What is React Native?

React Native is all the rage these days among developers around the world. It’s got the strong backing of a very passionate developer community and is one of the front runners in terms of adoption as it was created by the tech giant Facebook.

We feel it only fair to give a short backstory to what React Native is. For the coders who haven’t yet had the need/time to dive into the world of React Native here is a breakdown of what exactly it is.

React Native is a JavaScript framework created by Facebook that succeeded React (also known as React.js). Its initial release was in 2015 and the company proceeded to work on the framework and released the stable version in July 2019. This framework is used for writing and rendering code for applications that run on iOS and Android. Ever since the release of React Native, companies have been eagerly trying to jump on board as soon as possible.

Why was React Native developed?

The easiness of rendering applications that need to be available on both platforms seemed irresistible.

Native React applications are written using JSX. Essentially this is a mix of JavaScript and XML running in the foreground with either Java for Android or Objective-C for iOS being invoked in the background with the help of React Native Bridge.

This is what allows mobile developers to share code between platforms making the development of applications for both platforms require just one developer instead of two.

Also, React was mainly focused on browser applications while Native React was introduced to focus on mobile applications.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of React Native that You Need to Know

Before looking at the popular apps that run on the React framework, let’s dive into what exactly the advantages and disadvantages of React Native are. We feel that this could help you in deciding if a transition to this framework will benefit you.

The Good

Quick and Efficient Development with React Native

Even though a clean and simple UI is important where apps are concerned, the speed of its functioning is what will decide the success of the app. We genuinely believe that speed is what can make or break an app in today’s market. With the being said, React Native provides an undeniably faster performance when compared to other frameworks. The best part is that there are many React themes and React templates created by the developer community that are optimized for lightning fast performance and can serve as great plug and play solutions to build your own web apps.

Cross-Platform building

One thing that was mentioned in almost every app listed above was the cross-platform easiness of writing code with React Native. The code can be reused either in full or in parts and can easily be shared between platforms for development. This is another one of the major positives of transitioning to this framework.

Less manpower and closely-knit teams

When code can be shared between platforms, it removes the necessity of having separate coders for the two. In effect, the team size would reduce and the interactions between the teams would improve by a large margin. These are factors that contribute to higher efficiency during deployment and troubleshooting phases.

Larger Community

At the end of the day, the community is what helps code grow. React Native has become a very large community that is growing the minute. On GitHub, React Native has become the most popular framework being shared and used since its release. A larger community means faster solutions and an overall better experience.

Ready to use React resources

Another benefit of the large developer community is that a lot of developers have already put in the efforts to create some amazingly designed React website templates, React native themes  and React admin templates to choose from. You don’t need to start coding your app from scratch, you can just choose from the huge variety of React dashboard templates available and follow the documentation to tweak it according to your product’s unique needs.

The Bad

React Native Isn’t Perfect

React Native is still considerably new and faces problems and bugs here and there. Airbnb had started the transition to React Native and then decided to drop it due to various technical and organizational issues. General review by the company on the framework was positive but we truly believe that the infancy of this framework could be the reason for them going for fully native development.

It has a steeper learning curve than others

We love the perks that come with React Native but this should not distract anyone away from the fact that coding the framework is not as simple as the clean UI and UX might make it seem. A lot goes into optimizing an application to make the performance snappy and the interface clean. As much as we love the pre-packaged elements that come with React Native, data handling and incorporation of certain features can be a hassle.

Now that we have given you a fair introduction to what React Native is, it’s time to find out the 10 Popular Apps that have chosen to adopt this modern framework.

1. Facebook

Considering that React Native started as an internal hackathon project on Facebook in 2013, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Facebook maintains all their app development through React Native. The main aim for the creation of this framework was to minimize the effort that people have to put in to build high performance mobile apps.

This aim is what gave birth to React Native in the first place and the framework has grown immensely under the leadership of Facebook. Upon release, it supported only the iOS version but with later updates gave provision for building the UI on Android as well.

How did it help Facebook as an app?

Major Improvements were noticed in the speed of startup of Events Dashboard.

2. Instagram

Instagram’s shift into the React Native framework was easier since the general UI of Instagram has been simple since Day 1. We are very thankful for the change since this resulted in a simple and effective application that has since then contributed to Instagram’s insane amount of success in the field of social media.

Since they were bought by Facebook, Instagram’s React Native transition was easier and implemented more effectively since they had the creator of the framework to help on board the change. Almost all of the code was shared between iOS and Android and it was all thanks to this new framework.

Fun Fact: The Push Notification view was initially implemented purely as a WebView.

Maintenance of the app also has become significantly easier with the React Native framework running in the background.

3. Skype

We truly believe that the success of this framework is best seen in the case of Skype. With about 300 million monthly active users, Skype is no stranger to the messaging game although they cannot be compared to WhatsApp who has over 1.5 billion monthly active users. With that being said Skype (owned by Microsoft) chooses to implement React Native over their own Xamarin who also deal in the native cross-platform field.

This transition from their existing framework to React Native was a huge challenge. Lucky for us, the revamped application was a sigh of relief for frustrated customers who were getting tired of the buggy issues that seemed to accompany the previous framework. Microsoft also decided to implement React Native on the Windows desktop app which improved their service by a large margin.

This also served as an indicator that the application of this framework though designed towards mobile devices could go well and beyond mobile app development.

4. Walmart

This American retail giant had huge success with its award-winning app that was developed on the React Native framework. With the added feature of Walmart pay, customers could get their items delivered to their doorsteps with a few simple steps.

Walmart’s first big risk was when they had undergone an overall that added Node.js into their system. This was followed by the high-risk move of transitioning their mobile into the React Native framework. This involved rewriting the whole code but the effort paid off.

They managed to improve performance across both platforms and about 95% of the code was shared between iOS and Android making it easier or the developers to work on both at the same time.

React Native improved their customer experience and provided nearly identical performance to native apps with extremely smooth animations and fluid transitions.

5. Uber Eats

This food ordering and delivery app based out California was launched by Uber in 2014 and has grown to one of the top contenders in the online food delivery game.

Although Uber Eats supports web browsers, we can safely say that it is their mobile application that accounts for most of the activity. Features of this application include online food ordering and delivering along with provisions to leave reviews on the restaurant, the delivery agent and particular orders.

Although not completely written in React Native, it is safe to say that the clean UI and smooth functioning can be attributed to this framework.

Both UI and UX have been enhanced with just a small part of the application running on React Native. This should give an idea of the potential of React Native as a framework for cross-platform application development.

The transition to React Native was comparatively easier for the team at Uber Eats considering that they’ve had previous experience with React.

6. Bloomberg

Bloomberg designed its consumer application for clients using React Native. This was a major transition for the company that ended up as a successful endeavor. The transition resulted in an interactive streamlined experience for the users. With the help of React Native, Bloomberg was able to deliver an app that was cross-platform as well as optimized.

Considering that the main features of the Bloomberg application involve portfolio tracking, business, and financial news, special content and Bloomberg TV, the streamlined performance of the application makes it an ideal experience for their users and the React Native framework has a lot to do with that.

7. Tesla

Tesla blew us all away with the vehicles that they have been manufacturing recently. Since the first Tesla Roadster came out in 2008, they have come a long way since then. With pleasing aesthetics and beautiful interiors and exteriors, the experience of owning a Tesla cannot be matched or compared.

The feature that got people’s attention was their app that gave Tesla owners a higher level of functionality. The app was developed on React Native and is designed to even control the car to a certain extent. Other features include monitoring the charging progress, communicating with the Powerwalls, tracking your vehicle and even automatic heating and cooling.

Considering all that is happening within the app and the communication of the app with your Tesla, we are more than pleased with how this framework has helped the app function with blazing speed and a smooth UI. The fact that the app can be easily written and updated for iOS and Android simultaneously is an added advantage for the developers. The users benefit from this because updates are almost always simultaneous for both platforms.

8. Facebook Ad Manager

Facebook Ad Manager holds the title for “First React Native App for Android” and also for “First React Native based, cross-platform app created by Facebook”. These two titles signify the levels of success Facebook was able to find in their new framework.

One of the main reasons for Facebook deciding to design the Ad Manager app completely based on React Native was to get an interface that was both clean and simple. Another reason this framework was chosen was because Facebook realized that this would be less buggy in the final result.

How did it affect the app?

Lightning-fast performance, a clean UI and simple navigation is the result of the React Native framework being implemented in the Facebook ad manager. Flawless data visualization within the platform can also be attributed to React native.

9. Discord

This VoIP application was initially designed for communication between gamers while in-game. Before the introduction of Discord, the available options such as Skype and TeamSpeak had issues regarding security and was heavily dependent on resources which affects gameplay on certain devices.

How did Discord help the community?

Discord was able to deliver a solution in a clean and smooth UI that provided all the necessary text, speech, image, and video communication that was required without affecting system performance.

The benefits of Discord can largely be credited to the framework it was built on. React Native allowed for improved performance with a sleek UI that required minimal resources. It also allowed Discord to be developed as a cross-platform application where almost 98% of the code was shared between the two.

Considering that Discord is available on a plethora of platforms, we can only see things getting better for them from here. Since its release Discord has expanded outside the gamer community with many social media influencers and celebrities especially in gaming having their Discord channels to communicate with fans on a personal level.

10. Wix

This Israeli based company deals with cloud-based web development giving users the ability to create HTML5 websites and mobile-based sites. What has made Wix a household name in web development is the easy, online drag and drop tools.

The simple and clear UI of the website enables even non-coders and those with zero experience in web development to create aesthetically pleasing websites that have high functionality. Recently, we’ve seen Wix everywhere from sponsored ads to finding it on the top 10 tools for web development as listed on various sites.

The immense popularity of this application is definitely due to the pleasing UI and UX. This, in turn, can be credited to the framework that runs in the background. React Native provides Wix with many navigation options of which react-native-navigation seems to hold the top spot because of the level of configuration and the screen options possible and the added advantage of an always updated codebase.</p>

What does the future hold for React Native?

There is no doubt that React Native is growing into a very popular framework. Google trends show a considerable increase in the framework usage and also in search volume of search terms such as top React templates, best React templates and best React dashboards between 2017 and 2018 and we expect similar stats over the next 10 years.

React Native is still in its infancy as far as maturity is concerned. There will still be bugs and improvements but the large community that it has started to build, look ready to face these challenges.

The GitHub repository for React Native has almost 2000 contributors who have committed more than 16,000 times in over 300 releases. These numbers are promising and give us a decent understanding of how fast this community is growing by each passing year.

Facebook has great plans for React Native. As of 2018, they created a react-native-releases repository. The repository allows users to keep new releases of the framework in a more collaborative manner allowing more public involvement in its production and updating.

They followed that up with another repository that was dedicated to proposals and discussions to invoke active participation from the members of their fast-growing community. These steps by Facebook gives us hope in the framework and its potential in future application development.

What is Fabric?

This might easily be what the future of React Native holds for its developers and users.

Simply put, it is a re-architecture of the entire React Native framework to make it more flexible and to improve integration capabilities with hybrid apps.

This project intends to bring about three major changes to the existing framework.

Follow their progress on this here

A New threading model

Currently, each update in the UI requires work to be done on three different threads. The new model hopes to combine this synchronously and enable work on any thread while keeping low-priority executions off the thread to main the speed and responsiveness of the application.

A simplified Bridge

If the initial React Native Bridge was simple, Facebook aims to simplify it further with Fabric. They hope to make direct calls between JavaScript and native apps more efficient and easier to debug.

Introducing Async rendering capabilities

The purpose here is to allow multiple rendering priorities and simplify existing data handling asynchronously.

Since we’ve looked through all major aspects of React Native, it is safe to say that the future of this framework is extremely bright. With immense potential and a growing community of developers that have found solace in the framework, React Native stands to become the biggest framework for cross-platform development for mobile applications.

What do you think, is React Native the framework of the future? Tell us in the comments below.

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