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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?

React is a JavaScript library created and maintained by Facebook (now Meta) that allows you to build dynamic and complex applications using JavaScript components. 

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.

But while React is a JavaScript library, React Native is a native framework written in C. Despite this difference, the core concepts, like state management, are similar across the two frameworks.

React Native is not a competitor of React, however. Instead, it’s a framework that allows developers to create native mobile applications using only JavaScript and React. You can use it for any project that requires native APIs like the camera, file system, or device orientation sensors.

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.


Both React and React Native use JavaScript. React is a library for building reusable UI components, where you write the UI in JavaScript. React Native is a framework for building mobile applications in JavaScript.


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:


React is a JavaScript library. Meta created it to address specific challenges with making large-scale web applications that support both a fast UX and simple code sharing. React Native, on the other hand, is an open-source framework to develop cross-platform native mobile applications.


React Native is a mobile application development framework for writing hybrid mobile applications for both iOS and Android devices. Developers can write native applications using JavaScript with the help of tools like XCode and Android Studio. By contrast, React is a UI library for building user interfaces with JSX syntax so you can use it in browsers or Node.js environments.

Release year

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.

Meta released React Native in 2015. It was initially touted as something that would bring native iOS and Android mobile apps to JavaScript, but it has since spread to become a framework that you can use for building applications for multiple platforms.


Normally, React doesn’t use the DOM to render code. Instead, it needs a virtual representation of the DOM in JavaScript that’s updated efficiently without disrupting the rest of the page. This happens through JSX, which acts as a bridge between XML-based syntaxes and JavaScript.

By contrast, React Native doesn’t rely on any preexisting code. Instead, it provides its own UI abstraction layer called React Native view, which allows developers to design cross-platform apps using native components like buttons, scroll views, etc., all written in JavaScript.


React uses JavaScript XML (JSX) syntax to describe the components of your application using familiar HTML-like syntax. The idea of JSX is to help you create components that can be shared between projects and apps by integrating HTML and JavaScript in your codebase. Look at this basic React example:

import React from 'react';

function MyComponent() {

  return (


      <h1>Hello World!</h1>




export default MyComponent;Code language: JavaScript (javascript)

However, React Native works much like React and JSX except that it works with Java, Objective C, Swift, and the other languages that aren’t necessarily based on JavaScript. An example of React Native syntax:

import React, { useState } from 'react';

import { View, Text, Button } from 'react-native';

function MyComponent() {

  const [text, setText] = useState('');

  return (




        title="Change Text"

        onPress={() => setText('This is a new text!')}





export default MyComponent;Code language: JavaScript (javascript)

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 <View>, <Text>, and <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.