Mobile Technologies Comparison

Ewelina Dziadosz

Aug 10, 2021 • 28 min read
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Mobile phones are more and more popular, that's why the list of mobile technologies still increase.

In 2021, we have two main approaches to mobile app development - one: traditional native mobile app development (using Swift for iOS apps and Kotlin for Android apps) and the other: cross-platform development (two main technologies used in this approach are Flutter and React Native). Which choice is the best? I will try to answer that question in this article.

Flutter vs Native

Speed and cost of development

Flutter allows you to use one code for different environments, when in native you need to have different code for each platform. This is the first thing, which make Flutter development faster. Flutter also offers a Hot Reload Feature, which allows you to display changes in code without restarting the app (which speeds up development time).

One codebase is also an added benefit when you decide to add your app on a new platform, with Flutter it can be really rapid development- making only a few adjustments to existing code, whereas in native app you will need a new project dedicated to the new platform.

Based on the above arguments you can simply come to a conclusion that Flutter app is cheaper than native app and can give you faster iteration.

Documentation and community

Flutter is much younger than native technologies, so it’s not as mature and stable as native ones, but it has a really strong community, support from Google and wonderful documentation.

Keep in mind, however, that finding an experienced Flutter developer is a bit more difficult than finding a native one.

UI of app

In native programming, the presentation layer is standard for the environment, while Flutter offers the same design and behaviors for all platforms. In Flutter designs may be easier to implement due to descriptive UI and cutting all legacy dependencies, which can speed up development process.

Animations in Flutter might have slightly worse performance, but this is hardly noticeable in standard cases, additionally they are easier to write than in native technologies.

It’s hard to say which technology is better for making beautiful mobile apps, because it depends on your designs requirements. Certainly in Flutter you can do it faster (if you would like to have unified style on each platform), but when your design needs to be platform specific perhaps native technology is a better choice.

Native features

The Latest mobile technology trends shows that apps need solutions to make life better (and therefore increasingly need to use special solutions such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, etc.). Flutter does not have all native functionalities and each time native ones are updated, it has to be updated too- so in this case native is better than Flutter.

Application size

Flutter apps are larger than native ones (what we can see even in the app “Hello World”), but we need to remember that in there are methods to reduce size of Flutter app (like usage of unique tags, such as –split-debug-info, more about that here).

Thread management

Since Flutter is single threaded and runs an event loop, we don’t have to worry about thread management or spawning background threads like in Native, so it’s a little easier in Flutter.

Performance

Flutter shows excellent app performance (it’s possible to reach 60 FPS- you can read about that in Flutter documentation), Flutter widgets include all critical platform differences such as scrolling, navigation, icons and fonts. Flutter code is compiled to native ARM machine code using Dart's native compilers, but still native apps show slightly better performance due to lower memory usage and faster execution of compute-intensive tasks (but this will be noticeable especially in tests environment, in real mobile applications the performance will be similar).

Learning

If you are a developer (or would like to be) maybe you are looking for the easiest language to learn. I’m pretty sure that you can find a lot of education resources for all these technologies and that developers from all that technologies are needed on the market right now, due to the ever-increasing number of mobile users. Flutter can be good choice for start, because you can see your growth in really short time. It can be also good technology, when you are thinking about your own app, because it can help to validate your idea on your own, reduced costs.

Flutter vs React Native

Speed of development

Time for development should be similar, but React Native uses native elements and bridge, so additional optimization for each platform can be needed, that’s why React Native development can be longer.

Documentation and community

React Native has a big and mature community, but Flutter community is growing really fast. Flutter also has excellent documentation (a little better than React Native) and really strong support from Google.

From the other hand if you would like to find really experienced developer in technology which you choose to validate your app idea it will probably be easier in React Native, but Flutter get more and more popular and service providers offer and recommend this technology more often.

UI of app

Both React Native and Flutter offer fantastic graphical features, but the approach to implementation is kind different. React Native use native elements when Flutter offers neutral style for all devices- that’s why using React Native elements will look little different on iOS and Android. They are less resistant to system updates (it probably doesn't crash your app, but the design can change a little). Both results (neutral and platform specific) are achievable on both technologies, but it can require much work. Like in comparison Flutter to native technologies, it’s hard to say which technology is better in that point, because it depends on your expectations to design.

Web and desktop development

Both platform allows us to reuse some part of code in web and desktop development. With Flutter, you can create web project much faster, because of usage same codebase, but when crucial is performance on web you should think about React Native.

Dynamic vs static programming

Because React Native uses JavaScript- a dynamic language, when Flutter which base on Dart is both static and dynamic. What that's it mean? In dynamic languages many common programming behaviors are executing at runtime, when in static programming languages it’s executing during compilation.

JS is also a dynamically typed language when Dart is a statically typed language, it means that Flutter guarantees that an expression of one type doesn’t return another type (what can happen in dynamically programming language or after define variable as dynamic- what is possible in Flutter).

Performance

Flutter has an advantage over React Native, because it’s compiled to ARM or x86 native libraries. React Native don’t compile the code to native layer (it only uses “bridge” from the JS code to the native environment), that’s why the performance isn’t as good.

Which mobile technology is best of the best?

There isn’t a clear answer for that question - it depends on requirements and needs. The fact is mobile devices are now really popular and different apps provides different needs. If you need super advanced app, really high performance, unflinching reliability and security or your app should be highly customized and different on each platform probably native app should be the best option. But when you would like to create a beautiful app, minimize costs, reduce time to market probably one off cross-platform should be better idea. Which one? I will suggest Flutter in most cases, but again it depends on (for e.g. from that is app more important thing or only nice to have for webpage, etc.)

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Ewelina Dziadosz

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