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Mobile app development frameworks 101: React Native and Flutter.

As a leading technology solutions provider and AWS partner in the country, we’ve been at the forefront of observing numerous digital trends throughout the years. However, none have been as momentous as that of mobile application development. This is for good reason, no doubt. As consumers continue to rely on their smart devices to obtain anything they need, mobile apps are now at the core of enabling a better quality of life.

While the indispensability of mobile apps isn’t unknown, building them is a complex yet highly rewarding process. Even the simplest of apps are intricate endeavours, and communication between product owners and developers is key to ensuring that the final result is one that meets expectations – especially of users. This is where some fundamental knowledge of mobile app development frameworks can immensely help business owners to understand the technicalities behind building their digital platforms.

Here we outline two such frameworks that are popularly used for cross-platform and Native mobile app development – React Native and Flutter. While both frameworks lead in the app development space and are trusted by the developers who use them, each presents distinct advantages in the interest of being unique.

What is React Native?

Developed by Facebook, React Native is based on the JavaScript programming language and offers Native app development for both Android and iOS. Although JavaScript has originally been used to develop webpages, React Native enables Native mobile app development via the very same. This is because React Native is based off of React – which is also a development framework, but for building websites.

In turn, this has provided two major advantages for using React Native:

1. Developers need not learn new programming languages to develop for mobile, and vice versa.

JavaScript is one of the most commonly used programming languages, and a vast number of developers are familiar with it. Conventionally, programming languages that are specific to each platform (Java for Android and Objective-C for iOS) need to be used for developing each version separately. Not having to use separate programming languages makes development less stressful for developers, as a result.

2. There is no need to use web technologies like HTML or CSS for rendering the application.

Simply code in JavaScript, and let React Native connect to platform-specific APIs for converting a single codebase into its Android and iOS versions. This enhances the quality of the final outcome, as the app truly presents the look and feel of a Native app. When and if the codebase changes, the APIs can subsequently change/update the app accordingly.

What is Flutter?

Based on the Dart programming language (which is similar to Java and C#), Flutter has been created by Google to also build Native Android and iOS apps. In spite of sharing the same objectives in terms of mobile app development, Flutter consists of features such as UI widgets and Hot Reload for dynamic application turnarounds.

Albeit being relatively new to the arena of mobile application development, Flutter has gained much popularity and is now trusted by developers of all skill levels. Here are a few key ways that Flutter enables mobile app development, all of which also end up being its unique set of benefits.

1. A UI widget library that consists of a wide variety of components.

This is a boon for front-end designs, as an assortment of widgets are available from Flutter’s libraries to tailor apps precisely according to preferences. The characteristics of these widgets go beyond simply offering form, though. They also present impressive functionalities by accommodating into both platforms – something that has always been challenging when aiming to develop Native apps via a single codebase.

2. Direct compilation that features apps which are truly Native.

Instead of using APIs to constantly transform code into platform-specific components, Flutter directly compiles all components into machine code to ensure no middle interpretation is required. This applies to all the widgets in its UI library as well. Each component here offers two distinct versions for each platform, to ensure that all elements complement platform-specific functionalities without compromising quality.

3. Hot Reload enables fast refreshes to view updates and make changes.

With Hot Reload, developers need not wait long once an update has been made, to review changes. This is immensely helpful from a maintenance standpoint, as updates can be rolled out with lesser downtime. On a sidenote, leading cloud support services also specialize in offering services that can be scaled up or down, depending on your business’s needs. By integrating the right suite of cloud services with a mobile app framework, you can build a high-performance system that is always ready to accept fluctuations, be it for app releases, user traffic or anything else in between.

The key takeaway…

Comprising of the epicentre of today’s digital era, mobile apps are useful as they are plentiful. In an age when everyone’s digitally connected, no business can thrive without a steady digital presence. But embarking on the journey to build a mobile app is a progression, which needs more than simply business insights to be successful. As a business owner/operator, learning about basic app development technologies can make a world of difference, even if you aren’t the most tech-savvy.

Software development in Sri Lanka has long since focused on client-centric technology solutions. Likewise, harbouring clear and transparent communication with business owners is of prime importance. Having some fundamental knowledge of how mobile app development frameworks operate from an external standpoint can give business and product owners leverage in terms of understanding the needs of their development teams, as well as how they operate.

React Native and Flutter are two such frameworks that were discussed in this article. However, many more exist, and which ones are ideal for your business ideas is something that is best discussed with your development team. Conclusions can be reached by heightening the productivity that encompasses such discussions, by focusing on key areas. These include but aren’t limited to target markets, feature sets, costs and scalability for long-term projects. 

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