React vs React Native: The Differences Explained
React and React Native are similar in that they both allow web developers to build applications based on the unique concept of components. But the two frameworks do this in radically different ways.
This allows for many possibilities and can make choosing the proper framework challenging if you don’t know your app’s needs. The question of which technology to use when building your next app or website might seem like a daunting task.
This post will provide a simplified overview of the key differences between these two frameworks with examples highlighting when each would apply and suggestions about which framework is more appropriate for your use case.
What is React?
Whether you’re developing apps for desktop or mobile, React has a component that can handle just about any use case. React’s component-based structure makes it easy to create applications with custom elements that you can combine as needed. Each component has its own state, so you can use multiple instances of the same component on the same page, and they won’t conflict with each other.
The React library allows you to create complex and concise UI components with data that changes. It simplifies how to describe what UI components look like and how they behave when data changes. It achieves this through its key feature: unidirectional flow.
What is React Native?
React Native is a cross-platform mobile development framework for React. It’s like React insofar as it allows you to build user interfaces that become native interfaces on mobile devices. It has a similar architecture: it uses one-way data binding, and its main building blocks are components.
Key similarities between React and React Native
Let’s take a quick look at the similarities between React Native and React.
Licensing and maintenance
Meta (formerly Facebook) maintains both React and React Native. Both are open source and available to everyone. This allows developers outside Facebook to contribute content and improve the frameworks even further.
React and React Native are declarative in that they let you describe what your UI should look like without having to specify how it should be implemented. This makes development simpler and more efficient as you don’t need to worry about the details of how to render your UI.
React and React Native are also component based. This means that they let you break your UI down into smaller, reusable pieces. This makes development more modular and flexible as you can easily reuse and customize components as needed.
This approach encourages code reuse, which can increase productivity.
Key differences between React and React Native
While both frameworks are similar, there are some noteworthy differences. It would be impossible to cover all the differing features, but here are some key ones:
Meta introduced React in 2013 as a library for building single-page applications, or web applications. Its purpose was to provide developers with a more efficient way to build apps and websites by making it easier to organize code.
You can see that React has HTML-like syntax. For example, it uses
div, whereas React Native doesn’t. React Native has a few extra features that React does not have, such as the ability to use native components, such as
<Image> and the ability to use the React Native specific APIs, such as the
PanResponder API. Overall, the two libraries are similar, but there are some syntactic differences that you should know.
React Native uses its own libraries to handle activities like animation and navigation. Since React is a library, it offers no utilities or instructions about how to build them out of components. Instead, it’s up to you to establish how you want to implement them. And in most cases, you’ll have to leverage external libraries. For example, for navigation you’ll have to use libraries like React Router.
When to use React vs React Native
The differences between React and React Native depend on the platform you want to develop for. If you need an app that can run on both iOS and Android, you need to use React Native. On the other hand, if you’re developing a web-based application, React is the best bet.
This post was written by Mercy Kibet. Mercy is a full-stack developer with a knack for learning and writing about new and intriguing tech stacks.