React Native vs. native iOS with Swift: Clash of the Titans
Read this article to find out the key differences between these mobile development technologies and learn which one is the best match for your project.
React Native – Pros
- Fewer bugs – React Native makes it easier to trace and resolve bugs before they become serious issues.
- Open source – React Native is an open-source technology surrounded by a large community that contributes to its growth.
- Hot reloading – mobile developers can visualize the code they wrote thanks to hot reloading easily. This feature makes the entire development process much more productive and faster.
- Optimal performance – since React Native uses the native components of the mobile operating system, it improves the overall performance of applications.
- Lower cost – the technology allows running the project with a smaller team and reduced the cost of cross-platform development dramatically.
React Native – Cons
- App store limitations – if your React Native app uses libraries that update native code dynamically, the app store will reject it. This restriction is a serious drawback for applications written in React Native.
- The need for building custom wrappers – in some cases, the development team will have to create custom wrappers to empower your application with native components, modules, and APIs. Naturally, this will take some extra time and developers skilled in native apps development.
- Security – don’t forget that React Native is an open-source framework. That’s why it carries a certain security risk. For example, if you want to develop a fintech solution that needs to meet high security standards, your development team will have to add extra security patches. Frequent updates – React Native updates its components on a regular basis. That’s why you should prepare to release your application more often.
- Cross-platform design can be complex – since Android and iOS come with different design guidelines for applications, it will be difficult to develop a high-quality custom user interface for React Native apps.
Read also: Mobile App Designing: A Step by Step Guide
Created in 2014 by Apple, Swift has taken the mobile development scene by storm. It integrates with Apple’s Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks and supports the existing Objective-C code written for Apple devices. The language works well for teams that build apps characterized by complex infrastructure and the need for native iOS features.
Swift – Pros
- Open source – Swift is an open-source language distributed on Apache License. This means that it’s surrounded by a community of passionate developers who contribute to its development.
- Minimizes errors – because of Swift’s strong typing and error handling system, developers deal with fewer errors in production and code crashes.
- Scalability – Swift enables development teams to write future-proof code base, which they can easily extend with additional features if needed. That’s why applications written in Swift are easier to scale.
- Concise – since Swift is very concise, which means that developers can perform the same task with less code compared to React Native. This not only accelerates the development process but also ensures fewer bugs in the code as it’s easier to track and correct.
- High performance – Swift offers a simple syntax, which makes teams more productive in building the application.
Swift – Cons
- Maturity – compared to other languages like Objective-C, Swift is a relative newbie on the field. However, with every update Apple is taking steps to increase the maturity of Swift.
- Limited resources – Swift is becoming increasingly popular, but there are still few developers out there who use it – and even fewer who have a good grasp of the language.
- Works only on Apple devices – Swift (used with iOS) is a native platform, so developers can only use it for native iOS devices. To build an app for both Android and iOS, the development team will have to write two separate applications.
React Native vs. Swift – Comparison
Both React Native and Swift offer many ways of accelerating the development process. But the situation looks completely different if we look at the possibility of creating applications for both Androids and iOS. In React Native, the process is very simple – the development team can copy even up to 90% of the code and quickly deliver a working application. Swift doesn’t allow this type of cross-platform development and requires teams to start building an Android app from scratch, increasing the time it takes to develop apps for both platforms.
Both React Native and Swift are relative newbies. However, note that React Native is a direct descendant of ReactJS, which has been in use since 2013 as an open-source technology.
Testing and debugging
Mobile app developers can take advantage of some handy testing methods in React Native. Apps built in this technology can be tested from the component to functional test level via interactive testing methods such as ReactTestUtils, Jest, and Jasmine (for unit testing), and Mocha. Moreover, React Native supports most of the test automation frameworks.
Testing is just as smooth in Swift, which supports many automated testing frameworks – with the XCTest framework, which is popular for UI tests.
Third-party libraries and APIs
React Native offers great support from third-party libraries, the number of which grows every year thanks to the passion of the developer community. In fact, npm is the richest source for a third-party library manager for React Native. One of the key challenges in this area is keeping the third-party libraries and APIs updated.
Swift doesn’t suffer from this problem anymore. Apple’s Cocoapods help developers to manage and maintain updated third-party libraries and APIs easily. If a package requires an update, the developer gets a notification. As a result, Swift projects have improved maintainability.
One challenge developers need to deal with in React Native is the frequency of its release cycles in relation to the compatibility of its third-party libraries. The risk that the libraries end up not matching the update is present in React Native apps.
In Swift, apps are much easier to read and maintain. The language is statically-types, which helps in readability. Development teams can use XCode, which helps to track errors during the development process. Moreover, Swift is a concise language that requires writing fewer lines of code to perform the same task compared to both Objective-C and React Native. For example, Lyft managed to reduce their code base by over 70% by reengineering their app using Swift, keeping the same functionality and performance.
In React Native, developers have to rely on third-party libraries for securing data on mobile devices. They can also store data using the AsyncStorage API, but the API isn’t secure by default.
When it comes to Swift, development teams can benefit from various encryption technologies offered by Apple in the form of APIs. That way, securing and encrypting sensitive application data is much easier. Developers can write their own encryption code if their app deals with very sensitive information.
When to use React Native?
If you need to build an application for both Android and iOS that looks and works the same – and have limited resources – React Native is your best pick. The technology comes in handy when time and budget are limited, and you need to deliver the project quickly with a small team.
Another scenario when React Native is a good match is when your project requires fast building time, hot reloading, and live reloading features.
When to use Swift?
Swift is a great technology for building apps with complex user interfaces. A resource-intensive mobile app that requires many user interface interactions will work best when it’s native – and that’s what Swift provides.
Also, Swift is a great pick if you want to create an app for a single platform, iOS. Also, developers prefer using Swift for building apps that use native features and APIs provided by iOS. If your team was forced to develop native wrappers for APIs, you’d see an increase in the development time and cost.
Choosing the right technology for your mobile development project is a key decision that will impact its path to success. We hope that this guide to React Native and Swift helps you see how each of these technologies can support the development of mobile apps – and which one is the best match for your project.
Are you looking for skilled React Native or Swift developers? Get in touch with us. Our mobile development teams have delivered many successful projects for clients in different industries.