React vs React Native: When to use which?
By Vivek Mannotra, Community Contributor - February 20, 2023
React is a widely used library for building web and mobile user interfaces. It is embraced by teams around the world for its versatility and ease of use, making react a popular skill in the IT job markets.
However, with different versions of React such as ReactJS and React Native, it can be confusing for new comers to understand the difference between them and decide when to use which.
This guide will provide a comprehensive overview of both technologies and help you make an informed decision on which one is best suited for your project.
What is ReactJS?
ReactJS allows developers to build dynamic and scalable user interfaces for web applications by breaking down the interface into small, reusable components. These components can be easily managed and updated independently, making it easier to build and maintain complex user interfaces.
ReactJS also provides an efficient way of updating the user interface using a virtual DOM. The virtual DOM is a lightweight representation of the actual DOM, and ReactJS uses it to calculate the changes that need to be made to the user interface.
This makes it faster and more efficient to update the user interface, as it only updates the parts of the interface that have changed, instead of updating the entire interface every time a change is made.
Popular JS frameworks as of 2022
ReactJS has a large market share and is used by many well-known companies, including Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, Airbnb, and Walmart. Its popularity has only continued to grow in recent years.
Test ReactJS Apps on Real Devices
When to use ReactJS?
- Single-page applications (SPAs): ReactJS is well-suited for building single-page applications, where the entire UI can update dynamically without requiring a full page refresh.
- Complex web interfaces: It makes it easy to build complex user interfaces by breaking them down into smaller, reusable components. This can greatly simplify the development process and lead to more maintainable code.
- Large scale web applications: ReactJS has been battle-tested at scale and is used by many large companies for their web applications. This means that it has a proven track record of being able to handle complex and demanding use cases.
- Responsive web design: ReactJS allows developers to build responsive and adaptable user interfaces that look great on any device, from desktop computers to mobile phones.
Its large community of developers and well-established ecosystem of tools and resources make it a reliable and well-supported choice for web development projects.
Benefits and Limitations of ReactJS
Benefits of using ReactJS over traditional web development:
- Improved performance: ReactJS uses a virtual DOM, which allows for faster and more efficient updates to the UI compared to traditional web development approaches. This can lead to a better user experience and improved overall performance
- Reusable components: ReactJS allows developers to break down the UI into smaller, reusable components. This makes it easier to maintain and scale complex user interfaces.
- Cross-browser compatibility: ReactJS runs on all major web browsers, making it a cross-browser solution for web development. This means that developers can write code that works seamlessly on both desktop and mobile devices.
Also Read: Browser Compatibility for ReactJS Web Apps
- Large and active community: ReactJS has a large and active community of developers, making it easy to find support and resources for your project. This can help accelerate development and ensure the long-term success of your project.
Debug React Components directly in browser with this plugin
- Strong ecosystem of tools and resources: ReactJS has a well-established ecosystem of tools and resources, including a large number of libraries, plugins, and other resources that can simplify the development process and improve the quality of your code.
Inspect ReactJS components from any browser using Developer Extension and BrowserStack
Disadvantages of using ReactJS compared to traditional web development:
- Complex codebase: ReactJS can lead to a more complex codebase compared to traditional web development, due to its reliance on components and the virtual DOM.
- Browser compatibility: ReactJS applications may not work well on older or less modern browsers, as they rely on modern web technologies that may not be supported by these browsers.
Test ReactJS Apps on Different Browser Versions
What is React Native?
Cross-platform mobile frameworks stats
React Native uses the same ‘React’ under the hood as ReactJS, such as components, state management, and the virtual DOM, but applies them to building native mobile applications. Read how React fundamentals drives both JS and Native platforms.
This means that developers can build mobile applications that feel and perform like traditional native apps, but with the added benefits of using a single codebase and the ReactJS framework.
One of the key advantages of React Native is that It also offers access to native APIs and platform-specific features, so developers can build apps that look and feel like traditional native apps, but with the added benefits of using a single codebase.
When to use React Native?
React Native can help build solutions for a wide range of projects and problems in the mobile application development space. Some of the most common use cases for React Native include:
- Cross-platform development: React Native is a great choice for building cross-platform applications, as it allows developers to write a single codebase that runs on both iOS and Android. This can significantly reduce the time and resources required for development and maintenance.
Follow-up Read: How to approach Cross Platform Testing
- Cost-effectiveness: React Native allows for faster and more efficient development, which can result in cost savings compared to traditional native app development. This is due to the ability to reuse code across platforms and the ease of development provided by the React framework.
- Faster time-to-market: React Native can help you get your app to market faster than traditional native development, as it requires less time to develop, test, and launch. This can be especially important for start-ups and businesses that need to quickly validate their ideas and gain traction.
- Iterative development: React Native allows for iterative development, meaning that developers can build, test, and iterate on their apps more quickly and easily than with traditional native development methods.
- Native functionality: React Native provides access to native APIs and platform-specific features, so developers can build apps that look and feel like traditional native apps while still taking advantage of the benefits of a single codebase.
Use cases for React Native with traditional native app development:
- Incremental adoption: React Native can be integrated into existing native applications, allowing teams to gradually adopt the framework as needed. This can be useful for organizations that want to take advantage of the benefits of React Native, but are not yet ready to fully switch from traditional native development.
- Adding new features: React Native can be used to add new features to existing native applications, as it allows developers to write reusable components that can be easily integrated into existing codebases. This can help reduce the time and resources required to add new functionality and improve the overall quality of the application.
- Hybrid approach: React Native can be used in conjunction with traditional native development to build hybrid applications that take advantage of the strengths of both approaches. This can be useful for organizations that want to build applications with a combination of native and web-based features.
Read More: End-to-End React Native Testing
Test react native apps on real Android and iOS devices with App Live
Benefits and limitations of React Native
Benefits of using React Native compared to native app development:
- Faster development: React Native allows developers to write a single codebase that runs on both iOS and Android, which can save significant time and resources compared to developing separate native applications for each platform.
- Strong developer community: React Native has a large and active community of developers, making it easy to find support and resources for your project. This can help ensure the long-term success of your project and ensure that it remains up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies.
- Low cost market entry: React Native can help you get your app to market cheaper than traditional native development, as it requires less time to develop, test, and launch. This can be especially important for start-ups and businesses that need to quickly validate their ideas and gain traction.
Test React Native Apps on Real Devices
Automate React Native app testing with Appium and App Automate
Disadvantages of using React Native compared to native app development:
- Performance limitations: Although React Native has improved performance compared to other hybrid mobile frameworks, it may still not match the performance of traditional native apps in certain cases.
- Limited access to native APIs: React Native has limited access to some native APIs and may not support all native features and functionalities. This can be a drawback for developers who need to build applications with complex native functionality.
- Steep learning curve: React Native can have a steep learning curve for developers who are not familiar with the React framework or mobile app development in general. This can be especially true for developers who are used to traditional native app development.
- Complex UI elements: React Native may not be the best choice for projects that require complex UI elements or animations, as these may be more difficult to implement using the framework.
Read More: UI Testing of React Native Apps
Difference between ReactJS and React Native
|Criteria||React JS||React Native|
|Purpose||Building web applications||Building native mobile applications for Android and iOS|
|Target Platform||Web||Mobile (Android and iOS)|
|Architecture||Virtual DOM||Native components and APIs|
|UI Components||HTML and CSS based components||Native components|
|Performance||Fast and efficient||Fast and efficient, but may not be as fast as native development|
|Cross-Platform Development||No, only cross-browser||Yes, for both Android and iOS|
|Debugging||Easy and straightforward||Can be more difficult due to native code integration|
|Customization||High level of customization options||Limited customization options compared to native development|
|Community Support||Large and established community||Growing community with support from Facebook|
ReactJS Vs React Native: When to use which?
|Scenario||ReactJS||React Native||Other Tools|
|Building a complex web application||Suitable||Not suitable||Redux, Webpack, Babel|
|Building a simple mobile application||Not suitable||Suitable||Redux, Expo|
|Building a cross-platform application||Suitable, but with limitations||Suitable, with the potential for better cross-platform compatibility||Redux, Webpack, Babel|
|Building an application with a need for high performance||Suitable, with potential for good performance||Suitable, with the potential for even better performance than ReactJS||Next.js, Gatsby|
|Building an application with complex UI elements||Suitable, but with potential limitations||Suitable, but with potential limitations||styled-components, Material UI|
|Building an application with a need for frequent updates and iterations||Suitable, with a fast development cycle||Suitable, with a fast development cycle, but may require additional work to update native code||Next.js, Gatsby|
|Building an application with a need for access to native features||Not suitable||Suitable, with access to native features through native modules||React Native Navigation, React Native Maps|
It is possible to compile one codebase to both ReactJS and React Native apps, using a technique called “React Native for Web.” React Native for Web allows you to write your React components once and reuse them in both a web and mobile app.
However, it’s important to note that there are some differences between the way ReactJS and React Native work, so some modifications to the code may be necessary.
Additionally, not all React Native components and APIs are available in ReactJS, so you’ll need to write some platform-specific code or use third-party libraries to get the same functionality on both platforms.
So the answer to the question of which one is better? ReactJS or Native? Is going to be neither and both, depending on what you’re building.
In summary, React JS is a great choice for web development due to its many features, faster development speed and cross-browser compatibility.
On the other hand, React Native is the best choice for mobile app development as it offers access to native APIs, close to native performance, and cross-platform compatibility for both iOS and Android.
No matter what platform you ultimately select for you app development effort, you can use BrowserStack real device cloud platform and its in-depth feature set to build testing routines that deliver and scale with your needs.