NativeScript Vs. React Native for Cross-Platform App Development

Nativescript vs. react native

A strong mobile presence is now a necessity for organizations to reach and engage with customers effectively. As mobile devices dominate worldwide use over desktops, having a thoughtful mobile strategy has become crucial for communicating ideas and achieving business goals.

However, building a mobile presence requires more than just a decision – organizations must choose the right technical approach. One prominent option is JavaScript-based mobile app development frameworks that allow creating native iOS and Android apps with web technologies.

We compare two leading JavaScript frameworks – NativeScript vs. React Native. Both allow developers to build natively rendered mobile apps using JavaScript. However, they have key differences in their technical architecture, components, performance, learning curve and other factors.

This article deeply examines NativeScript and React Native to understand their strengths and limitations. We contrast their capabilities in building responsive cross-platform mobile apps. The goal is to provide useful insights for organizations to determine the best framework aligned with their mobile development needs and priorities. The right technology choice can lead to efficiently building robust mobile apps.

Drawbacks of Native App Development

For years, native mobile apps built using platform-specific languages like Swift or React native for iOS and Java for Android dominated app stores. Using native tools and APIs, these apps provide optimal performance and seamless platform integration. 

However, native development has notable disadvantages. The biggest one is the inability to reuse code across platforms. Building the same app for iOS and Android requires separate teams and codebases.

This makes targeting multiple platforms expensive and time-consuming for organizations. Developing an iOS app means hiring specialists in Swift. Porting it to Android then necessitates building a new version from scratch in Java. 

The native approach often entails considerable effort and costs devoted solely to recreating an existing app just for it to run on another operating system. There is minimal code reuse despite the apps providing essentially the same functionality.

NativeScript

NativeScript is an open-source framework for building native iOS and Android apps using web technologies. It was originally developed in 2014 by Progress Software Corporation.

The key value proposition of NativeScript is enabling developers to build mobile apps with native UI and full access to native APIs, but using languages like JavaScript, TypeScript and CSS. This means you can build native-feeling iOS and Android apps from a single codebase, without having to rely on WebViews.

With NativeScript, beautiful and intuitive native UI is achievable using JavaScript and CSS instead of platform-specific languages like Swift or Java. Apps can leverage capabilities like animations, gestures and components only available in native SDKs.

Some notable apps built with NativeScript include:

  • Walmart
  • Office Mobile
  • Telerik Platform
  • NS Angular
  • Progress Telerik Reporting

React Native

React Native is a JavaScript framework for building native mobile apps, created by Facebook in 2015 – a year after NativeScript.

Facebook realized its mobile apps depended too much on web views and were suboptimal for native platforms. To address this, they developed React Native, which combines native capabilities with React – Facebook’s UI library for JavaScript.

Like NativeScript, React Native app development allows building iOS and Android apps with a single JavaScript codebase. The apps use native UI components and full access to each platform’s APIs. 

Some major apps built with React Native include:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Discord
  • Skype

React Native brings the power of React to mobile development while retaining the performance and feel of truly native apps. The framework has gained huge popularity given Facebook’s reputation and React’s strength for building UIs.

NativeScript Vs. React Native Comparison

NativeScript Vs. React Native: Similarities

Let’s first compare NativeScript and React native on the basis of similarities.

Cross-platform development

Both NativeScript and React Native allow the building of native mobile apps for iOS and Android from a single codebase. This avoids having to build separate apps for each platform in Swift/Objective-C and Java/Kotlin. Developers can use JavaScript to share business logic across iOS and Android.

Access to native capabilities

Apps built with NativeScript and React Native can access native APIs, modules and SDKs on each platform. This allows them to leverage native device capabilities like cameras, GPS, biometrics, etc.

Native performance

Since apps are natively rendered, performance is optimized. Smooth UI animations, quick response to gestures/actions, fast load times, etc. match native app benchmarks. For optimal performance and new features you need to continuously check React native version and stay updated.

Active open-source projects

NativeScript and React Native are open source and maintained by skilled communities. Developers can contribute to the core frameworks. There is an ecosystem of plugins and modules.

Hot reloading

Both frameworks support hot reloading to reflect changes instantly without full app recompilation. This enables faster development cycles.

NativeScript Vs. React Native: Differences

Although the two languages and their purpose is quite similar but both use different approach and technology stack.

Programming languages and architectures

NativeScript uses plain JavaScript, CSS and XML whereas React Native relies on JSX in JavaScript. NativeScript has its own UI framework while React Native uses React architecture.

Tooling and ecosystem

React Native has more tools, testing frameworks, IDE integrations, and overall ecosystem maturity. NativeScript has a smaller community.

Learning curve

React Native is generally easier to learn for React developers. NativeScript has a steeper learning curve.

User interface

React Native offers more pre-built UI components while NativeScript provides more flexibility for custom UI development.

App size

NativeScript apps tend to be lighter while React Native bundles additional JavaScript layers increasing the size.

Performance

For simpler apps, React Native can be faster to develop. For complex apps with intensive tasks, NativeScript has better optimization.

Code reuse

React Native allows reusing React web app code. NativeScript enables code reuse of web skills like JavaScript, CSS etc.

Both NativeScript and React Native have similar goals but differ in their technical approach. The choice depends on the app requirements, team skills, and other factors. But either framework can help build high-quality cross-platform mobile apps

Conclusion


Based on the analysis, React Native currently sees much wider adoption and popularity compared to NativeScript. React Native benefits from Facebook’s backing and the massive popularity of React in web development. Its ecosystem and community are far more mature.

However, NativeScript offers some architectural advantages in building truly native apps with maximum code reuse. It provides more direct access to native APIs and tweaking native UI. These factors can make NativeScript better suited for certain complex apps dealing with hardware integrations, animations, graphics, etc.

Looking ahead, React Native has more momentum and is likely to see continued growth in usage. With Facebook investing heavily, more developers are gravitating towards using React Native. But NativeScript fills an important niche and also has potential to grow, especially among developers looking for an alternative to React.

Overall there is no single clear winner. React Native scores in terms of current popularity and community support. NativeScript offers technical strengths for apps requiring deep native optimizations. The choice between the two depends on the needs of the specific mobile app being built. Both frameworks allow building cross-platform native mobile apps efficiently using JavaScript skills.

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