React Native vs Ionic vs Xamarin : Whats the differences?

By Guest Contributor on January 18, 2020

Introduction to Cross-Platform Development

Cross-platform mobile application development enables developers to create mobile applications for several platforms like Android or iOS with the help of a single technology stack.

This implies that rather than building numerous versions of the application, each coded in the respective language of the platform it has to be launched upon, developers can write the code once and deploy it on multiple platforms at once.

Advantages of Cross-Platform Development

a).  The single codebase that can be exported to numerous operating systems is the biggest advantage.

b). The single shared codebase enables developers to give a similar look, feel, and experience across all the platforms.

c). It is cost-effective and helps in saving resources as only one team of developers is needed instead of multiple teams. This also makes development faster and saves a good amount of time and money.

d). Since the application is launched on several platforms, it enables the developers to expand their market reach without much effort, hence, increasing the probability of getting a significant number of downloads and users.

Disadvantages of Cross-Platform Development

a). Cross-platform applications don’t integrate easily with the respective platforms and don’t have a consistent communication amongst the native and non-native elements, hence, decreasing the speed of the app and lowering its performance.

b). There are several integrations and native-only features that are available in each platform and are not available in the cross-platform applications, which restrains the user experience that can be offered.

c). The development tools in cross platforms do not include all the features provided by each platform, hence, developers may have to look for an alternative solution. Also, these models may require some time to get updated with the latest features and updates launched by these platforms.

Popular Cross – Platform App Development Frameworks

Here, we will give you a fair idea of three of the most prominent cross-platform frameworks available.

About Ionic

Ionic is a free and open-source HTML 5 development model, that enables developers in building cross-platform applications that are highly interactive and that can be deployed across various platforms like Android, Windows and iOS, and the web.

Built using Angular JS and Apache Cordova, Ionic offers tools and services for developing cross-platform mobile applications with the help of web technologies like SASS, HTML 5, and CSS.

With an array of more than 120 native device features like the Finger Print Authorisation, Bluetooth, Healthkit, and more, along with the TypeScript extensions and the PhoneGap/ Cordova plugins, Ionic enables web developers to build advanced applications effortlessly.

Developed in 2013 by Max Lynch, Ben Sperry, and Adam Bradley of Drifty Co., the alpha version of the Ionic framework was launched in November 2013, the 1.0 beta version was launched in March 2014, and the 1.0 final version was launched in May 2015.

Advantages of Ionic

a). Ease of Use: Learning and building apps using the Ionic framework becomes easier for developers if a developer is familiar with JavaScript, HTML, or CSS. For organizations that require cross-platform application development, it is feasible to switch to Ionic.

b).  Cross-platform application development: Ionic assists in building applications with expertise and at a fast pace, as it is compatible with Android 4.1 and higher versions, along with iOS 7 and higher versions. It is also compatible with the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) for building Windows 10 apps.

c). Customizable User Interface: The themes and the elements in the Ionic platform can be customized. Ionic enables the elements to get accustomed to the platform on which the application is operating.

d). Developed in Angular JS: Angular JS, a framework that is utilized extensively by designers is used by Ionic to offer various functionalities to the developers. Angular JS enables Ionic to give a strong structure that makes the code workable. Angular JS, with the help of the Ionic structure, enables the development of hybrid applications.

e). Efficiency: Ionic utilizes CSS transitions as a way to leverage the GPU and maximize available processor time. The platform gives a very high performance in comparison to hybrid applications when combined with native mobile app code in PhoneGap. AngularJS enables Ionic to rely on native hardware acceleration.

f). Cordova Plugins: The Ionic model makes use of the Cordova plugins to assist developers in accessing different components. It utilizes the plugins to get access to features like Flashlight, GPS, Camera, among others. These modules can be utilized by developers to develop their applications.

Disadvantages of Ionic

a). The requirement of a specific skill set: The extensive use of Angular JS in the Ionic framework demands for developers who have that particular skill set for developing complex applications.

b). Complex in-app navigation: Developing in-app navigation could be highly complicated, as the user-interface (UI) router is complex to operate at present.

c). Slower performance as compared to native app development: The in-app performance might not be as quick as it would be if the application was developed natively for each mobile device.

About React Native

Launched by Facebook in the year 2015, React Native is an open-source, cross-platform mobile app development framework. It enables developers to create mobile applications using React and JavaScript, which is one of the most robust programming languages, along with the potential of the native platform. This framework is compatible with Android and iOS and has an interactive mobile user interface.

Walmart, Tesla, Skype, and Airbnb are among those who use React Native extensively, along with others, which is illustrated in the Showcase list released by Facebook, which gives the names of more than 100 apps developed with the React Native framework.

The Stack Overflow survey 2017, indicates that the number of developers working with JavaScript is more than 66%.

Over 1.6k contributors have committed code to this framework’s codebase. In February 2016, external users contributed around 50 % to the codebase. The React Native community has been growing very fast as compared to what Facebook had expected.

Developer efficiency is the primary focus of React Native for all platforms. “Learn once, write anywhere” is their main motto. It is used by Facebook in building apps, and Facebook is keen on investing in this platform further.

Advantages of React Native

Ready-made components: For faster development of applications, React Native provides a collection of UI components.

a). Platform-Specific code: The native code can be used in optimizing your different native apps.

b). Free: React Native is an open-source platform

c). User interface: Implements native UI components, providing a high-quality user interface, and allowing apps to look more like native apps.

d). Access to native functionalities: Such as accelerometer, camera, etc.

e). Reliability: Built and supported by Facebook.

f). Hot reload: Developers can implement changes immediately without requiring to recompile the apps.

Disadvantages of React Native

a). Complex UI: When it comes to building complex transitions and animations, it is quite a struggle for React Native.

b). Navigation: Navigation developed in React Native is not comparable to native navigation, and is not seamless.

About Xamarin

Another popular cross-platform development framework, Xamarin, enables developers to create Android, iOS, and Mac applications by leveraging the C# language and the .NET framework. It is developed by keeping the .NET developers in mind.

Xamarin apps offer an extensive range of API accesses to include various functionalities to an app. Since Xamarin apps are created using native interface controls, their look and feel are similar to Native.

The Xamarin environment comprises of access to native APIs, Xamarin Insights, Xamarin Test Cloud, and a set of run-time engines in the codebase.

This technology is majorly used in enterprises and has garnered a positive response over the years. Currently, it is being utilized by more than 15,000 enterprises across various industries like health care, transport, and energy, among others. The extensive use of this technology has also resulted in an increase in the number of Xamarin developers.

It is quite interesting to note that Xamarin is one of the oldest cross-platform development frameworks. Established in 2011, the Xamarin community has grown to a whopping 1.4 million developers spread across 120 countries.

Xamarin was taken over by Microsoft in the year 2016 and went on to become a part of its Visual Studio IDE. This is one of the major reasons for large organizations like Pinterest, Siemens, and Slack to depend on Xamarin.

Advantages of Xamarin

a). Complete development ecosystem: Microsoft Visual Studio, C#, and .Net combined with Xamarin are all you need to develop mobile apps on this platform, and this makes it a complete cross-platform mobile app development frameworks in the market.

b). Performance: Applications developed in Xamarin are known for having native-like performance levels.

c). Smooth user experience: Xamarin.Forms give you the freedom to take advantage of standard interface elements by providing a library of templates, and this allows you to reuse your code on different platforms. Manual customization is possible with Xamarin. Android and Xamarin.iOS if required.

Disadvantages of Xamarin

a). Larger app size: Xamarin apps are larger than native apps because it adds around 5 megabytes for releases and 20 megabytes for debug builds. It is due to libraries used to translate C# calls into native calls.

b). Platform-specific code: You will need to have some knowledge in native programming languages, for example, Swift or Objective-C for iOS, and Kotlin or Java for Android, it is because you may need to re-write some parts of the UI of your app in native code.

c). Updates delay: Changes reflected in the Xamarin tools usually get delayed when new updates or platform features roll out, and this might cause issues in your app.

d). Heavy graphics: Building mobile games or complex applications with this platform is not an ideal thing to do because a lot of time will get wasted in writing platform-specific code, and it defeats the purpose of using Xamarin in the first place.

There are numerous other hybrid mobile application development tools and models available, which are as follows:

  1. Flutter
  2. Monocross
  3. Native Script
  4. PhoneGap
  5. Sencha
  6. Titanium
  7. Unity


The one-size-fits-all option doesn’t work when choosing a cross-platform app development tool.

For building mobile apps, all three platforms are excellent. Your preferences and specific requirements will determine which framework is suitable for you.

It all depends on what you are hoping to achieve and what you are building. All three frameworks have their advantages and disadvantages, but one where advantages outweigh the setbacks based on your needs would be the best choice for you.

Author Bio:- Prinsa Prajapati is a Digital marketer, a full-time author, and an accomplished technology blogger at Silicon IT Hub

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