React Native uses native components, making your app indistinguishable compared to those written with Java or Objective C. React Native has limitations, such as the inability to access device hardware like the camera. Hence, it’s crucial to consider the features you need before building your app. Toolkits like Cordova allow for more complex development on both iOS and Android.
The main benefit of React Native is that it provides a single source of truth when developing a mobile application. You only need to learn one language and one UI library. The other advantage is that you don’t need to worry about platform-specific issues since React Native handles all that for you.
React Native has several benefits over other mobile app development frameworks:
- It is faster and more responsive than traditional hybrid apps as it renders native UI elements rather than using webViews like traditional hybrid frameworks.
- The use of native components delivers the look and feel of a native app rather than a hybrid one.
- Increased stability over traditional hybrid frameworks and has a smaller learning curve.
- Easier to share code across platforms—changes made to your codebase are reflected automatically on both platforms.
- Provides a unified view layer across all platforms, making it easier to debug issues when they arise.
- Able to run on multiple devices simultaneously (as long as each device supports the same version of React Native).
- Easier to maintain than hybrid apps requiring manual updates wherever a component is used within the application.
- Free to use—no additional fees for things like App Store submission fees.
The best way to get started with React Native is to read the official React Native documentation. The documentation covers everything from installing React Native to creating your first app. You can also find lots of tutorials and examples online that will help you learn how to use React Native.
To start working with React Native, you must set up your development environment.
- First, download NodeJS and install it locally. Then follow this tutorial to install all necessary tools.
- Next, install the latest versions of Xcode and Android Studio. Follow the instructions here to get started.
- Install the react-native package via NPM.
- Create a new project using the command line. This will generate files for both iOS and Android projects.
- Open your project’s folder in Xcode. Open the file.xcodeproj/project.pbxproj in a text editor and find the following lines. Replace them with your values.
React Native uses a different set of React components than ReactJs and provides a set of basic UI components, including:
- TouchableHighlight (Touchable)
- ScrollView (Scroll)
- WebView (Web)
- TextInput (Text)
React Native also provides several built-in components that are not available in ReactJS. These include:
- Button (Touchable)
- Checkbox (Toggle)
- RadioButton (Switch)
- Slider (Scroll)
- TabBarIOS (Tabbar)
- ToolbarAndroid (Toolbar)
One important thing to note is that React Native does not yet have a fully implemented equivalent to React’s Refs and Dom helpers. If you need to access React’s internals or manipulate the DOM directly, you can use react-native-reflection, providing limited Refs support. React Native also exposes ReactElement#findDOMNode, which you can use to interact with React’s DOM helpers in React Native.
- Navigation provides an easy way to create React Native apps with multiple screens. React Native Navigation is a library that allows you to create stack-based navigation, similar to React Router, and supports tabs, side menus, and custom transitions.
- Animations provide React components for animating common mobile UI changes, such as React Native Navigation and React Router.
- Images and Videos provide React components for loading and displaying images from the React Native library or a remote server while also providing components for displaying videos from a remote server.
- Web Views provides components for displaying web content in a React Native app and interacting with the WebView’s native counterparts.
- Platforms provide components for accessing the device’s native platform features, including React Native for Android and React Native for iOS.
- Modules provide components for working with third-party modules and include react-native-fetch-blob, allowing users to fetch files from a remote server as Blobs easily.
Testing your React Native app is similar to testing traditional web apps. You can use React Native’s built-in packager and developer tools to enhance your debugging experience or use Jest or Enzyme.
For those looking for a complete guide on getting started with React Native, check out the official documentation—it contains an overview of React Native, installation steps, and walkthroughs for various features.
React Native is still relatively new and is growing rapidly—although the React Native development community is still small with less tooling and support than more mature frameworks like Angular or ReactJS.
Overall, React Native is an excellent choice for mobile app development. It is relatively easy to learn. It produces fast and responsive apps while retaining the look and feel of a native app. If you are interested in learning React Native, I recommend reading the official React Native documentation and looking for online tutorials and examples.