React Native vs Ionic vs Cordova vs PhoneGap: Comparing the Cross-Platform App Frameworks

I set out to build an app for myself called Speakeasy (it’s the insider’s guide to the city). I looked into the cross-platform frameworks available so I could build it for both iOS and Android at the same time.

React Native vs Ionic vs Cordova

  • Ionic & Cordova & PhoneGap — Apps created with these frameworks are Basically websites created with HTML, CSS, & Javascript, smushed into app form. It looks like an app, but it doesn’t really feel like an app. When you interact with the app, it feels slightly sluggish and not responsive.
  • React Native — This framework take an entirely different approach to hybrid cross-platform apps, and uses native UI elements, powered by Javascript. You write your app in Javascript, then React Native works some magic and turns the user interface into native code. This means that when you touch & feel your app, it feels native, because it is native.

React Native apps are snappy, responsive, and a joy to use.

With React Native, you build apps fast. I argue that it takes less than half the time to build an app compared to full native apps, because not only do you have to build an app once instead of twice, it’s just faster to build the first app period.

Under the hood, React Native uses Javascript to run the business logic, for example handling a button click or fetching data from a server. Technically it does this with a headless browser. Because of this if you don’t program the app right, you may see some slowness. There are ways in which to program the app however that eliminate this problem and the user will never know the difference between a pure native app and a React Native app.

Who’s using React Native?

Companies including Instagram, Facebook (parts of their app), Bloomberg, & Skype (see the full list).

From a technical perspective, it wins some points because it uses technology many developers already know: Javascript and React. Web developers don’t have to learn an entirely new language (Objective C, Swift, or Java); they just apply the skills they already have to a new form factor, mobile.

So how did the app come out? Speakeasy is snappy, responsive, and I bet you couldn’t tell it’s a React Native app. See for yourself!

Winner: React Native

React Native strikes the perfect balance in creating cross-platform apps because it’s super fast to build them and the apps look and feel like native mobile apps. The end result is a polished, snappy and responsive mobile app. You write the apps in Javascript, which is one of the most popular programming languages and use the React framework which is a revolutionary and brilliant framework.

React Native isn’t great for games or anything with complex animations. But for most apps that simply display and let you edit data, it’s a great choice.

React Native is a great choice for 80% of the apps out there.

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