Ionic vs React Native The comparison

If you want to develop mobile apps and look outside the native tools, you’ll probably stumble across Ionic and React Native at some point. But what will you choose? We’ll tell you!

And the winner is…

… nobody. Yes, you read that correctly: unfortunately, the two frameworks differ too much in detail to let us simply pick a winner. Instead, let’s just take a look at the various advantages and disadvantages of Ionic and React Native. On the surface, both frameworks are convincing: They bring along a very large community of developers, are often used for very complex apps, and are the engine behind many popular apps in the various stores.

Under the hood, there are also other similarities, which are very technical, but which we would like to mention anyway. Ionic always had the goal to allow developers to develop for and participate in “other” platforms. Maybe you want to build a native app that can be downloaded from the App Stores using web technology? Ionic can do that.

This concept runs like a thread through frameworks like Ionic or React Native: Developers should use the technology they know to build apps for environments they don’t know. That’s the simple definition of cross-platform frameworks, and it’s evident in the technical details:

With Ionic, you can use HTML, CSS, or JavaScript to develop iOS or Android apps, design PWAs, build classic desktop applications, and more.

React Native uses the React JavaScript framework, but at the same time, native UI elements are rendered at runtime, making it possible to develop iOS and Android apps.

So far, Ionic and React Native have basically the same goal: use technology X to develop for platform Y, although X and Y are not the same. In their philosophy, both frameworks are quite similar, but the similarities almost stop there.

Hybrid-Native or Hybrid-Web?

Ionic and React Native can be roughly divided into two categories. First, let’s look at React Native, which takes a hybrid-native approach: a native UI with shared code.

React Native (but also, for example, Xamarin or NativeScript) allows you to program the UI in a specific language. In this example, “cross-platform” comes from the fact that React Native transfers calls from JavaScript to calls that are used for the native UI in certain mobile platforms. Here is an example: To render text in a mobile app, [TextView] is required for Android and [UIView] for iOS. In React Native, you only have to program one component, which is then automatically translated. So it is not components that are shared, but code.

Overall, React Native tries to build a “real” native app. JavaScript may be the basis, but React Native takes care of the translation of the components into the respective language of the platform (e.g. Android or iOS). The disadvantage is that React Native can only change those elements it supports. Otherwise, components can neither be used nor changed. Another example: If you want to change the frame around a certain button in the UI, but React Native does not know this frame, you will have to work manually in the code again. This can complicate your work.

Ionic: the hybrid web approach

Ionic solves these tasks technically differently. Here it is not JavaScript code, which controls bridge various UI elements. Instead, the UI components you use in the app actually run on all platforms. In a typical mobile app, these components run in a webview container, in a PWA everything runs in the browser, and is a native desktop app, the code would work in a container like Electron.

This approach has several advantages:

Consistency

If you want to use certain elements of the user interface across all apps even small things like individual buttons there is actually only one way to do this conveniently: By sharing components across all digital platforms such as mobile, desktop, native, and web. Web components are also currently the only way to reuse components over and over again across multiple projects.

Portability

Since Ionic is based on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, the UI runs on a standardized layer. Looking for a fully customizable component that simply works automatically, regardless of the platform the app is running on? Ionic can do this thanks to its use of open web standards. This also applies to new platforms such as PWAs.

Customizability

Ionic developers like to brag that they can customize everything in their UI. For example, you have full control over the UI by using web technologies, which come with a lot of stylization features. With a simple div-tag, you can start with a simple UI, and then there are really no limits.

Stability

Perhaps the most important point comes are, open web standards are supported by all current browsers, and nothing will change in this respect. Apps that run today will still work tomorrow. Other front-end tools like to grow and change, and backward compatibility is often left by the wayside.

One codebase for everything

The hybrid web approach has many advantages due to the focus on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. No longer is the entire user interface dependent on the native platform, but only a few features (like maybe the camera). So apps simply run everywhere: under iOS and Android, in browsers, on the desktop (or electron), as PWA, and much more. Thus, the UI layer can also be used across all platforms. Even if developers adopt the look and feel of an interface very specifically to the respective platform, this never results in multiple apps with different codebases.

What about performance?

“Native” always sounds like the best possible performance at first. And overall, this is also true in this case: If it really matters, hybrid native approaches probably have a slightly higher performance than hybrid web solutions. But whether that really matters for the user, in the end, is another matter. Native code can of course also be poorly written, so the app will suffer from poor performance.

If every bit of performance really matters, real native solutions are probably best in the end anyway, i.e. apps that directly use the toolsets of Android and iOS for example. The native SDKs provided by the platform developers are still the best solution but this is probably only true for a small part of the available apps.

Conclusion: What does it all mean?

As mentioned at the beginning, there is therefore no clear winner. Both Ionic and React Native are rock-solid frameworks with which app development can be completed quickly and efficiently. Both differ, however, in nuances that may be important. The view of the technology is less decisive and more important is the overall vision and future of the app.

If even after this explanation, you are still not quite sure which framework you should give the advantage to, you can simply contact us. We are a certified mobile application development company that knows how to create apps on a different framework such as ROR Mobile App Development, Laravel mobile app development, and mobile application development in python.

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