React Native, Flutter, Ionic and Xamarin are the most popular cross-platform frameworks today. In some cases, developing your application with one of these frameworks might be a good alternative to a native approach since you need to create only one app that will work on multiple platforms.
However, you should keep in mind that cross-platform frameworks are just the wrappers for native. Each framework provides different opportunities for an app developer, so which one is better depends on your needs.
For example, while all the cross-platform frameworks support Android and iOS, only Xamarin and Ionic support Windows. React Native has an extension that allows you to develop an app for Windows, but it hasn't yet been tested enough.
So, let’s go through all of the pros and cons of React Native, Flutter, Ionic and Xamarin frameworks.
- Relatively fast. Obviously, it is slower than native, but, it's much faster than other cross-platform frameworks.
- Huge community. It became popular very quickly and gained a lot of fans. So, if you face any challenges, there is a lot of information available.
- There are a lot of open-source libraries, so you could find almost everything you need.
- Hot reload. No need to wait until the app builds again after changing padding from 2 px to 3 px. You’ll see the change on the screen right after it's changed
- Huge companies behind it (Facebook, AirBnB, Instagram). These companies chose React Native for their apps, so it can do a great job.
- People who know JS can quickly dive into it.
- Overhead 7 mb in APK size. Sometimes, this can be critical — for example, when the APK build size is close to the play store limit.
- Platform bugs. It will not work out of the box. You have to make some changes after environment setup before you start to develop.
- Need to write native components. It is not ideal as it is written in the documentation. In some cases, you will need to write separate codes for each platform.
- Compilation in native code. It gives the quickest performance.
- Rendering the screen UI on the Dart side and sending drawing command to GPU. It gives a great boost in screen rendering when working on UI screen.
- Created by Google. Sounds сonvincing, doesn't it?
- Hot reload.
- Dart language. This is a less common language. Knowledge gained after learning this language cannot be reused.
- Overhead 7.5 mb in APK size.
- Community is not so big.
- Not so many libraries.
- Sharing the app via the link. Ionic created a mechanism that allows devs to send the link via email to testers or clients. Then, recipients can simply open it and have the app on their devices. This saves time because there is no need to create a build for sharing.
- Provide hot fixes, bypassing the app store.
- Drag-and-drop interface building tool.
- Lots of plugins. Ionic uses Cordova plugins.
- Code is built in the cloud. It means that, if there is no or poor internet connection, your work will stop.
- Devs report cases when the Apple app store rejected apps built under Ionic.
- No native code compilation. In general, you have the local webview, which handles web code that looks like the app.
- Lower performance compared with native.
- Ability to use native libraries with no issues. Almost every project uses some libs, and, with Xamarin, you won’t have a problem with that.
- Hot reload.
- Own IDE. This is a pretty serious pro, because the development is very handy.
- Best balance between time saving and app quality. The app performance will be very close to native because Xamarin works perfect with the native environment.
- No platform-specific issues, so there is no need to write platform-specific code.
- Not a great community.
- Not so many libraries.
- You need to know the architectures of both platforms.
- Overhead 3.5 mb in APK size.
- Issues with compilation on iOS.
React Native, Xamarin, Ionic and Flutter are the most widespread frameworks that might be used when you prefer to develop only one app for multiple platforms.
It’s important to have all the app requirements finalized before choosing among them as each framework has its pros and cons. For instance, your choice might depend on whether you want to launch the app for Windows or if you want to create some complicated UX.
For many cases, React Native might be the most obvious choice as it has a huge community and application base. However, you should still keep in mind that some unfixable issues might appear, so you will have to do workarounds or wait for platform developers to fix the bug.