09 February 2024

The History of Flutter and React Native

Flutter and React Native are two frameworks that stand out in mobile application development for their creative approaches to cross-platform solutions. When Facebook unveiled React Native in 2015, it revolutionized online development by utilizing JavaScript to combine the powerful features of native mobile platforms with the simplicity and adaptability of web programming. It championed the concept of “learn once, write anywhere,” allowing for a shared codebase across iOS and Android while still providing a native-like user experience.

On the other hand, Google’s Flutter, officially released in 2018, took a different path. Flutter decided to forgo the traditional bridge to native components used by React Native, instead opting to render directly to the canvas with its own rendering engine. This provided developers with unprecedented control over the UI, allowing for highly customized and performant applications. Flutter’s use of Dart, a language optimized for fast, smooth UI rendering, showed Google’s commitment to carving a unique space in the cross-platform arena.

While both frameworks continue to evolve, their histories reflect their distinct philosophies. React Native leverages the widespread familiarity of JavaScript, attracting a vast community of developers. Flutter’s promise of beautiful, natively compiled applications has sparked interest in the relatively new Dart language and created its own fervent following. Their developments and adaptations have not only influenced how applications are built but also the future trajectory of the mobile development industry as a whole.

What is Flutter

Flutter is an open-source UI software development kit created by Google. It’s designed for building natively compiled applications for mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase. Flutter works using the Dart programming language and provides its own widgets, drawn directly through the Skia Graphics Engine, which means it doesn’t require the bridge and native components used by other platforms. Thanks to this innovative methodology, developers can create high-fidelity experiences on various platforms with rapid performance, adaptable and expressive designs, and extensive control over an application’s appearance and feel. Flutter has gained much traction since its 2017 launch because it makes it easier to create aesthetically appealing apps with smooth animations and a unified codebase.

World Famous Apps Created with Flutter

Flutter has been used to create several well-known applications across different industries, demonstrating its versatility and the trust businesses have in Google’s framework. Here are a few notable examples:

1. Google Ads - Google’s own advertising platform has a mobile app version that is built using Flutter, showcasing the company’s confidence in its technology for creating complex, data-driven applications.

2. Alibaba - The world’s largest online and mobile commerce company, Alibaba, uses Flutter to power parts of its mobile application, allowing for a seamless shopping experience for its vast user base.

3. Reflectly - An AI-powered personal journal app, Reflectly uses Flutter to provide a smooth and intuitive user experience, with a design that’s both beautiful and functionally rich.

4. Hamilton Musical - The official app for the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton, is built with Flutter and offers an interesting mix of content, merchandise, and ticket lotteries, catering to its large fanbase.

5. Philips Hue - Flutter has been employed to develop parts of the app for Philips Hue, a personal wireless lighting system that allows users to automate their home lighting.

Pros of Flutter

1. Single Codebase

Developers can write one codebase for both iOS and Android platforms, which can significantly reduce development time and resources.

2. Performance

Flutter apps are compiled to native machine code, which helps in achieving performance that is on par with native applications.

3. Customizable Widgets

Flutter provides a rich set of highly customizable widgets that enable the creation of complex UIs with a native performance feel.

4. Hot Reload

This feature allows developers to see the changes in the code on emulators, simulators, and hardware almost instantaneously, without losing the current application state.

5. Dart Advantage

Flutter uses Dart, which is easy to learn and offers advanced features like async-await, strong typing, and a rich standard library.

6. Strong Community and Support

Backed by Google, Flutter has a fast-growing community and a wealth of resources, including documentation, tools, and third-party integrations.

7. Design-Friendly

The framework is designed to help developers create visually attractive UIs that are expressive and flexible.

Cons of Flutter

1. Dart Popularity

Dart is not as widely adopted as other languages such as JavaScript, which may limit the availability of experienced developers.

2. Large File Sizes

Flutter applications can have larger file sizes compared to those built with native tools, which could be a drawback for markets with limited bandwidth.

3. Limited Libraries

Despite its growth, Flutter’s ecosystem of third-party libraries and packages is not as extensive as native development environments or even React Native’s.

4. Platform Integration

While Flutter is improving, integrating with some native features can still require custom development and can be more complex than in native environments.

5. Learning Curve

Developers new to Dart and declarative UI programming may face a learning curve, although Dart is relatively easy to pick up for experienced programmers.

6. Newer on the Scene

Being newer than some other frameworks, some of Flutter’s tools and practices are still evolving, which might present challenges in very specific or advanced use cases.

7. Web and Desktop

While Flutter offers web and desktop support, these platforms are not as mature as mobile, and there might be limitations and bugs affecting production apps.

What is React Native

Facebook created the well-known open-source React Native framework to let developers create mobile applications with React and JavaScript. Its 2015 introduction has completely changed the development process by making it possible to create apps for both the iOS and Android platforms using a single codebase. “Learn once, write anywhere,” the company’s guiding principle, allows developers to reuse code across platforms, expediting the development process and lowering the expense involved in keeping distinct codebases for various operating systems.

The framework’s architecture is distinct, employing a bridge that facilitates communication between the JavaScript code and the native platform components, thus ensuring that the end product is virtually indistinguishable from a native app built with Java, Swift, or Objective-C. React Native has been a game-changer particularly because of its embrace of hot reloading, allowing instant visibility of code changes without full recompilation. This, combined with the robust ecosystem of JavaScript, has made React Native a tool of choice for industry giants like Instagram and Uber Eats, testament to its performance and reliability in demanding production environments.

World Famous Apps Created with React Native

React Native has been utilized by several prominent companies to build their mobile applications, capitalizing on its ability to provide a native app experience while enabling shared codebases between iOS and Android. Some of the well-known apps developed using React Native include:

Facebook - The company that created React Native uses it for various parts of its own mobile app, ensuring seamless integration with device hardware and complex networked features.

Instagram - Instagram has incorporated React Native into their existing native app, which allowed them to deliver features faster to both Android and iOS users.

Airbnb - Although Airbnb has moved away from React Native, it played a significant role in their mobile app development strategy for several years, proving the technology’s capability to support a platform with millions of users.

Uber Eats - The food delivery service’s restaurant dashboard was re-engineered using React Native, which allowed for a more efficient cross-platform solution with a near-native performance.

Tesla - The electric vehicle and clean energy company’s mobile app, which allows users to interact with their vehicle or power systems, is another example of React Native’s application in diverse fields.

Skype - Microsoft employed React Native to revamp the mobile app for its popular communication service, enhancing its cross-platform functionality.

Pinterest - The social media platform that allows users to discover information on the World Wide Web used React Native to improve their app’s performance and maintainability.

Walmart - The retail giant boosted their mobile app’s performance and streamlined the development process by implementing React Native, demonstrating its scalability.

Flutter Vs. React Native

When it comes to choosing a cross-platform mobile development framework, the debate often narrows down to Flutter and React Native. Both have their own unique features and capabilities, and comparing them can help developers and businesses make an informed decision.

1. Performance: Flutter boasts high performance due to its Dart language and the way it compiles to native code, which allows for more predictable performance metrics. React Native, while also performing well, can be a step behind Flutter because it relies on a bridge to communicate with native components, which can sometimes lead to performance bottlenecks.

2. Development Experience: React Native offers a mature development environment, thanks to its JavaScript foundation, which is familiar to many developers. Hot reloading and a wide range of available development tools and libraries enhance the development experience. Flutter, although newer, has gained popularity for its hot reload capabilities and the comprehensive set of widgets it provides, which simplifies the UI development process.

3. Community and Support: React Native has been around longer, resulting in a larger community and a vast array of libraries and tools contributed by developers. Flutter, backed by Google, has seen rapid growth in its community, and while its ecosystem is burgeoning, it may not have as many resources as React Native yet.

4. UI Components and Customization: Flutter is known for its rich set of customizable widgets that can mimic native components. Its approach allows for more control over the UI and can lead to more unique user experiences. React Native, on the other hand, uses native components, which can make apps feel more native but can sometimes limit the UI’s uniqueness and customizability.

5. Language: React Native uses JavaScript, which is one of the most widely used programming languages, making it easier to find skilled developers. Flutter uses Dart, which is less common and might present a steeper learning curve but is optimized for building UIs and offers a smooth performance.

6. Codebase Reusability: Both frameworks offer a single codebase for iOS and Android, but React Native has an edge with its mature ecosystem, making it easier to find libraries and tools that cover more functionalities. Flutter is catching up but sometimes requires additional effort to achieve the same level of platform coverage.

7. Integration with Native Code: React Native has an advantage when it comes to integrating with native modules, given its longer presence in the market and extensive use cases. Flutter can interact with native code as well, but it may require more work to bridge with native features and libraries.

8. Documentation: Flutter excels with its comprehensive and well-structured documentation, making it easier for new developers to get up to speed. React Native’s documentation is also extensive, but given the diversity of the ecosystem, developers might sometimes need to refer to third-party resources.

Comparison of Flutter Vs. React Native

The mobile app development scene has been dominated by two major players: Flutter and React Native. Both have their strengths and are in demand for various reasons. Let’s delve into a detailed comparison of both frameworks across different aspects.

1. Flutter vs. React Native: Demand for both frameworks is high, but React Native has been around longer and has a larger market share. However, Flutter has been closing this gap rapidly due to its performance and ease of use.

2. Flutter vs. React Native: Performance is one of Flutter’s strong suits, as it compiles to native ARM code, which is fast and predictable. React Native can sometimes lag behind due to the JavaScript bridge it uses to communicate with native modules.

3. Flutter vs. React Native: Programming Language Flutter uses Dart, a language developed by Google, which is less popular than React Native’s JavaScript — a language familiar to many developers and widely used in web development.

4. Flutter vs. React Native: Architecture Flutter’s architecture is centered around the Skia C++ engine, and it doesn’t require a bridge to interact with the native components, leading to faster performance. React Native uses the JavaScript bridge to communicate with native APIs, which can introduce performance bottlenecks.

5. Flutter vs. React Native: Installation Installation is straightforward for both frameworks. Flutter requires downloading the binary for a specific platform from the source, while React Native can be installed using npm if you have Node.js installed.

6. Flutter vs. React Native: UI and Development API Flutter provides a rich set of highly customizable widgets that make it easy to create complex UIs. React Native, meanwhile, relies more on native components, which may lead to a more native look and feel but can be limiting in terms of customization.

7. Flutter or React Native: Community Support React Native benefits from a large, mature community. Flutter’s community is smaller but growing rapidly, with Google’s backing and increasing adoption.

8. Flutter or React Native: Packages and Libraries React Native has a more extensive range of packages and libraries due to its longer existence. Flutter is building its library ecosystem, with support for many essential features and continuous contributions from its community.

9. Flutter vs. React Native: Development Time Both frameworks offer features like hot reload which can significantly reduce development time. However, React Native’s broader range of libraries can sometimes mean faster development for common features.

10. Flutter vs. React Native: Code Reusability Both frameworks excel at code reusability across iOS and Android, but Flutter also targets web and desktop, potentially increasing its reusability scope.

11. Flutter vs. React Native: Quality Assurance With Flutter, the uniformity of widgets across platforms can reduce the need for testing. React Native may require more platform-specific testing due to its use of native components.

12. Flutter vs. React Native: Release Both have streamlined processes for releasing apps to the app stores, but Flutter’s single codebase and lack of reliance on native elements can simplify the build and release process.

13. Flutter vs. React Native: Hiring Developers Hiring may be easier for React Native due to the large pool of JavaScript developers. Flutter’s use of Dart means a smaller pool, but it is mitigated by Dart’s ease of learning for developers familiar with OOP languages.

14. Flutter vs. React Native: Device Compatibility React Native’s use of native components means it often has better device compatibility out of the box. Flutter also has good device compatibility but might occasionally need more work to integrate with device-specific features.


In summary, both Flutter and React Native have unique advantages and are preferred for different reasons. React Native is an established framework with a vast community, while Flutter is recognized for its performance and design flexibility. The choice between them would depend on the project’s specific needs, existing developer skills, and long-term maintenance expectations.

Feature image sources: https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/comic-style-versus-vs-banner-with-rays-stripe_17819837.htm#