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Ionic and React Native


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Ionic vs React Native: Head-to-Head Comparison [2022]

Posted in Ionic, React Native
Ionic vs React Native

You’re a developer interested in creating beautiful, UI-focused web applications. But you’re having trouble choosing between React Native and the Ionic Framework. Which is the better solution: Ionic vs React Native?

Today we’ll give you a full review of the Ionic framework vs React Native, including Ionic 2 vs React Native performance, versatility, language, and overall suitability. 

By the end, you’ll understand the critical differences between the two and why one might be better suited for your project than another. 

What is Ionic? [Definition]

Ionic is a component-based web application framework geared for hybrid mobile applications. Essentially, Ionic develops a web application that can also be run as a native application. 

By leveraging web components, Ionic can create cross-platform applications — applications you can port out to iOS, Android, and Windows. Ionic creates mobile, desktop, and progressive web applications (PWAs), each on a foundation of web development in CSS, HTML5, and SaSS.

Ionic leverages web-based technologies; however, it’s still a framework, meaning it has its own way of modeling views. For example, in Ionic, “Hello, World” would look like this:

<ion-content class="home">
<ion-card>
<ion-card-content>
Hello,World!
</ion-card-content>
</ion-card>
</ion-content>​

Developers who know XML may note this as a classic “markup language” style framework rather than something like JavaScript.

Pros

Cons

  • Easy for web developers
  • Fully cross-platform
  • A wide range of applications
  • Cannot use native features

What is a Web App vs a Native App?

A web app uses a web browser (or something similar) as a compiler, a layer between the code and execution. Web apps rely on the browser and browser standards, whereas native apps execute directly on the device.

Notifications are a perfect example. A native mobile app sends notifications throughout the day. Up until recently, web and progressive web applications (a web app with some native features, such as Ionic web apps) felt a lot like mobile apps, but they couldn’t send you notifications without access to the device's notification layer. Today, native apps can send notifications but still need to do it through the browser.

In many ways, an Ionic or web app will look like a React Native app. The difference is similar to launching a cloud-based application through your browser and launching a desktop application from your desktop; it has to do with how the application has been developed, where it lives, and the system functions it can access.

When it comes to Ionic React Native comparisons, neither is necessarily better or worse; rather, they’re best suited for specific applications. The advantage of a PWA is you can actually keep the same code base for your website as for your mobile applications, thereby vastly reducing multi-channel system complexity.

But, of course, the advantage of a native app is that you can use native features

Furthermore, you install native apps on the device. A React Native app will “live” on a user’s device and remind them to use the app, whereas you can’t install a PWA or Ionic app.

What is React Native? [Definition]

Compared to Ionic, React Native is a more traditional mobile development framework. React Native is built in JavaScript as a component-based framework for creating native mobile applications. JavaScript developers can use React Native to quickly create beautiful, highly functional UIs. These applications can then run on iOS, Android, or Mobile, as JavaScript is a cross-platform solution.

Here’s how you can create a “Hello, World!” program in React Native:

const HelloWorld = () => {
return (
<View>
<Text>Hello, World!</Text>
</View>
)
}​

So, your main reasoning for deciding between Ionic vs React comes down to whether you need a native application. React Native provides a full framework for cross-platform native application development, but you can’t use the code base for websites as well (at least, not without a lot of work). 

Pros

Cons

  • Easy for JavaScript developers
  • A cross-platform solution
  • Fully native
  • Separate from a website
  • Not for progressive web apps

Want to Build a Web App?

React Native is designed on top of React. React is actually the component-based library for web applications. You can use React to develop web applications, progressive web applications, and just mobile sites. 

React Native is expressly used to create native applications.

What is the Difference Between Ionic and React Native?

Web developers use Ionic to create web applications — even web applications that act like native mobile applications. React Native is used to create native mobile applications (applications installed on a device). 

Companies Using Ionic

Companies Using React Native

  • Southwest Airlines
  • H&R Block
  • Airbus
  • Bobcat
  • Walmart
  • Microsoft
  • Tesla
  • Facebook

Major companies use React Native to develop mobile apps. But a wide audience uses Ionic for progressive web apps, from small businesses to large enterprises.

How Many People Use Ionic React Native?

What’s the actual popularity of Ionic React vs React Native? According to AppBrain, Ionic is used in 3.62% of apps. Comparatively, React Native is used for 4.81% of apps. So popularity is similar, but Ionic is decreasing while React Native is increasing very quickly. 

Ionic vs. React Native: Head-to-Head Comparison

Parameter

Ionic

React Native

Developed

2012

2019

Platform

Cross-Platform

Cross-Platform

Application Type

Web Application

Mobile Native Application

Popularity

Moderate

Moderate

Difficulty

Easy

Challenging

Languages

HTML, CSS

JavaScript

Ionic vs React Native: Which is Easier?

Ionic may be easier for a simple web application. It uses foundational markup technologies like HTML and CSS, though you will need to know JavaScript, Python, PHP, or other backend programming languages to develop a more complex application. 

For a more robust web application, both Ionic and React Native may be equally challenging to learn. The React Native framework runs on JavaScript, which requires you to learn both the framework and JavaScript language.

Which is Faster?

Both Ionic and React Native are interpreted in real-time rather than compiled. Both platforms emphasize lightning-fast development and deployment, rather than performance, scalability, or processing. The performance depends highly on the application and the amount of time the developer spends on performance optimization. 

Out of the box, Ionic is lighter in weight compared to React Native. So, an Ionic site will likely work faster than a React Native app if both apps are relatively simple. However, the further you develop either an Ionic site or React Native app, the more likely you’ll notice a performance decrease.

Which is More Versatile?

Ionic can create web applications and progressive web apps. React Native creates native apps, but if you know React Native, you also know React—which you can use for web applications and progressive web apps. Consequently, React Native is more versatile.

More than that, React Native has a larger and more active community. This opens many doors for networking, tools, and resources. 

Which Creates Better Apps?

Let’s say that you just want to create a great app. Should you use Ionic or React Native?

Both platforms help you create similar apps as long as you have enough time. Ionic will help you deploy apps faster, but React Native makes creating more robust interactive applications easier.

If you’re primarily concerned with code quality, React Native is likely the better bet. But if you’re a novice developer or someone who wants to create a simple application very quickly, Ionic could yield better results with its simplicity.

Which Pays More?

ZipRecruiter reports the average Ionic developer salary as $124,960. Comparatively, the average React Native developer salary is $129,059 — quite similar. 

However, the picture is different for job openings. As of August 2022, there are approximately 42,700 job listings for React Native development. For Ionic developers, however, only a meager 145 jobs are currently available on ZipRecruiter.

You can make a lot of money as an Ionic developer, but there are substantially fewer available opportunities.

Alternatives to Ionic and React Native

Let’s say you want to develop a progressive web application but you don’t want to use Ionic. You can use several popular alternatives like: 

  • React. React Native is simply the native mobile development offshoot of React. You can use React to develop progressive and regular web applications using a robust JavaScript library.
  • Flutter. Flutter is Google’s answer to cross-platform web application development. Flutter uses the programming language, Dart, to create interactive, lightweight web applications that you can use on mobile.
  • Cordova. An Apache framework, Cordova uses HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create web applications and PWAs. Cordova is very similar to Ionic and even has a slightly stronger community.

On the other hand, you might want to create a native mobile application instead. There are also a few high-profile alternatives for React Native:

  • SwiftUI. For iOS development, there’s no better solution than to go to the source. SwiftUI is a UI kit built on the proprietary Swift language, both intended for native mobile application development on iOS.
  • Xamarin. A cross-platform mobile app development solution created by Microsoft, Xamarin uses C# and the .NET framework to create native apps on Windows, iOS, and Android.
  • NativeScript. Similar to React Native, NativeScript uses JavaScript for cross-platform development on Windows, iOS, and Android. React Native is more popular, but many believe NativeScript gives them more flexibility and control.

All these development kits, UI kits, and frameworks will make it easier to create a native mobile application, although not all are cross-platform.

Conclusion

Before you make the choice between Ionic vs React Native, carefully consider the differences between a progressive web application/web application and a native mobile application.

Progressive web applications are accessed through a browser with some native mobile features. You can “install” them on a device as a shortcut, but not in the same way a native mobile app is. 

Native web apps are web applications installed directly on a device that can access all native mobile features (with appropriate permissions). They are installed on the user’s device and live on that device.

You should learn Ionic if:

  • You’re interested in creating a PWA.
  • You don’t need to lean on any native mobile functions.
  • You’d like to maintain a single codebase between the website and mobile.

You should learn React Native if:

  • You want to create a native mobile app.
  • You need native mobile functions, such as Google Lens.
  • You don’t need to develop a website alongside a mobile app.

There are good reasons for either solution. As a developer, you may even want to learn both. Anyone with a solid understanding of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript can use Ionic’s framework. On the other hand, React Native requires in-depth knowledge of JavaScript — so, it’s really a matter of learning about each framework’s conventions.

You’re up to speed on React Native and Ionic, but you have more to learn before launching your mobile app development career. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which is Better: Ionic or React Native?

Both help you create robust applications. However, Ionic is better for web apps, while React Native is better for native applications. 

2. Why Choose React Native Over Ionic?

You could choose React Native over Ionic for a few reasons. First, you may need native mobile features for your app. If that’s true, you need React Native. Second, you may want users to pay for and install your mobile application—if so, you should develop it as a native application in React Native. Finally, you may want heavy interactivity (such as a game). While you can do this in Ionic, it’s easier in React Native.

3. Is Ionic Still Relevant in 2022?

Ionic is absolutely still relevant and still used in 2022, but its popularity is waning. Mobile app development is booming, but PWAs and other web applications aren’t being used as frequently. 

4. Why Has Airbnb Stopped using React Native?

You may have heard React Native is best for small, simple applications. That can be confusing, given Facebook first developed it. But the reality is that React Native is still a development framework for cross-platform development. For very extensive applications, it may be easier to develop natively in the platform itself (such as Windows, Android, or iOS).

Jenna Inouye

Jenna Inouye

Jenna Inouye has been a full stack developer for two decades, specializing in web application design and development. For the last eight years, she has worked as a news and feature writer focusing on technology and finance, with bylines in Udemy, SVG, and The Gamer. View all posts by the Author

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