React Native vs Ionic: The Guide To Understanding The Differences

React Native vs Ionic: The Guide To Understanding The Differences

When it comes to cross platform mobile app development in JavaScript two frameworks usually stand out.

React Native vs Ionic.

Both React Native and Ionic frameworks are based on the JavaScript language…

So, how do you know which one is best for your mobile app project?

In this article we are going to do a React Native vs Ionic framework comparison to see what each framework has to offer.

At the end of this article you’ll be able to decide whether to use React Native or Ionic for your next mobile app development project in 2019.

If you are curious as to how React compares with Kotlin then checkout my article on React Native vs Kotlin performance.

We’ll not only look into the differences between Ionic vs React Native, we’ll also discuss the similarities between these frameworks.

But before we get our hands dirty with the nitty gritties…

Let’s first begin by defining what each one of these frameworks are.

React Native

React Native is a JavaScript framework designed by Facebook to help JavaScript developers develop cross platform mobile applications.

This framework enables you to build an application for the iOS and Android devices without the need to prepare separate code for each platform.

In fact React Native allows you to reuse upto 70% of your JS code.

Ionic

Ionic is a framework build with DriftyCo that enables you to build applications for both the iOS and Android devices with a lot of ease.

It is a completely hybrid solution that uses standardized coding technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript to deliver your app without using native components.

However, you could still integrate native components by using Cordova plugins.

Right…

Now that we at least have a rough idea of what each of these frameworks is, let’s dive deep and have a bird’s eye look into what each of the have to offer.

By understanding the differences between React Native and Ionic you’ll be able to make an informed decision as to which framework is best for you mobile app project.

We’ll compare Ionic and React Native by looking at factors like performance, developer productivity, community support etc..

React Native vs Ionic: Technology Stack

Before you start developing your application in either React Native or Ionic, you should know what technologies you’ll actually need.

This will also give you an idea of how much you need to learn first before you hit the ground running.

Related:
React Native vs Ionic: The Guide To Understanding The Differences
11 Best Ionic Framework Courses & Tutorials on Udemy in 2020

React Native is written using JavaScript language.

It’s UI is written in a templating language called JSX that also comes with all the powers of the JavaScript language.

The focus is more on delivering near native UI experiences using JS and Reactjs, but with less options when it comes to choice of development tools.

Ionic, however, embraces the power of classic web technologies to deliver cross platform apps with minimal code.

It even gives you more flexibility as you can use Angular, Veu, React or any other web development framework as your technology stack.

You could even just do a copy paste of web app code in Ionic.

Because Ionic gives you a lot of flexibility in choosing your own development stack, it just looks more favorable to developers.

React Native vs Ionic: Performance

When choosing between building your app either in React Native or Ionic it is important to look into the final app performance.

Before we go far though, let me underscore that if your app performs a lot of heavy computing, your best bet is to build an native app using a native language like Java.

React Native mobile applications come close to delivering a close to native solution.

It comprises of native-like components and JavaScript that enables direct access to native features in a device.

This access to internal APIs leads to an enhanced performance.

Ionic on the other hand takes the hybrid route by using the WebView approach to deliver your mobile app.

So the web apps ported into the app with Ionic are usually only optimized to the resources available to the web browser.

This means too many requests and callbacks that eventually slow down you app.

A React mobile app will therefore outdo an Ionic app in terms of performance and power savings.

React Native vs Ionic: Developer Productivity

When talking about developer productivity between Ionic and React Native, I look into how much time you need to get an app ready.

This means the time I need to learn and use a framework…

It could also be about the features of the particular framework that either makes my work easier or slow me down.

React Native framework is built on React as its foundation.

So learning React is mandatory which introduces a steep learning curve if you are completely new to Reactjs, as there is no flexibility in this stack.

Read this other post where I listed the best courses for learning React Native online to get you started.

On the other hand, React Native has a hot reload feature which reduces coding time by 30% by enabling your to view code changes in real time. 

Ionic, being technically a web development stack, is rather more flexible.

This means that if you already have experience with any of the web frameworks, you could get started developing your app right away… without learning a new technology.

Being able to pick your favorite framework to use with Ionic means short learning curve hence better developer productivity.

If your sole concern is the time to deliver an app, without worrying about performance etc, then I would go with Ionic framework in this case.

React Native vs Ionic: UI Components

Even though most mobile app users won’t know the framework you used to build an app… or at least don’t care to know,

… they’ll definitely feel it in the look and feel of the app.

Before you choose Ionic or React Native for building your app you need to know what UI elements each platform offers.

React Native will enable you to build and deliver an app with a truly native UI experience because it enables you to leverage existing native system APIs.

Even though it may not support some of the latest and more exotic UI capabilities, I always find these functionalities not trivial to many apps anyway.

Moreover, in case you need these features, it’s possible to embed native code within your React app to implement them.

Ionic relies heavily on web technologies to render it’s UI since it’s mostly focusing on reusing web apps.

You can still develop native UI elements using Ionic, though you’ll need to use additional tools.

As a result more of the native elements are shunned, making your app UI look more like a website.

So when comparing React Native vs Ionic UI components, you’ll get a better user interface with React.

React Native vs Ionic: Community Support

When developing a mobile app in either Ionic or React Native you are going to encounter some problems.

Where do you go to for help?

If you are new to React and Ionic then I’d rather choose the framework with the best community support for the start.

This means that I can easily find QA threads to ask questions when I’m stuck, a great documentation as well as materials for learning the framework. 

So when looking at community support of React Native vs Ionic, I checked out the activity of their users on GitHub.com as well as on Stackoverflow.com.

React Native, as of this writing, had 83k stars with over 2,000 contributors.

There are also a lot of online courses, tutorials and blog articles for learning React Native online… apart from their great documentation.

Like I already mentioned earlier, as well, React Native has a lot of plugins for almost anything you may want to build into your app.

Ionic framework, as of this writing, has over 39k stars with slightly over 300 contributors.

Apart from this, there’s also a huge collection of learning materials including the best Ionic courses and tutorials for learning Ionic framework.

The Ionic community is also developing a lot of Phonegap/Cordova plugins the enable you to integrate native features in your Ionic apps.

If you’ll choose based purely on community support, then React seems to have more resources as compared to Ionic.

React Native vs Ionic: Popularity

So far we’ve looked into the details of each framework.

But an important question is:  who uses any of these frameworks?

My rule of thumb, if I can find a brand that I recognize using a software or a framework, I immediately think it’s a robust and reliable tool.

React Native is developed and maintained by Facebook.

Because it’s a tech giant you may expect them to go all in on marketing their stuff…

…which might also create an illusion of popularity.

According to Appbrain.com, a mobile app promotion platform, React Native is powers 1.46% of the mobile apps out there.

Some of the most popular companies that have embraced React Native include Instagram, Facebook, Blomberg and Uber.

Related:
React Native vs Xamarin: 5 Surprising Similarities You Should Know
11 Best Swift Courses & Tutorials for Developers on LinkedIn [2020]

Ionic is developer by DriftyCo, a smaller tech, but also well capable.

Appbrain.com also found out that 3.14% of mobile apps are built using the Ionic framework. 

Ionic apps total count more than rounded the React apps twice.

Here are some of the most popular apps that leverage the Ionic framework: MyTelkomsel, Yono SBI and Zipker.

Well…

What does this mean?

While most developers prefer using Ionic to developer their apps, it’s common among smaller companies… or better said an app with less users.

The apps like Uber that have users in the millions, however, opted for React.

Now that we’ve look into an Ionic vs React Native comparison…

This begs the question: which one should you use for your app?

Should you use React Native or Ionic?

Often times even after doing such a detailed comparison I still find myself in this dilemma.

Everything stills looks grey…

So, here are three tips to help you decide on whether to choose React Native or Ionic framework based on this comparison.

  1. If you are completely new to Reactjs but have experience in other web technologies, start by learning Ionic framework.
  2. If performance and UI is key to the success of your application then build with React Native.
  3. If you just want to get an MVP(minimum viable product) out there before investing heavily on it then build an Ionic app.

Conclusion

When you are preparing to develop a cross platform mobile application, one of the first questions you ask yourself is which framework is the best for you?

Which framework will help you build a great app, while also delivering a great developer experience along the way?

Each mobile framework has their ups and downs when it comes to development.

I hope this Ionic vs React Native comparison article has helped you understand the differences between these two frameworks.

If you are still not sure about whether to build your app in React Native or Ionic…

… then the best way is to try both of these JavaScript language frameworks and see which one works for you.

This way you’ll get to know which development framework does it for you.

Have you used either React Native or Ionic framework before?

Please share your experience in the comments below.

Geoffrey Barnes

Hey, I’m Geoffrey, a mobile app developer with experince in Xamarin and React Native. I also double in as a freelance tech writer and blogger during my free time. On this blog I share my experience about mobile app development.

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