5 Ways Flutter Is Better Than React Native

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In the rapidly evolving world of mobile app development, two cross-platform frameworks have emerged as frontrunners in the race to simplify and optimize the creation of apps for both Android and iOS: Flutter and React Native. These frameworks have transformed the way developers approach mobile app design, offering tools and features that streamline the development process, reduce time-to-market, and ensure apps deliver consistent experiences across devices. While both offer significant advantages, they also have distinct characteristics that cater to different project needs and developer preferences. I

In this comprehensive analysis, we’ll embark on a journey to unpack the unique strengths of Flutter and React Native, diving deep into their technical intricacies, performance benchmarks, developer tools, and more. Whether you’re a seasoned developer, a project manager, or someone venturing into the mobile app realm, this guide aims to illuminate the nuances between these two powerhouses, helping you make informed decisions for your next mobile project.

React Native VS Flutter

Flutter and React Native are both popular cross-platform mobile application development frameworks, but they have their unique strengths and weaknesses. Here are five areas where some developers argue that Flutter has advantages over React Native:


Consistent Behavior Across Platforms

Flutter and the Skia Graphics Engine:

Skia: Flutter’s rendering engine is built using Skia, a 2D graphics library that’s used by several major platforms including Chrome and Android. This means that every element you see in a Flutter app is drawn by the Skia engine, and it isn’t dependent on the platform-specific UI components.

Custom Drawing: Instead of relying on native components, Flutter paints everything from buttons to text fields, giving it unparalleled control over its appearance and behavior. As a result, Flutter apps Development look and behave identically, regardless of where they’re running.

Implications for Developers and Users:

Less Platform-Specific Bugs: Since Flutter doesn’t rely on native components, many of the platform-specific bugs that developers encounter when using traditional cross-platform frameworks are non-existent.

Pixel Perfect Designs: Designers can be confident that the layout and animations they create will look the same, regardless of the user’s device. This is especially useful for brand consistency and when ensuring that a particular design aesthetic is maintained across all platforms.

Comparison with React Native:

React Native uses a bridge to communicate with native modules to render native components. This approach has its own advantages, like leveraging native performance and appearance. However, it also introduces potential discrepancies between platforms because iOS and Android components can have different behaviors and appearances. Moreover, some custom designs may require additional effort in React Native to ensure they look the same on both platforms.

In Flutter, this concern is substantially reduced. A button, for example, is rendered by Flutter and Skia in exactly the same way whether on an iPhone 12 or a Samsung Galaxy S21.

The precise control Flutter has over rendering means there’s virtually a 100% consistency rate in appearance across platforms, compared to the potential variances in React Native which are hard to quantify but can arise due to different OS versions, component behaviors, or even device-specific quirks.

Rich Set of Widgets

Flutter’s rich set of widgets is one of its hallmark features, offering developers a vast toolkit to create intuitive and attractive interfaces. Let’s dive deeper into what this means for Flutter developers and the ecosystem.

Understanding Flutter’s Widgets:

Everything is a Widget: In Flutter, the core principle is that “everything is a widget”. From structural elements like buttons and menus to stylistic elements such as colors and padding, everything in Flutter is built using widgets. This modular approach allows developers to compose intricate UIs from smaller, reusable components.

Material and Cupertino Libraries: Flutter comes packed with two comprehensive sets of widgets — Material Design (for Android) and Cupertino (for iOS). This ensures that apps can mimic the native look and feel of both platforms, or even mix and match for a unique aesthetic.

Benefits for Developers:

Rapid Development: Having a wide array of predefined widgets at their disposal means developers can quickly scaffold out entire screens or apps. This is especially advantageous for prototyping or when under tight deadlines.

Customizability: Despite being predefined, Flutter’s widgets are not black boxes. They can be extensively customized to fit a brand’s specific design language or to achieve a particular look and feel.

Consistency Across Apps: Developers using Flutter are working from the same “playbook” of widgets. This can lead to a consistency in design patterns and behaviors across apps developed by different teams or even different companies.

Comparison with React Native:

React Native provides a more limited set of basic components out of the box. While this can be sufficient for many apps, developers often need to rely on third-party libraries or custom components to achieve more complex UI designs or to emulate specific platform behaviors.

React Native focuses on offering a more “native” experience by leveraging platform-specific UI components, whereas Flutter takes the approach of emulating these components through its widget system.

Real-World Implications:

Given the richness of Flutter’s widget catalog, many developers find they rarely need to look for third-party UI solutions, which can speed up development and reduce potential points of failure.

Additionally, a new developer onboarding to a Flutter project can quickly get up to speed, knowing that there’s a standardized way to achieve many UI patterns directly through Flutter’s core library.

Performance

The performance of a mobile application is paramount in ensuring smooth user experiences. Flutter and React Native, while both capable of creating performant applications, achieve this in different ways. Here’s a more in-depth look at Flutter’s approach and its implications.

Flutter’s Approach to Performance:

Ahead-of-Time (AOT) Compilation: Flutter uses Dart, which benefits from Ahead-of-Time compilation. This means the Dart code is compiled into native machine code (ARM or x86) before the app launches. The result is a highly optimized, native performance right from the start, without the need for any runtime interpretation.

Direct Compilation: There’s no intermediate layer or bridge required to initiate interactions between the Dart code and the platform, ensuring a consistent, high-speed execution of operations.

Optimized Graphics and Rendering: Leveraging the Skia graphics engine, Flutter ensures efficient and performant rendering of its widgets. This is particularly beneficial for apps with complex UIs or animations.

Implications for Developers and Users:

Consistent High Performance: AOT compilation provides a predictable high-performance level across various devices, reducing performance bottlenecks commonly associated with interpreted languages.

Reduced Latency: With direct compilation, there’s less latency in processing user interactions or system events, leading to a smoother user experience.

Less Memory Overhead: Eliminating the need for a bridge or intermediate layer means less memory overhead, which can be particularly beneficial for resource-constrained devices.

Comparison with React Native:

JavaScript Interpreter: React Native apps are primarily written in JavaScript, which is interpreted at runtime using the JavaScriptCore engine. While modern JavaScript engines are fast, interpretation introduces a performance overhead compared to pre-compiled languages.

Native Bridge: React Native communicates with native modules using a bridge, which can introduce additional latency, especially for operations that require frequent back-and-forth communication between JavaScript and native code. This can become evident in more complex animations or gesture-driven interfaces.

Native Modules for Performance: For performance-critical operations in React Native, developers often resort to writing native modules in Swift, Objective-C, Java, or Kotlin. While this achieves the desired performance, it adds complexity to the codebase and can increase the development and maintenance effort.

Single Language for Frontend and Backend

Using a single language throughout the development process can have several advantages, simplifying the learning curve, development, and maintenance. Here’s a deeper dive into Flutter’s approach with Dart and how it contrasts with React Native’s model.

Flutter and Dart:

Unified Language: Flutter employs Dart for everything — from UI rendering (with its widget system) to business logic, data processing, and even backend (if one chooses to use Dart on the server side, for instance, with frameworks like Aqueduct).

Simplified Learning Curve: Developers new to Flutter only need to learn Dart and the Flutter framework to get started. There’s no need to juggle between multiple languages or syntaxes for different parts of the app.

Integrated Development Experience: Using Dart for both the frontend and backend (in cases where Dart is used server-side) means a more harmonized development experience, with shared libraries, tools, and best practices.

Implications for Developers and Teams:

Reduced Context Switching: Developers often highlight the mental overhead of switching between languages and frameworks. Using Dart for both UI and logic in Flutter reduces this overhead, leading to potentially increased productivity.

Easier Collaboration: Teams can collaborate more efficiently, with frontend and backend developers working in the same language, potentially leveraging the same libraries and patterns.

Streamlined Tooling: Dart’s tooling, such as its package manager (pub) and static analyzer, can be used consistently across all parts of the application.

Comparison with React Native:

Multiple Layers: React Native developers use JavaScript (or TypeScript) for business logic, JSX for describing UI, and occasionally dive into native code (Swift, Objective-C, Java, Kotlin) for platform-specific functionalities or performance optimizations.

Flexibility vs. Complexity: While React Native’s approach offers flexibility, especially when integrating with existing native modules or leveraging platform-specific capabilities, it can add complexity to the codebase. Developers might need to be familiar with multiple languages and bridge communication nuances.

Learning Curve: For developers new to the ecosystem, React Native might present a steeper learning curve, especially if they need to engage with native modules. Learning JavaScript (or TypeScript), JSX, and potentially bits of native languages can be more demanding compared to learning just Dart for Flutter.

Hot Reload and Hot Restart

Hot reload and hot restart are game-changers in the mobile development world. They greatly improve the developer experience by offering quick feedback loops, allowing developers to instantly visualize changes without the need for a full app rebuild. Let’s dive deeper into these features and how they differ between React Native and Flutter.

Flutter’s Hot Reload and Hot Restart:

Hot Reload: Just like React Native, Flutter provides a hot reload feature. When developers make changes to their code, they can instantly see those changes in the app without losing the current app state. This is immensely beneficial for UI tweaking and iterative development.

Hot Restart: Flutter takes it a notch higher with the “hot restart” feature. This resets the app to its initial state without going through a full rebuild. It’s faster than a cold restart (stopping and starting the app) and is particularly useful when testing initial app behaviors or for state-dependent scenarios.

Implications for Developers:

Rapid Iteration: Both hot reload and hot restart enable developers to make rapid iterations on their code. They can instantly see the impact of their changes, making the development process more fluid and efficient.

State Management: While hot reload preserves the app state, hot restart resets it. This distinction offers flexibility in testing. For instance, if a developer introduces a change that affects the app’s initial behavior, they can use hot restart to quickly validate the change without the overhead of a full app relaunch.

Comparison with React Native:

React Native’s Hot Reload: React Native introduced the concept of hot reloading in the cross-platform mobile development landscape. It allows for instant reflection of changes in the app, preserving its state. For many use cases, this feature alone significantly boosts developer productivity.

Lack of a “Hot Restart” Equivalent: React Native doesn’t have a built-in feature equivalent to Flutter’s hot restart. While React Native developers can manually refresh their apps to achieve a similar outcome, having a dedicated feature like Flutter’s hot restart can streamline the process, especially when frequent app state resets are needed during development.

Real-World Implications:

Time Savings: Consider a scenario where a developer is working on an app’s onboarding flow. With Flutter’s hot restart, they can quickly reset and test the flow multiple times without waiting for a full app rebuild. Over the course of development, these seconds saved can cumulatively translate to hours.

Enhanced Feedback Loop: A tighter feedback loop can be a morale booster. Seeing instant results can motivate developers, making the development experience more enjoyable and productive.

Conclusion: Choosing the Right Framework for Your Mobile Journey

Navigating the vibrant landscape of mobile app development presents both opportunities and challenges. As we’ve explored, both Flutter and React Native emerge as formidable contenders in the realm of cross-platform development. While Flutter boasts of its rich widget system, seamless performance through Dart, and innovative features like hot restart, React Native stands its ground with its native-centric approach, vast community support, and flexibility in integrating with existing modules. The choice between them doesn’t boil down to a mere checklist of features but requires a deeper understanding of project requirements, team expertise, and long-term goals.

Choosing the Right Framework for Your Mobile Journey

Whether you’re drawn to the holistic ecosystem of Flutter or the flexible adaptability of React Native, it’s clear that both frameworks have much to offer. Ultimately, the decision hinges on aligning with your vision for the app, ensuring that the chosen framework not only meets the present needs but also evolves gracefully with future demands. As the world of mobile development continues to innovate, both Flutter and React Native promise to be at the forefront, empowering developers to craft intuitive, efficient, and memorable mobile experiences.

Bijin Azeez April 24, 2023
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