Ionic and React Native: which is better?
Many people are faced with a choice: Ionic or React Native. Both have a huge team of dedicated developers, both frameworks are actively used in large projects, and both can boast a set of popular applications among consumers. Both React Native and Ionic allow developers to make mobile apps for iOS and Android.
Yes, both of these frameworks are good: they give developers the ability to model and publish applications quickly on multiple resources with the same original code. But what if you have a specific question: what platform should I choose for my application development project? This article will help you figure it out.
It’s all well and good, but how are these two technologies different? Which one is better for your mobile project? Let's take a closer look.
What is Ionic 4?
Ionic is an open-source SDK for hybrid application development. It was created by Max Lynch, Ben Sperry, and Adam Bradley from Drifty Co. in 2013. Ionic provides services and tools for developing hybrid mobile applications using web technologies such as CSS, HTML5, and Sass. Applications are created using the web technologies mentioned above, and can then be distributed through native application stores with installation via Cordova.
In other words: when you create a native Android app, you write in Java. If for iOS - you write on Objective-C or Swift. Of course, both variants are quite powerful, but also complex languages. With Cordova and Ionic, you can write part of the code for your application and still run it on both iOS and Android (and even Windows!). This is also possible thanks to the simplicity of HTML, CSS, and JS.
What is React Native?
At the moment, React Native supports both iOS and Android and also has the potential for subsequent expansion to future platforms. React Native is widely used for developing ready-to-release applications. A couple of examples: Facebook, Palantir, and TaskRabbit — all of which have already used it in production for applications that have to deal with users.
Hybrid VS Native apps
Before we start, there is one important thing to consider. Ionic is a framework for hybrid mobile applications, and React Native is a cross-platform framework for developing native applications.
Parameters for comparison
- Set of languages
- Extensive library of templates
- User Interface
- Ecosystem and third-party libraries
- Market and community
- Access to native device functionality
- Supported platform
- Popular application
- Support possibility
1. Set of languages
The positive aspect of React Native is that it allows you to write some components in Swift, Objective-C, or Java when developers need it. Using native modules and libraries in React Native applications, you can deal with operations that involve a large number of calculations, such as editing videos or images.
Ionic uses HTML5, CSS, and JS to develop and run applications, and also requires Cordova to access control on native platforms. When running on Ionic, you can use TypeScript, which improves the quality of the code.
This is the ranking you can place frameworks in, based on the benefits that their languages provide:
- React Native (React)
- Ionic Framework (Angular)
Ionic provides incredible access to code reuse. The idea of "packaged web applications" ensures that you can reuse the code. As a result, you just get a "packaged" web application. The Adaptive Components Library also helps (they automatically adapt to the platform on which the app is launched).
React Native also compiles on native conditional settings, but still provides only a basic set of components. You will have to adjust them yourself, which means a lot of work in order for the app to fit the style of both platforms. In short, the code can be reused (because you are still using the same language and libraries like Redux don't need to be customized).
Here's how you can evaluate these frameworks based on code reusability:
- Ionic Framework
- React Native
3. Extensive library of templates
This parameter answers the following questions: how easy is it to create a beautiful UI? Do I have to create many UI components myself, or do I have a large set of pre-created ones? Do these sets automatically adapt to the required platform?
Ionic itself is a huge set of pre-created and stylized components. The compiler, which is responsible for the native application is also part of the Ionic Suite (provided by the CLI), but it also uses sets such as Cordova or Capacitor. The components that Ionic provides are automatically adapted to the platform on which the application is launched. So creating a beautiful, native-looking application is a pleasure.
React Native has a good set of built-in components, but numerous components need to be styled manually. In addition, they are maladaptive. In the same way, as with the Flutter, you have alternatives for two operating systems. This requires customization to your code, where you already have to choose styles and widgets based on conditions.
Here's how you can evaluate both frameworks by the library of ready-made components:
- Ionic Framework
- React Native
The performance provided by React Native is similar to native applications because it renders code elements to the native API. React also allows you to use native modules, which can be written in native languages in particularly complex cases. However, they cannot be used between platforms. Their main goal is to provide high performance.
In terms of performance, Ionic loses. Its performance is not as good as that of React Native or Flutter. The reason is that it uses web technologies to render the application. This approach significantly reduces the speed. In addition, it does not use native components and only tries to create a native look or feel through web technologies.
But there is the other side of the coin. Ionic speeds up the testing process, which runs instantly in the browser and simplifies the development process.
Among the three available frameworks, Ionic provides the lowest performance due to web-based technology. Now, here's the downside. "Worse” doesn't always mean “terrible” or even “bad.” Performance is worse only when compared to other options. On modern devices, any application will go without a hitch. If your FPS is 100 instead of 105, you will hardly notice the difference. So don't forget about Ionic when you start developing a new application.
This is how you can arrange these frameworks in terms of performance:
- React Native
5. User interface
Users begin to judge the app from the first seconds of launch. Therefore, the GUI application must combine appeal and simplicity. Let's see what we are offered:
React Native modules are linked to native UI controllers, making them as user-friendly as native applications. In addition, it uses the ReactJS library with extensive UI elements. All this together greatly simplifies UI development.
Ionic does not use any native elements at all and just renders everything in HTML and CSS. It then uses Cordova to create a sense of nativeness. The Angular components which the framework includes, also make Ionic applications look native.
Here's how they can be sorted by what UI they offer:
- React Native
6. Ecosystem and third-party libraries
What does their ecosystem look like? Is it easy to find help (for example, on Stack Overflow) and are there any third-party libraries where you can add the desired functions?
Here's how you can evaluate them by Ecosystem and third-party libraries:
- React Native
7. Market and community
A dynamic ecosystem is good, but the popularity of the chosen option is also important. Let's take a look:
The popularity of Ionic comes right after React. It gives developers the ability to make native mobile applications the fastest. Ionic has strong community support and an excellent marketplace where you can find a huge number of starters and templates to start developing any application from Uber to Spotify.
Here's how they can be sorted by industry recognition and reliability:
- React Native
8. Access to native device functions
Your application will definitely need access to native functions such as a camera or GPS. How easy is it to get it? And how easy is it for relatively new functions like the AR API for Android/iOS?
To provide access to native functions, Ionic has Cordova and Capacitor. They provide a good set of packages to access features such as a camera. You can also write your own wrappers for a function and then include them in your code. It is worth noting that the Ionic/Cordova and/or Angular plugins are stable and updated every time the platform is updated.
Due to its popularity, React Native has a huge set of third-party packages and built-in APIs for accessing the platform's functionality. Excessive reliance on third-party packages has its disadvantages, which the developers of these packages could leave. Because of this, support is not at the same level as Ionic and NativeScript.
Here's how you can sort them by availability to native device functionality:
- React Native
9. Supported platform
React Native: Android 4.1+ , iOS 8+
Ionic: Android 4.4+, iOS 8+ and Windows 10
10. Popular application
React Native: Facebook, Instagram, UberEats, Airbnb (later they stopped using RN)
Ionic: JustWatch, Pacifica, Nationwide, and many others.
React Native: Fully open-source framework. Developers can use this system and its libraries absolutely for free. Ionic: this is a free open source framework for developing cross-platform applications. The company also offers a paid Pro Development Environment. They guarantee that Ionic Pro will speed up the development process.
12. Support possibility
When working with React Native, any third-party library may become outdated and incompatible with the updated codebase. This leads to serious problems with support.
In Ionic, in contrast to RN, you only have to work on the support of one single application (in RN, you have to support builds for iOS and Android separately).
But it's not so swimmingly. The biggest problem is constant updates of the framework itself and frequent releases on Ionic and Cordova.
If you need to create close to native, performance applications, then React Native is your choice. On the other hand, if the rental requirements allow you to create a performance application that looks like a native one, then you can always start working with Ionic. Everything depends on the requirements of the project.