Ionic vs. React Native: Let the Battle Begin!

The world is rapidly going mobile, and everybody uses dozens of mobile apps daily. Apps are mushrooming in all segments of business: healthcare, construction, finance, transportation, and logistics, etc. More and more enterprises are leveraging mission-critical mobile apps to improve their operational efficiency, track performance, and drive sales.

And here comes the question: which technology to adopt for development of the future groundbreaking app? The aim of this article is to compare the major pros and cons of the most popular frameworks: Ionic and React Native.

The basics

Ionic

Ionic is an open-source, cross-platform framework for hybrid mobile app development using web technologies (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript). Its original version was released in 2013 by Drifty Co. Ionic was built on top of Apache Cordova and Angular JS. It has a single and reusable code base and a set of pre-developed UI components and functions.

ProsCons
AdaptabilityPerformance issues arise when using too many callbacks to the native code
Platform-independence (HTML, JS, CSS, or Angular) allows quick development and testing cycles, minimal maintenance, and lower costsFramework dependencies
Develop an app once, and deploy across iOS, Android, and Windows devicesDifficult development of heavy graphical apps like 3D games
Wrapped by Cordova and PhoneGapSystem overhead due to the use of the WebView (to deliver a native-like experience)
Easy to learnSecurity problems may occur. It’s not recommended to use Ionic for development of financial/banking apps
Works on UIWebView (iOS) or WebView (Android)It can be relatively complex to build in-app navigation
Variety of templates allows fast prototypingProlonged app loading and deteriorated responsiveness at the CPU load due to the use of a browser
Rich library of front-end building blocksYou need to use Apache Cordova plugins to access the device’s hardware functionality
Lots of UI components available (buttons, cards, toggles, inputs, segments, row/column grids, lists, etc.)Sometimes it requires a lot of time to set up the deployment process across all platforms because some native mobile functionality has different requirements and the way of access.
Great community support
Free and open-source
Plugins for smartphone-specific apps (camera, Bluetooth, fingerprint scanner, geolocation, push notifications, etc.)
Clear, accessible, detailed and updated documentation

React Native

React Native is a cross-platform framework for the building of native apps, as well as cross-platform applications that are hard to distinguish from native. It was released by Facebook in 2015. React Native is based on JavaScript technology.

ProsCons
Great code reuse. In some cases, up to 95% of the code reuse helps substantially cut costs on developmentThere is a need for native development skills for some platform-specific modules
Excellent performance (much better than Ionic) due to native controls and native modulesProblems due to frequent updates
Increased development speedImmaturity of the React Native. It is still new and on the stage of improvement
Vast developers community helps speed up the learningLack of custom modules, others are underdeveloped
Time efficiency due to ‘hot reloading’A lot of time to initialize the runtime
Native look and feel of the appsProblems with memory management
Third-party plugins supportedSecurity issues
Increased development speed due to ready-made components available in the open-source libraryAvailable documentation is poor
Simplified data binding (child elements cannot affect the parent data)You need sticking to the licensing rules because React Native is backed by Facebook
Platform-independent codeSteep learning curve. If you don’t have React background, you’ll need some additional time to get in
More flexible development due to the modular architectureA small collection of ready-made components
Apps are reliable and stable, which make React Native suitable for large and complex projects

Ionic vs. React Native: comparison table

Both Ionic and React Native are amazing frameworks, but they have different specialties for different things, also, they have their pros and cons. The frameworks do different things, and both do them the right way.

 IonicReact Native
OriginDrifty.CoFacebook
Getting startedhttps://ionicframework.com/https://facebook.github.io/react-native/
PurposeWrite once, run anywhereLearn once, write anywhere
Mobile apps typeHybrid appsCross-platform native-like apps
Cross-platform applicabilityMost of the codebase is reusable for different platformsMost of the codebase is reusable but requires adaptation to a particular platform
Language stackWeb technologies - HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Angular, TypeScriptReact and JavaScript
Supported platformsiOS, Android, UWP, PWAiOS, Android, UWP
PerformanceModerate due to WebViewClose to native, comparatively faster
DocumentationFirst-class documentation, very clear and consistentVery basic documentation
Code testingTesting can be done in any browser. Very fast development-testing cycleReal mobile device or emulator is necessary
UI engineeringCode sharing for the cost of native experienceCustomization with built-in UI components
UI renderingHTML, CSSNative UI controllers
UXSuboptimalResponsive
Learning curveLow (more pre-developed & pre-styled components)Steep (few pre-developed components)
PriceOpen-sourceOpen-source
GitHub stars36,99573,967
CommunityLarge and strongLarge and strong
Use casesGE Transportation, MarketWatch, NHS, NASAFacebook, Instagram, Uber, Airbnb, Skype, Bloomberg

There’s a lid for every pot

It’s not so easy to make the right choice, huh? When deciding upon which framework to choose, you should consider the complexity of your project, the skills of developers, and the nature of the upcoming product.

If you are a short-budget startup, Ionic will be really budget-friendly. If you are an established company and look forward to developing a complex native-feeling product, opt for React Native.

If you focus on the excellent performance and want to cut costs by utilizing the code reusability, then React Native can deliver you these benefits. As well, If you require a really speedy delivery, choose to React Native.

Though, if you need a temporary app for a particular event, an enterprise app, or any app with moderate traffic, consider choosing Ionic.

If you want to implement sophisticated native features, e.g. fingerprint scanner or geolocation, give React Native a shot.

And if you need launching the app as soon as possible, and consider limited mobile features, go with Ionic.

CTO at LaSoft

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