The business of apps is huge and continues to grow apace. For evidence, just look at the latest report
from App Annie State of Mobile for 2022, which is considered the holy grail of research for the wider
mobile industry. It found that spending in app stores was up 19% across 2021, reaching $170 billion.
There were 230 billion downloads of apps last year, and the average person spent around four hours
For many businesses and those with a product idea, the allure of launching an app is strong. But we
wanted to look at one of the most fundamental questions you will face when doing that in 2022:
Whether you should build a native app, or use a cross-platform solution like React Native. Below we
want to outline the difference, and then hopefully help you arrive at a better understanding for your
First, let’s give a quick overview of native apps:
A native app is an application that has been developed for a specific operating system, e.g., Android
or iOS. Android smartphones and Apple iPhones use different operating systems that require
different programming languages. So, if you are launching a native app that you want to release on
each platform, you must effectively build separate apps for each.
Next, cross-platform solutions:
Obviously, there was a gap in the market for someone to come up with a solution to the process of
coding the same app twice. This was met to an extent through cross-platform app development,
with frameworks like Flutter and Phonegap. Essentially, they found different ways to code for both
platforms, normally by hooking a web browser to the native app. It saves time and money by
allowing for reusable code.
React Native changed the conversation
But there is a problem. Simply put: cross-platform solutions don’t work as well as native apps. In a
sense, they act to trick your smartphone’s operating system, but they don’t embed as part of the
smartphone’s architecture like a native app. The latter can access all the smartphone’s resources,
including cameras, GPS, microphones, and so on. The former either can’t do it, or it does so in a
cumbersome manner, leading to an inferior app.
However, in 2015, a new solution came about – React Native. Created by Facebook (now Meta), it
took a different approach to cross-platform mobile app development. Instead of hooking a browser,
it uses something called the Bridge to act as a translator for the programming languages of iOS and
Android (that’s a little simplistic, but it serves to illustrate the point). React Native has become
hugely popular, and it has allowed Meta to promote the idea of “one code, two platforms”. Many
app developers are learning how to use it, and it represents a clear and present danger to native app
You don’t always need an app
So, which should you choose? Well, perhaps neither. It’s not always essential to build an app,
especially when mobile web capability has become so powerful. If you consider everything from
visiting a mobile casino online to play games for real cash to hopping onto Netflix to watch Squid
Game on your smartphone, you can usually achieve this without the need for an app. You might also
do this through the use of a web app or PWA (Progressive Web Application).
But if you believe your business idea would be better served by having a clever app available in the
Apple App Store or Google Play, here’s our advice on native apps and using React Native:
Native Apps still perform better, but you will probably only notice that difference when it comes to
resource-intensive activities, i.e., those that demand a lot of your smartphone’s capabilities. For
example, Pokémon Go is a native app, and it uses stuff like GPS, cameras, AR functions, and so on.
This – at least for now – would only be conceivable on a native app. If your app is going to be
resource-intensive and you have the money to spend on native development, it will suit you better
in the long run.
React Native is growing in stature, and it is arguably the best choice of all hybrid solutions. Many top
apps – Facebook, Instagram, Uber Eats, Wix – are now built on React Native, and they work very
well, broadly speaking. However, it’s not just as easy as Meta claims it is. You can have a look here to
see some of the problems Airbnb had when building on React Native. And yet, in theory, for a less
resource-intensive app, going with React Native should save your business time and money.
Finally, we should just add that the overall message here is to stress you have options. Some app
developer companies might take you down one avenue or another because it suits their expertise.
But the beauty of technology is that new solutions appear all the time. If you are going to launch an
app, remember that you have more than one choice.