React Native or Ionic, which one is better?

Posted on Mar 27, 2017

React Native or Ionic, which one is better?

React Native or Ionic? A simple question for people who want to make hybrid/Native apps using web technologies. But sometimes the answer is not as simple as its question. So, today we are going to compare Ionic (and Ionic 2) and React Native and see which suits which kind of apps better.

Native or Hybrid

First of all, to understand the difference between Ionic and React Native we need to understand what are Native and hybrid apps?

Hybrid apps are simple websites developed using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc with the same code running on different platforms. In comparison, Native apps are developed using their respective technologies like Objective C and Java for iOS and Android respectively.

Next question which might come in our mind is that among Ionic and React Native, which one is hybrid and which one is Native? Well let’s not stretch it too much and as the name suggests, React Native is for Native apps and Ionic is for the hybrid apps.

Which Technology stack I need to know/learn

So, now you know that we can develop apps in Ionic using simple JavaScript (typescript if you are using Ionic 2) and in the hybrid, you’ll need knowledge of React and respective stack for that platform.

So as you can see Ionic is way easier to use and learn, so why anyone will even consider React Native to develop their app. Again the answer is simple that you can’t use Native features of the device without restrictions in Ionic. You have to bridge that gap using Cordova or PhoneGap and both has almost plugins for every Native feature you might ever gonna need like GPS, file system, etc. So what Cordova does in Ionic is it hits the API of the Native device but in React Native you can use the Native features of the device without any plugin. React Native does not use web layer over the platform instead it uses the device’s core features which give user feeling of the app built in core stack.

Documentation and Community

One big issue with Ionic is that it’s constantly changing which makes its docs sometimes outdated. At the time of writing this post, they have released 2.1.0 but I will also say that Ionic 2 was a huge step forward for them after the launch of Angular 2. Ionic 2 brings quite handy new features but for developers, it’s hard to stay updated and develop an app using sometimes RC releases which usually have bugs. This can also be seen on Stack Overflow which has more questions on Ionic than React Native. Whereas FaceBook’s React Native is more stable than Ionic.

So far we know that React Native is more stable, gives better performance and feels close to a real Native app. So does that means Ionic is out of the market?

No, of course not. Ionic has its perks over React Native.

Development Time

At the time of writing this post, there was 11,207 question tagged react-native and 22,773 of ionic-framework.

Ionic has clearly more question on Stack Overflow, which might means that more people are developing apps in Ionic and Ionic 2.

Why? Well, reason is simple, it takes less time and resources.

Anyone in the background of AngularJS will feel right at home when developing apps using Ionic. Ionic has already pre-developed and styled components which can be easier for the developers to create UI of an app, on the other side React Native provides no such components.

Re-usability

Both Ionic and React Native provides code sharing but in React Native you will need separate components for android and iOS but in Ionic, there is very little chance that you might ever need to code differently for two devices. This not only saves time but also removes the need to write the same component in different technologies.

So far we’ve seen few of many advantages and disadvantages of Ionic and React Native over each other. So now you must be thinking which one I should go for? Well, in my opinion, it all depends on the requirements of your app. If you are looking for performance and responsiveness of app and want an app which natively renders itself, you already know React Native is the one for you. But if you are low on time and budget and are fine with compromising with performance, then Ionic 2 is more than happy to help.

Well, I hope now you have some idea which Framework you can use for your cross-platform app. And there are other tools for Cross Platform App development like Xamarin, Appcelerator Titanium, Sencha and I don’t know, a lot more may be. So, choose wisely whichever suits your app the most.