React Native vs. Ionic: What Cross-Platform Framework is the Best?May 19, 2021
We have decided to try our best in putting to rest the question “Which one is a better framework: React Native or Ionic?”
And to do that, first and foremost we need to take a bit deeper look into each one of them. So, without further ado, let’s start with React Native.
A brief guide into React Native
So, what is, in broad terms, React Native?
Now, let’s take a closer look on the advantages that React Native has (not comparing it to Ionic in any way for now).
React Native saves time and money
The justification for this advantage is the fact that, by having its code as cross-platform as it can be, React Native allows maximum compatibility between different operational systems, mainly – Android and iOS. So, in practical meaning, it allows you to save both time and money by not redeveloping the same app to suit the OS. React Native also helps to optimize maintenance and updating of the product, which can be twice as hard when done other ways.
React Native apps generally perform at a faster rate
The reason for that is the fact that due to the programming language optimization for mobile devices. Also, React Native apps mostly use the power of the graphic processing unit, also known as GPU, instead of using the central processing unit, also known as CPU. The combination of the two upper-mentioned facts allows React Native-built apps to work at a faster rate than the ones built with cross-platform hybrid technologies. To get more in depth about React Native’s overall performance – follow the link.
React Native has a low learning curve, if you’ve ever used React
We have already touched upon this advantage a little, but let us elaborate. As it has the same design and interface of React, React Native eases the process of acclimatization for developers, who haven’t worked with it before. It also simplifies the work inside the developer team in case one developer forwards the project to his or her colleague.
React Native’s code is movable and copyable
In case React Native is, after all, not your particular cup of tea or it is necessary to move your app to another development framework, there is no problem in doing so. Codes, started in React Native, are easily movable and copyable. This fact only increases React Native’s flexibility and usefulness as a tool.
React Native allows for high code changing visibility
This framework has a very useful feature, called “live reloading” / “hot reloading” that allows a developer to see the changes made to the code in a separate window simultaneously with changing it. Thus, React Native creates a real-time feedback tool, which can be extremely useful.
Now, let’s take a look at some disadvantages that React Native has (once again, not comparing it to Ionic. That we will do a little bit later).
React Native is still in beta
Mainly, this means that, although, being used by many top tech players, React Native has quite a number of various issues with package compatibility or debugging tools. So, in a way, it can take much more time using it for developers who are not acquainted with this framework, as it will require time for troubleshooting.
React Native lacks a number of custom modules
Although the majority of the most popular and used modules are available and ready-to-use, there is still a possibility that you want to find a custom module, needed for particular tasks. Or, you would find them, but they would be underdeveloped and unfit for use. Fortunately, such occasions are a rarity.
And now, having discussed the pros and cons of the React Native, let’s move on and do the same honors for its adversary in this pairing – Ionic.
A brief guide into Ionic
That being said, let’s now discuss the pros and cons of Ionic outside of any comparisons. Firstly, to turn the standard order upside down and keep it fresh, let’s start with the disadvantages of this software development kit.
Ionic may lack suitability, when it comes to heavy apps performance
The reason for such a con is the fact that Ionic uses WebView to render any applications. This way, when dealing with native apps and heavier apps (here, Snapchat would be a great example, as it uses augmented reality), Ionic would take a hit and your apps would be cordially slower. The major player in this instance is the process of rendering any and all graphic elements via a browser, which makes several steps to start. The more steps taken – the slower the loading time will be. And, after that, we should also take into consideration Cordova callbacks and CSS animations loading. But, nonetheless, Ionic deals with standard programs just fine, so, if your app does not use any heavy-to-render aspects, you might not even come face to face with this con.
Ionic is a software development kit that is dependent on plugins
Ionic does not feature any “hot reloading” possibilities
Although, as of now, such a feature is considered standard in software engineering, Ionic simply doesn’t have it. It takes time to implement the changes, refreshing the whole app to show you the changes made. This fact, even though seemingly innocuous, can drastically slow down the speed of development.
Ionic might not be the most secure system
This con may not be considered a con in itself, but as a possibility of a pitfall. Since its fourth version, Ionic does not contain any built-in code uglificators, thus making it easy for hackers to read. But, as we’ve already said, this problem might not even be a problem if your app is not possible to reverse engineer or if you use Angular CLI or older versions of Ionic.
Ionic is sizable
That’s a short list of the most important drawbacks Ionic possesses. Now, let’s take a closer look at the pros of this SDK.
Ionic has quite a wide range of plugins and integration capabilities
There is always a possibility of integrating a number of tools with Ionic, if you think that what you gain from it is not enough. If you want to know what type of plugins and technologies could possibly be integrated into the SDK – look no further than its official website. Moreover, the site gives you the ability to access the upper-mentioned editions right from it. Although, there is a little catch to consider: some of the tools could only be accessed with the Enterprise version of Ionic, and that requires payments to use Premier plugins and tools. But, on the other hand, there is a list of the Cordova plugins, that are also integrable and conveniently sorted into the platform availability list (you can find it following this link). Or, if you prefer Capacitor to Cordova or you cannot find the plugin needed, you can also use those. Also, the full procedure can be a little trickier at times.
Ionic is a single codebase across various platforms
Ionic’s learning curve is quite low
Ionic has a wide range of UI elements and quick prototyping
Ionic is quite successful in mimicking the overall feel, look and flair of native apps. The reason for this is the UI component library, full of ready-made elements and components to build GUIs or for the purpose of customization. And when you add web components to this already-awesome brew you get a quickened UI logic developing process as well as native look retention with no additional costs.
And with this we finish looking at React Native and Ionic separately. Now we get to the all-out war! Well, there will be no violence involved, but, nonetheless, we would use sheer comparison to declare which framework would emerge victorious, when meeting face-to-face.
Pros of React Native in comparison to Ionic
In this part of the article, we will discuss the spheres, where React Native outshines Ionic and explain why we declared so. Enough introductions, let’s get down to it.
Set of languages
Ionic uses the following set of languages: HTML5, CSS, JS. It also needs Cordova to gain access to management on native platforms.
Thus, we can speak of broader functionality of React Native before Ionic and a better overall language set.
Performance and productivity
When we’ve discussed the cons of Ionic, we’ve already touched upon one of its biggest – slow productivity, which results from rendering applications using WebView. React Native does not have such a flaw, and is quite similar to native frameworks in that regard, as it renders all the elements of the code into a native API. It also allows using native modules that, also unable to be used between different platforms, provide high performance.
And although it can be said that Ionic quickens the testing process in the browser, Ionic has much lower performance overall due to using web-technologies. It should also be said that it can be considered slow only in comparison to React Native.
But, in the end of the day, if we compare bare productivity, React Native wins with ease.
Graphic User Interface
There is a saying that goes: “greeted by clothes – escorted by the mind”. And, no matter how unjust it might seem, this is also true to our discussion. GUI of the app should be easy to use and eye-pleasing, as users start judging as soon as they click on the app’s icon.
Ionic loses pretty hard to React Native in that regard, as it doesn’t use any native elements at all and just renders everything into HTML and CSS, using Cordova after that to polish the feel of nativity. Angular components should also be mentioned in that regard.
React Native, on the other hand, has modules tied to the native UI controllers. That makes them just as convenient for the users, as native applications do. In addition to that this framework uses ReactJS’ library. And that marginally simplifies the UI development process.
So, when it comes to GUI, React Native gets the cake and eats it too.
Marketability and community
Even though it can be hard to imagine, marketing also concerns our theme. And, in that regard, React Native once again topples Ionic.
These facts allow React Native to take the top spot in this category.
Access to native device functions
This category is an important one if we talk about our current world, because most modern apps use a ton of native functions, such as camera or GPS. And if your framework allows for easier and more convenient access to native functions – you have a leading spot.
Thus, we can declare React Native a winner of this category on the basis of its huge set of third-party packages and built-in APIs for accessing platform functionality and, also the overreliance on those third-parties can be perceived as a drawback, the sheer quantity unexpectedly overweighs the quality in this aspect.
Ionic, on the other hand, relies heavily on Cordova and Capacitor for native functions’ access. They do give a great number of packages and they do allow the access to, for example, the phone’s camera. But the functionality might be somewhat lacking.
In conclusion to this point, sometimes the more – the merrier.
Popular apps on the framework’s basis
Nice and simple category. React Native is used by Facebook, Instagram, UberEats, AirBNB at the beginning and many more. Ionic is used by JustWatch, Pacifica, Nationwide, etc.
And, also subjective, we cannot but give this category to React Native, as brand-wise they win.
Cons of React Native in comparison to Ionic
Now let’s talk about the points, where Ionic takes the crown, compared to React Native
When it comes to code reusability Ionic is a beast. The whole idea of the packed web-applications provides the upper-mentioned reusability. And that’s not mentioning the library of adaptable components that automatically adjust to the platform on which the app is launched at the time.
React Native provides only a basic set of components, although also compiling for native conditional settings. But it is only a basic set, which means that there would be a lot of additional work adjusting the app for the style of both platforms.
That’s why React Native loses this round to Ionic.
React Native has a good set of embedded components, but time to stylize them manually should also be added to the mix. And that’s not mentioning their non-adaptability. This fact constitutes the need of fitting into your code, where you already have to choose styles and widgets according to the conditions.
Ionic wins in this aspect by being a huge set of pre-created and pre-styled components by itself. It also should be mentioned that the compiler, responsible for the native apps, is a part of the Ionic set.
One more point into the Ionic’s pocket.
Ecosystem and Third Party Libraries
Ionic takes this category by storm.
Summarizing the pros and cons and conclusions to have
What we conclude with might be considered cliché. But all and all there is no clear winner between React Native and Ionic. If you need to create an app that looks and feels native, but is not in reality – React Native is your guy. If you need to create a maximum productivity app that only looks native – Ionic is here for you. It all depends on what your product needs.