Building a Chat Application with React Native vs Flutter

Ionic Hybrid App April 20, 2022
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These days, everyone appears to be developing mobile applications for their Chat Application. And rightly so. Because if you don’t target mobile app users today, you’ll be missing out on nearly 5 billion potential clients. As a result, software companies make every effort to integrate mobile applications development into their offerings, with many opting for a mobile-first strategy.

People prefer to use a mobile app to a mobile website, which is understandable.

You already know you need to have a mobile app if you want to develop a chat application. The next step is to figure out how to make it rapidly and affordably.

And what’s the answer? It’s done with the help of a cross-platform framework like Flutter or React Native. These frameworks enable you to target the two most popular mobile platforms (iOS & Android) with a single codebase, saving both time and money.

In this blog, we’ll compare Flutter with React Native in the context of creating a chat application.

Contents

 

Flutter vs React Native – Overview

Before we get into the intricacies of cross-platform app development with them, let’s take a look at the fundamental characteristics of Flutter & React Native 

Both frameworks were designed to focus on mobile app development like Chat Application and have matured into tools that support online and desktop apps as well. They both employ a single programming language & are open-source. There are, nevertheless, some distinctions.

Uses

Both React Native & Flutter, as previously mentioned, are frameworks that allow developers to create cross-platform (often known as hybrid) mobile apps with a single codebase created in a single programming language.

If you didn’t use one of these frameworks, you’d have to write two separate apps in 2 different languages with 2 distinct codebases if you wanted to develop a native app for both iOS as well as Android. For smaller development teams, this may be a major burden because it entails more time and money. Even large firms with loads of resources, such as Pinterest or Skype, have decided to create their mobile apps using a cross-platform framework.

Flutter vs. React Native – Ecosystem and Compatibility for Chat Application

React Native began as an internal Facebook project and was formally published as an open-source framework in 2015.

Flutter is a Google open-source project that was launched in 2017.

As open-source projects, Flutter and React Native have a significant benefit in that both the corporation and the community contribute to the project with bug fixes and improvements.

Flutter is compatible with iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, and Linux, to name a few. You may ship apps on these OSs using the same codebase. The following operating platforms are supported by React Native: Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, and tvOS. Web applications are supported by both frameworks. There isn’t much of a difference between the two, as you can see.

React Native has the edge when it comes to the ecosystem of open-source modules because most Javascript libraries may be added to the project using NPM. On the NPM registry, there are about 1.3 million packages accessible. If you have an issue to solve, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to locate a package for it.

Pub, on the other hand, is a Dart and Flutter package repository with only 26,000 products.

If you’re making a chat application, you’ll probably want to know if your chat SDK works with React Native or Flutter. At the moment, CometChat only supports React Native. If you don’t want to utilize Flutter, you’ll need to find another chat solution or start from scratch.

Flutter vs. React Native – How do they work?

  • React Native – React Native enables developers to create apps by launching JS threads that understand JavaScript code and creating a native bridge between both the app and the target platform. The bridge approach makes use of the library to convert the component hierarchy to the mobile device display.For example, if a user taps a button, the case is converted into an event that JavaScript can handle. The React Native bridges then transform native events into what React components can understand and deal with by transferring signals between native platforms & JS code

  • Flutter – Rather than using web view or the device’s OEM widgets, Flutter draws each view component with its own high-performance rendering engine. This enables the development of apps with native-like performance features.  On Android, the engine’s C/C++ code is compiled with NDK, whereas on iOS, it is produced with LLVM. During compilation, any Dart code is AOT-compiled to native code.Widgets are the building blocks of the Flutter app (Stateless or Stateful). These Widgets get rendered and provided to the platform on a Skia canvas. The platform displays the canvas and responds with events.

Flutter vs. React Native – Features

Let’s see the features of these two and understand the concepts of React Native and Flutter better.

React Native to Build Chat Application

React Native enables you to create mobile apps just using JavaScript. It employs the same concept as React, allowing you to build a complex mobile UI out of declarative components. You don’t construct a mobile web app, an HTML5 app, or a hybrid app with React Native; you build a true mobile app that is distinct from an app built in Java or Objective-C.  React Native employs the same core user interface building components as standard iOS & Android apps. You just connect those architectural components with JavaScript and React.

Features of React Native

The features of React Native are as follows:

  • React is a JavaScript-based framework for developing web & mobile applications as well as Chat Application.
  • You can utilize native components that are controlled by JavaScript.
  • Platforms React Native is compatible with the iOS and Android operating systems.

You can develop native mobile apps using your existing JavaScript skills. The majority of your code may be shared between platforms. Moreover, the React and React Native communities are enormous, and you will be able to obtain any solution you want.

Flutter

Flutter is a simple & high-performance framework based on the Dart programming language that enables great speed by presenting the user interface directly in the operating system’s canvas instead of through a native framework.

Flutter also provides a plethora of ready-to-use widgets (UI) for building a contemporary application. These widgets are intended for mobile environments, and creating an application with them is as straightforward as creating HTML.

Features of Flutter to build Chat Application

The features of Flutter are as follows:

  • Framework that is modern and reactive.
  • Uses Dart as a programming language which is fairly simple to learn.
  • User interfaces that are both attractive and smooth.
  • A massive widget catalog.
  • The same UI is used across many platforms.

Dart offers a huge software package repository that allows you to increase the functionality of your application. Developers just need to build one code base for both apps (both Android & iOS platforms). Flutter might be expanded to additional platforms in the future. Moreover, flutter requires less testing. Because of its single code base, you only need to develop automated tests once for both systems.

React Native vs. Flutter – Performance

To understand why they have varying performance levels, we must examine two factors: how each framework is built & how each framework communicates with native modules.

Both frameworks operate well for the most part, although there are some differences. Despite the fact that JavaScript outperforms Dart on average, React Native looks to be marginally slower in mobile apps when compared to Flutter.

The reason for this is the so-called “bridge” between the React Native mobile-native environment and the  JavaScript code. The bridge translates the JavaScript code into the device’s native language, which takes extra time & processing resources. As a result of its power to compile code to x86 and ARM natively, Flutter does not require an extra layer to render the UI. As a result, Flutter-based cross-platform mobile apps and Chat Application run better and consume less battery power.

  • React Native converts the UI components into their native counterparts while running the Javascript business logic on a different thread. Any interaction between the business logic & the native modules necessitates the use of a Javascript “bridge.” React Native is substantially quicker than other hybrid frameworks like Cordova and Ionic thanks to the bridge architecture, yet it falls way short of native app performance.
  • Flutter converts its whole software into native ARM C/C++ libraries that are extremely near to the machine language. This offers Flutter near-native speed and makes it quicker than React Native.

Flutter vs. React Native – Difficulty level

Understanding a framework’s complexity level is important because it helps you to estimate how quickly a developer unfamiliar with the framework might build your chat application.

Installation

React Native is easier than Flutter in terms of installation and setup. To install React Native, first, obtain NodeJS & Yarn, then use the command line to install the framework itself.

To use Flutter, you must first download the mobile platform binary and afterward add it to the PATH variable. Flutter installation necessitates more settings and, as a result, takes longer.

Programming Languages

React Native is a React framework extension that leverages Javascript as its programming language. Dart, on the other hand, is the programming language used by Flutter.

One of the most widely used programming languages is Javascript. Because it’s required to develop online applications, most developers, particularly web developers, have used it beforehand. Learning the React Native framework will be faster than learning Flutter if you have prior knowledge of Javascript.

Dart is a newer and far less used programming language than Javascript. Dart, like Flutter, was created by Google, and it’s managed by the same team that looks after Flutter. Dart is an object-oriented, typed programming language with a syntax comparable to C. It’s easy to read and also pretty simple to learn. You’ll be able to take up the syntax fast if you’re comfortable with C or Java.

Framework Complexity

Each framework has its own set of complications and subtleties. You’ll need to understand how each framework handles issues like state management & bridging to native modules, for example. When it comes to complexity, though, there isn’t really much of a difference between React Native & Flutter. If you’re starting from scratch, learning each framework will take approximately the same amount of time.

Any possible benefits of adopting Flutter are outweighed by the advantages of using a known framework.

React Native and Flutter – Learning Curve

The learning curve is determined by the framework’s language knowledge as well as experience. React Native is clearly the winner here, as it demands knowledge of JavaScript, which is by far the most popular language. In 2021, about 60% of developers used JavaScript, whereas Dart was used by only 6% of them.

When comparing documentation, however, the exact opposite is true: Flutter’s official documentation is straightforward and extensive, and it starts with the fundamentals. The documentation for React Native, on the other hand, is geared toward more experienced developers & presumes that they already know how the environment’s set up works.

Which Is Easier To Learn?

Because both Javascript & the React framework are well-known, React Native is the clear winner in this area. Learning React Native would be simple if you’re already familiar with any of those technologies. It’s a draw if you don’t have any familiarity with either Javascript or Dart. If you’re starting from scratch, both Flutter & React Native are equally challenging to master.

React Native vs. Flutter – Developer’s Experience

The interactions and thoughts that a developer experiences while working with technology, or in this example, a framework, to achieve a certain goal are referred to as the developer’s experience. The more pleasant it is to work with technology, the better the development experience is. Here, factors like simplicity of use, performance, documentation, and tooling all play a role.

Setup and Project Configuration

Installing the framework and creating a new project should be simple and uncomplicated in order to deliver a positive experience.

NPM (Node Package Manager), which anybody experienced in Javascript would know how to use, may be used to add the React Native framework to a project. How to get started using React Native is well documented on Facebook.

Flutter, on the other hand, must be installed as a binary and added to the PATH variable. Here’s how to get started.

Both frameworks need the installation and use of Xcode and command-line tools. While both frameworks provide extensive documentation, we discovered that using NPM to build up a React Native project from scratch is a little faster and easier.

Documentation

Good documentation is one of the most critical features of a developer-friendly framework. Developers must be able to get answers to their concerns and fix any issues that develop fast.

The documentation for both React Native and Flutter is fantastic. The documentation for React Native contains changeable code examples including outputs. While Flutter’s documentation lacks editable code examples, it compensates for this by providing a wealth of information. You won’t need to go further for information; Flutter’s docs will suffice.

This one is a tie because both frameworks have outstanding documentation.

UI development

React Native is heavily reliant on third-party libraries for UI development, as its basic functionality is limited to UI rendering & APIs for device access. The Flutter framework, on the other hand, includes a user interface rendering engine, testing, stateful management, navigation, Flutter widgets, and several libraries.

Both frameworks offer a feature called Hot Reload that allows developers to rapidly assess their changes without having to recompile their code. The development process is substantially accelerated by using Hot Reload.

React Native vs. Flutter – Developer Tooling

Tooling is another important aspect of the development experience. When tools are provided to speed up the development process, a framework or technology is more fun to use.

Hot reloading & debugging are two of the most significant tools choices for mobile app development.

Instead of needing to manually recompile after every code change, hot reloading allows you to make a code change and observe the effect on the client right away. Hot reloading is available in both Flutter and React Native.

Debugging is the most time-consuming and unpleasant component of programming, as any developer will tell you. For a favorable development experience, a competent debugger is crucial. Flutter comes with DevTools, which lets you inspect and change the layout, troubleshoot memory concerns, measure app size, and more. There’s also a debugging tool in React Native. React Developer Tools is the name of their product. They also have Flipper, an expandable desktop program that provides the same capabilities as Flutter’s DevTools.

CI/CD support

The built-in CI/CD feature in Flutter allows you to launch your mobile apps to the App Store & Google Play, albeit the App Store can be a little more challenging. The procedure is well-documented and enables command-line deployment, making it quick and uncomplicated.

Because there is no integrated CI/CD support for React Native apps, manual deployment is the only option. You may, however, deploy your apps using a third-party CI/CD platform.

IDE & Code Editor Support

While developing with a framework, using your chosen code editor or IDE greatly improves the speed and simplicity of adoption.

React Native is supported by most IDEs and code editors because Javascript is such a widely used language. There will be no problems for you here.

However, because Dart is a lesser-known language, many IDEs and code editors do not provide Dart syntax highlighting out of the box. Flutter programming is best done with one of the following IDEs: Android Studio, IntelliJ, VS Code, or Emacs, according to the Flutter maintenance team. This is due to the fact that they have created dedicated Dart plugins for certain IDEs.

You’ll have to learn a new IDE if you select Flutter and aren’t familiar with one of the Flutter-approved IDEs. If you use React Native, on the other hand, you may continue to use and enjoy any IDE or code editor you like.

Flutter vs. React Native – Developer Community

A strong community is important for open-source projects such as Flutter and React Native. The greater the community, the more likely somebody will produce a useful open-source library, the most Stack Overflow questions will be answered, and project defects will be resolved more quickly. The developer community is a strong litmus test for an open-source project’s health and predicted sustainability.

There are a number of factors that can help us determine how robust an open-source project’s development community is, including:

  • Stack Overflow tag analytics track how many questions regarding a given framework are asked on the site each month. When comparing Flutter and React, we can observe that Flutter surpassed React Native in terms of the amount of queries asked in early 2020. Since then, Flutter has remained on top.

  • The stars in the project’s Github repository are another indicator of its popularity. React Native has 99.6k stars as of December 2021. Flutter has a total of 133k stars.
  • The popularity of a search phrase is measured by Google Trends. When we compare Flutter with React Native, we can observe that Flutter has higher monthly searches.
  • The frequency with which developers submit articles regarding the framework on Medium is the last metric of popularity. There are 16.1k posts about React Native authored by 8.4k distinct writers as of December 2021. Flutter, on the other hand, has 18.2k tales written by 7.2k distinct authors.

React Native or Flutter – Which one to choose for your project?

Both frameworks have shown their performance and efficiency in cross-platform programming. Their differences, on the other hand, define the kind of apps that React Native or Flutter are best suited for.

You should choose React Native if –

  • React and Javascript is both known to your development team.
  • For functionality, you must rely on a large number of open-source modules.
  • You have to rely on the development community for advice and information.
  • You wish to make use of native OS features.

You should choose Flutter if – 

  • Dart is a programming language that your development team is comfortable with.
  • Your project’s performance optimization is important.
  • Outside of the conventional native UI elements, you must deliver a personalized experience.

Are you ready to dive right in? To get started on your chat application development, contact our team

If you have any lingering questions, feel free to contact our experts to get answers before you begin.

Sonika January 12, 2022
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