What many people know about React Native (RN) right now is that companies like Airbnb and Udacity tried it, critiqued it, and ultimately abandoned it. Like any app-building tool, highly publicized retreats generate media buzz. This is about as far from an objective, bigger-picture perspective as you can get.
Some organizations discontinue their use of React Native (for various reasons)–but some are realizing significant benefits from its utility and accessibility. It continues to collect a decent bouquet of compliments right alongside the negative noise.
A clear recognition of the pros, cons, and context around RN doesn’t just eliminate misconceptions. It helps ensure you’re objectively evaluating and recommending solid app development strategy.
Without getting too deep into technical jargon, the TLDR is that React Native is a faster, cleaner way to build flexible, responsive, cross-platform native apps. Many Fortune 1000 companies and small startups alike successfully leverage RN.
The promise of React Native is taking the accessibility and cross-platform boons of Cordova and marrying them with real native rendering.
In order to understand how React Native works, the natural confusion between React and React Native needs to be addressed: While close relatives, they’re NOT the same thing. Both originated by Facebook developers, React (React.js) appeared first in 2011.
The RN user experience is that of a native app–a smooth, responsive interface installed to your phone. On the flip-side, RN needs some workarounds and has some missing pieces.
Every platform has limitations. There are reasons that developers and companies step away from RN:
As previously mentioned, encountering articles like this one from visible brands like Udacity and Airbnb stirs the pot. They identify some of the problems they encountered with React Native, such as a less-than-streamlined integration with Android and its problematic organizational gaps. But there’s more to it.
Chances are, some of the development teams within these companies are still enthusiastic about and recognize RN’s potential in the grand scheme. What’s missing from these articles is the larger business context. Trying out and learning from new tools is a common tactic when companies are looking to change or coin their own development approach.
Creating an in-house version of a platform like RN that accommodates specific internal objectives certainly isn’t a bad plan if you can afford the engineering team to maintain it. Companies with massive brand equity and extensive development resources have the luxury to fully document and form a position on the tool trend of the moment. They also have the IT firepower to take the learnings from the exercise and develop their own tool.
When sitting down with a partner to define app strategy, there are several important questions to answer:
If there is a cross-platform goal paired with a desire for native feature functionality, React Native could present a very viable solution. Generally speaking, React Native’s popularity as a cross-platform solution for mobile development is far stronger than that of Cordova, Ionic, Xamarin, or Native Script.
It is essential to communicate the pros and cons around any platform and weigh them against partner objectives. Partners know they want to go to market. Much of the time, however, they don’t understand all of the considerations and potential obstacles along that journey. Development teams must be prepared to present a platform recommendation and guidance.
Whether or not React Native is right for your app strategy depends on your internal goals and expectations, as well as your partners’ development expectations.
For many organizations, RN strikes the right balance between accessibility and user experience. It provides a native UI, while avoiding the high cost of developing and maintaining separate iOS and Android code bases. Its cross-platform capabilities offer an approach that makes sense for many companies.