.29% of the global population uses a mobile device and nearly 50% of web traffic originates from smartphones, the demand for mobile app development reaches unprecedented heights. As businesses strive to deliver exceptional user experiences across platforms, the choice of a suitable mobile development framework becomes crucial. Fortunately, the number of viable options is limited: Flutter and React Native have emerged as the two dominant players with each commanding an impressive 42% market share, as revealed by a study conducted by Statista.

As a web development agency that places a strong emphasis on JavaScript, JAMStack Consulting understands the critical role that cross-platform mobile development frameworks play in meeting the demands of our clients, and we use both Flutter and React Native to deliver cutting-edge mobile apps. For our customers, understanding the differences between these frameworks is paramount to drive higher adoption and retention rates.

In this article, we embark on a comprehensive exploration of Flutter and React Native―their strengths, weaknesses, use cases, and opportunities―to equip you with the actionable knowledge needed to make informed decisions for your mobile app projects. Ready to unlock the secrets of Flutter vs React Native? Read on!

Comparison Criteria

This article focuses on 7 main criteria:

  1. Usage - By examining their market share, developer communities, and real-world applications, we can assess the level of industry acceptance and potential for future growth.
  2. Developer Experience (DX) - DX plays a vital role in developer productivity. Evaluating the learning curve, available documentation, and developer tools helps us determine how using one framework over another can reduce the time and efforts required to deliver projects.
  3. Performance - Mobile app performance, including metrics like app responsiveness, rendering speed and memory usage, directly impacts user engagement.
  4. Ecosystem - Available libraries, tools, and community support influence development speed, flexibility, and overall project success.
  5. Distribution model - Businesses must take into account how apps are distributed to end-users―app stores, over-the-air updates, and deployment processes―to ensure long-term growth.
  6. Parent company - The parent company of a framework influences viability, available support, and future updates.
  7. Costs - Assessing the costs associated with development, maintenance, and scalability of Flutter and React Native helps us make informed decisions based on budget constraints and long-term sustainability.

What’s React Native

React Native is an open-source framework developed and maintained by Facebook for building mobile applications with JavaScript, on both iOS and Android platforms with a single codebase.

  • Usage - React Native is widely adopted by all sorts of companies with 110k stars on Github and a 42% market share for cross-platform development frameworks.
  • DX - If you’re familiar with React, React Native is fast to adapt to with extensive documentation, compatible React components, and equivalent tooling.
  • Performance - React Native renders to native code using native APIs, so the performance loss compared to Java or Swift is minimal. Because it’s not a WebView-based tool, it can achieve 60 frames per second for a native look and feel.
  • Ecosystem - The ecosystem surrounding React Native is vast, with a wide range of community-driven libraries, UI components, and tools available to reduce development time. Searching React Native on Github returns 385,584 repositories, with 3,774 million repositories for React.
  • Distribution - React Native packages the app into a standalone binary, which can be published on app stores just like a regular Java or Swift app.
  • Costs - As an open-source framework, React Native is free to use. In the US, the average salary of a React Native developer is $95,872 per year according to Glassdoor.

What’s Flutter

Flutter is an open-source UI toolkit developed by Google for building natively compiled applications across multiple platforms, including iOS, Android, web, and desktop. Flutter uses the Dart programming language.

  • Usage - Though 3 years younger than React Native, Flutter has significant traction in the mobile app development landscape with 153k stars on Github
  • DX - It offers a flexible and efficient development experience, making it popular among developers. The hot reload feature enables real-time code changes and instant UI updates, facilitating faster iterations and enhancing developer productivity.
  • Performance - Flutter compiles Dart code to native ARM or Intel machine code, or Javascript, for native performance.
  • Ecosystem - Flutter boasts a growing ecosystem with comprehensive documentation and strong community support, featuring 527,167 repositories on Github. You can use the pub.dev website to find all sorts of Dart and Flutter packages to help you develop faster.
  • Distribution - Flutter apps are bundled in a single binary for easy deployment.
  • Costs - Flutter is also free to use. A Flutter developer salary in the US is $94,311 per year on average.

React Native Pros & Cons

React Native is ideal for web specialists, but the performance can represent a hindrance for optimal user experience.

Pros of React Native

  • Code reusability - Because React Native is Javascript, it’s a no-brainer for a web development agency that wants to reuse React components over different projects.
  • Fast learning curve - React Native is accessible to a large pool of web developers who can easily transition to mobile app development in very little time. If you worry about hiring staff, React Native is a risk-free bet.
  • Fast development cycles - Thanks to its robust open-source ecosystem, it’s easy to find UI components for any use case you might have and increase your development speed.

Cons of React Native

  • Performance - React Native has performance limitations in some specific use cases as explained in the official documentation, especially in computationally intensive or graphically demanding scenarios.

Flutter Pros & Cons

Flutter offers close-to-native performance and benefits from the Google ecosystem, but its learning curve can decrease a project’s profits by productivity loss.

Pros of Flutter

  • Near native performance - Flutter's performance is exceptional compared to other WebView-based frameworks, resulting in fast app startup times, smooth animations, and fluid user experiences.
  • Google Ecosystem - Though Flutter doesn’t have React’s extensive UI component ecosystem, Flutter benefits from the massive Google ecosystem with a wide range of Cloud services to build literally anything.

Cons of Flutter

  • Learning curve - Flutter requires learning the Dart programming language, though the syntax is pretty similar to Javascript / Typescript.

Summary: React Native Vs Flutter

Now you know the facts, the ultimate decision boils down to 5 key points:

  1. Both frameworks offer the same target platforms (iOS, Android, web, desktop)** with equivalent tooling**.
  2. If your development team has a strong background in JavaScript, React Native is a natural fit. If your team is open to learning a new language and framework, or if you have the budget, Flutter is a viable option. Consider your project timeline and budget.
  3. Assess the libraries, tools, and community resources available for both React Native and Flutter to see how they fit with your project's requirements. This is where the real gains are: if you can save weeks of development time, you can make more profits than by cutting corners. React Native has the whole React ecosystem. Flutter has the Google ecosystem with Firebase, Google Cloud, etc.
  4. If your app requires high performance and near-native user experiences, Flutter's Dart compilation to native code provides an advantage. React Native, while performant, has slight limitations in more complex scenarios. But in both cases, if performance is the top priority you are better off with native programming languages―Java for Android and Swift for iOS.
  5. It’s safe to assume both open-source communities are active and it won’t likely change over the next 5 years. Google is here to stay, and React goes well beyond Facebook.

Both technologies represent solid choices, and the best one depends on your specific project requirements because both are equivalent feature-wise.

Hire JAMStack Consulting

In conclusion, both Flutter and React Native offer powerful solutions for cross-platform mobile app development. Flutter impresses with its native-like performance and integrations with the extensive Google ecosystem. React Native, on the other hand, excels in code reusability, accessibility for JavaScript developers, and its established community support. While each framework has its pros and cons, it's clear that both have a bright future in the app development landscape.

As a startup, you can leverage the expertise of JAMStack Consulting, our web development agency specializing in JavaScript technologies, to develop applications in both Flutter and React Native. Don’t hesitate to send us a message.

If you want to learn more about how to hire React Native or Flutter developers, check out our dedicated article on the topic.