React vs. React Native: Deciding Between Web and Mobile Development

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React vs. React Native: Deciding Between Web and Mobile Development

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May 3rd, 2024

With the rise of mobile usage, many businesses want to build web and mobile apps to reach users on all platforms and to Increase App Engagement. React and React Native provide a way to reuse code between web and mobile apps. 

However, there are important differences when deciding where to focus development efforts. This article examines the tradeoffs between React vs. React Native.

Overview of React

React is a JavaScript library created by Facebook for building user interfaces. It allows developers to build reusable UI components and manage the view layer of web applications.

Some key features of React include:

  • React apps are built using components like custom HTML elements that manage their state and rendering. 
  • React uses a declarative paradigm that allows developers to declare what they want to see rendered without worrying about all the underlying DOM manipulations. 
  • React implements a virtual DOM to minimize DOM operations and maximize performance. 

React can be used for simple static UIs and complex, data-driven single-page applications. 

React simplifies web development by providing an easy-to-use app library for handling how data flows into the UI and minimizing DOM manipulation. 

Overview of React Native

React Native is a JavaScript framework that allows you to build Native mobile apps for iOS and Android using React. With React Native, you can write mobile app code once and deploy it to both platforms.

Some key things to know about React Native:

  • Uses the same React paradigm of components, JSX, state, props, etc. So, if you know React for the web, you can easily transfer that knowledge.
  • Renders Native UI components instead of web components like HTML. For example, View and Text instead of div and span.
  • Access to many Native device APIs like camera, location, etc, directly from JavaScript.
  • Runs JavaScript code on a separate thread in Native code. So you get near Native performance.
  • Allows you to write truly Native apps with Native capabilities, unlike hybrid approaches.
  • Has Expo as a service that makes it easy to develop and build React Native apps without Native code.
  • Backed by Facebook and used by many companies like UberEATS, Tesla, Instagram, Discord, etc.

Native gives you the best of both worlds of React vs. React Native – write in React and get Native mobile apps. It offers faster development and reuse while still providing a Native user experience.

Comparison Between React and React Native. 

If you want to choose between the two, here are some key points you must consider. 

  • Code Reuse

Both React vs. React Native allow for significant code reuse across web and mobile apps. React is designed for building web applications, while React Native is designed for building mobile applications. However, they share the same core library and allow you to write components that can be shared between platforms.

For example, you may create a Button component in React that handles rendering a button, handling clicks, etc. This same Button component code can be reused and rendered in a React Native mobile application. The core logic remains the same.

This code reuse is enabled by the fact that React components have a declarative API focused on the App UI/UX Design rather than platform-specific implementation details. Things like styling, interactions, and data fetching are abstracted away.

So a component like Button can have the same properties and logic across platforms, while the actual rendering is handled differently internally by React vs. React Native. 

The benefit is huge savings in time and maintenance by avoiding rewriting the same components for multiple platforms. 

  • Performance

React Native apps may have slower UI performance compared to truly Native apps. While React Native uses Native UI components, the JavaScript bridge can cause slowdowns for animations and scrolling. The JavaScript code runs on a separate thread from the Native UI thread, so communication between the two incurs overhead.

The performance difference may not be noticeable for simple apps with minimal animations. But for graphic-intensive games or apps with complex UIs, the gap between React Native and Native code is more apparent. The more JavaScript views and bridges, the worse the performance penalty.

There are ways to optimize React Native performance like avoiding unnecessary re-renders, using Native modules for performance-critical code, and optimizing images. React Native can’t fully match the raw speed of completely Native UI code.

  • Access to Native APIs

React Native provides more access to Native device APIs than React for the web. With React Native, you can tap into platform-specific APIs like the camera, contacts, location, and more. This allows you to build mobile app experiences that feel truly Native, with capabilities beyond what you could achieve on the web.

In contrast, React for Web is limited to standard web APIs that work across all browsers. Device APIs like geolocation and camera access are available, but support can be inconsistent across browsers. React Native provides a consistent bridge to Native APIs on iOS and Android.

  • Developer Experience

Developer experience differs between React and React Native due to the platforms they target. React is focused on web development, so the skills required are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The React ecosystem has a wealth of web-focused libraries and tools available.

React Native requires mobile development skills since it targets iOS and Android. Developers need knowledge of platform-specific tools like Xcode and Android Studio and mobile design patterns. The React Native ecosystem provides mobile-focused libraries for navigation, styling, APIs, etc. However, it is smaller than the React ecosystem.

React Native development involves building the Native app’s UI through JavaScript using React Native components instead of platform-Native code. So, developers must understand mobile UI requirements and platform differences. Building custom Native modules requires knowledge of Objective-C/Swift for iOS and Java/Kotlin for Android.

React development requires web skills, while React Native requires both JavaScript and Native mobile skills. In the opinion of The App Founders experts, the learning curve is steeper for React Native.


When you’re thinking about whether to use React for creating websites or React Native for making mobile apps, it’s important to look at a few key things:

First up is code reuse. Next is how fast your app runs. Then there’s the thing about using phone features. React Native lets your app use the phone’s features, like the camera. But for websites made with React, you might need extra stuff to get those features to work.

The experience of developers is another point. Many find React Native quicker and simpler than making apps the standard way. Even though both React vs. React Native use similar ideas, sometimes React Native can be a bit more of a headache to figure out problems.

For a custom website development firm, the choice hinges on the project’s complexity, the desired performance level, and the team’s development focus. If you’re making mobile apps and want to use the same code everywhere, React Native is super helpful. For simpler apps or if you’re just making websites, React is probably better. 

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