Swift vs React Native – A Side by Side Comparison for iOS Application Development

Swift vs React Native – A Side by Side Comparison for iOS Application Development

Are you thinking of getting developed a cross-platform app or a native iOS app for your business? There are a wide variety of tools available you can choose the one which suits you best. Nowadays, React Native and Swift technologies are a big hit.

When choosing a right technology for your project, you may not find a single tool which is perfect for all instances. Basically, what are your project needs will help you determine the best tool. Here, we will have an in-depth comparison of React Native and Swift. We will compare both technologies on the basis of their features, functionality and performance. Before we get started with the comparison, let’s have a look upon market stats and understand first what is React Native app development and Swift.

Market Usage Statistics

Here are some stats for the market usage of React Native:

  • Approx 42% developers were using React Native for cross-platform app development in 2020.
  • 11.5% developers prefer React Native for its native tools and libraries.
  • 58.5% of the developing community loves using React Native.

And here are some stats for the market usage of Swift:

  • 59.5% of developers were using Swift in 2020 as per the Stack Overflow Annual survey latest report.
  • It has secured 11th rank in the Tiobe index May 2021 report.
  • According to the PYPL report, it ranks 10th with a market share of 1.91 %.
  • It acquired 9K forks and 56.1K stars on GitHub.

React Native and Swift are both pretty new programming languages which support the mobile app development for iOS devices. React Native is a framework for JavaScript, whereas, Swift is an entirely new technology. However, which one you will go for when choosing a toolkit for developing a new iOS app?

Both Swift and React Native are popular for building native iOS applications, and this post includes a thorough comparison of them. Now the question which arises in the mind of most developers that can they use both React Native and Swift for building iOS native apps?

Yes, both can perform efficiently on the iOS platform. But, there are various factors you need to consider before you select a language for building an app. Below is the list of both technologies’ pros and cons to help you know the most appropriate one for your project.

Pros of React Native

  • Native rendering: It uses host platform to natively render APIs and there is no need to use HTML or CSS markup.
  • Performance: The framework translates the markup of an app to mimic authentic UI elements, keeping the performance intact.
  • Cross-Platform Support: Provides support for multiple platform
  • Ecosystem: Get benefits of rich ecosystem and UI libraries to automate re-rendering app appearance with each state change.
  • Debugging: Let you access intelligent debugging tools and error reporting.
  • Hot-reloading: Includes hot reloading tool to add new codes directly into a live application.

Cons of React Native

  • Tools and Plugins: Third-party libraries that can be used for better implementation are sometimes outdated.
  • Performance: Slow performance due to parallel threading and multi-processing.
  • Debugging: Chrome debugger sometimes not convenient to perform debugging functions properly including edit, inspect codes, and UI elements.
  • User Interface: Native rendering of APIs may not support some of native UI elements, adversely affecting the look of UI.

Pros of Swift

  • Simple to learn: Includes clean syntax and simple code lines, which are easy to read, write, modify, and maintain.
  • Safety: It has a structured and strong error handling capabilities.
  • Memory: Has dynamic libraries that minimize the memory footprint and fixes the issue of memory clogging.
  • Native rendering: Uses various libraries and toolkits to render native codes and APIs with the help of Xcode.

Cons of Swift

  • New and small community: Very few developers are using it as of now. The community is progressing each day.
  • Debugging: It uses LLDB services and functions, which are sometimes clunky while debugging compiler errors. However, there are Xcode’s debugging tools available to provide the functionality required for debugging situations.
  • Absence of Hot-reloading: It is missing in Swift; therefore it takes time while code changes occur.

What is React Native?

React Native is popular framework which is supported by social media giant Facebook. It basically focuses on the native rendering of applications, compatible with Android and iOS. React Native runs on JavaScript and allows developers to share the code between multiple platforms, including Android, iOS and web apps. The framework allows to share up to 70% of the code between the apps, which drastically reduces the development time in cross-platform mobile app development.

React native is widely used and established programming language which is being used by various top brands including Shopify, Facebook and Walmart apps, etc.

What is Swift?

Swift is a powerful, multi-paradigm programming language introduced by Apple to develop their iOS-powered devices including iOS, Mac, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and Linux OS. It is an open source language which is easy to read, write and includes simple syntax. It is an intuitive, interactive and reliable language to develop complex applications with lightning-fast performance. Swift is presently distributed on Apache License which makes it accessible for the community to use.

React Native vs. Swift Comparison

Now that we know what both React Native and Swift are, let’s take a deep dive into the comparison pool to understand what is there to learn about both these technologies.

1. Speed and Performance

Let’s have a look on how does React Native and Swift stand out in terms of performance? React Native contains three elements: native thread, javascript thread, and a bridge that works as a mediator to both threads. On the other hand, Swift does not need any bridge and is able to communicate with the native iOS platform directly. It makes Swift based iOS apps run faster and more responsive than a similar app developed with React Native. Both Swift and React Native’s debugging is fast. Swift provides relatively fast and smooth user experience for iOS app development.

2. Ease of Use

React Native is easy to use. For experienced developers, it’s even easier to build web apps using React and JavaScript. On the other hand, Swift is a new programming language which has a variety of features. You can learn it easily.

3. Cross-Platform Support

A cross-platform app supports and works with multiple platforms using the same code. React Native provides full support for cross-platform app development. The amazing thing is that React can be used to develop Android and iOS apps from a single codebase. However, Swift has no cross-platform support.

4. Testing

Now, let’s have a look at how testing works in React Native and Swift. Developers can test React Native apps using the Jest framework. They can write automated tests for the app to verify specific conditions and behaviours. Other libraries have React Native Testing Library and Test Renderer to help test React Native apps.

Swift also allows automated testing through the XCTest framework, which is built in Xcode. XCTest is simple to use and supports UI testing, it test small units of an app. Waldo is simple testing tool for both React Native and Swift apps and has no-code; it does not need any extra setup to test your app.

5. Architecture

In iOS, React Native uses JavaScriptCore separately to run all codes, On the other hand, it bundles the JavaScriptCore within the application in Android. Perhaps, it increases the native functionality; it also adds to the app size, which causes performance issues or device lag.

Swift supports some architecture like MVVM, MV, Clean, and Viper. Clean architecture includes Xcode templates that create components. You can modify these template components as per future needs. Viper helps build the app faster as it is being used along with SwiftUI that separates functions, which you can test and maintain easily.

6. Capability to Build Complex App

React Native can help you develop complex native apps. But, you need to make sure to use the native development skills, instead of Javascript for the entire process of developing a complex app.

Swift is a right choice for complex infrastructure apps that demands native iOS features. It is also capable of building apps with multiple user interfaces or complex user interfaces.

7. User Experience

You can see constant changes in Android’s Material Design and Style Design in iOS, and it’s not pretty easy to go along with the new requirements of native platforms. Moreover, it is tough to build consistent designs on multiple platforms using ready-made React Native UI kits like React Virgin, Shoutem, and Ant Design. However, some important components such as ScrollView fixed header, Activity indicators, Snap carousels, Modal components, and Pagination components help improve the UX across multi-platform to a great extent.

Swift is a native iOS language and therefore delivers an amazing user experience. You can integrate native tools and APIs effortlessly for a smooth experience. It can also offer flawless in-app navigation. Also, it supports dynamic type, dark Mode, localizations for common items, widgets, etc.

8. Code Maintainability

Perhaps, upgrading and debugging the code is a daunting task in React Native. When you make changes in the code to make fit your app, it interferes with its logic which slows down the development process. Additionally, most of the native components are dependent on the third-party library, which are outdated sometimes and difficult to maintain properly.

Swift is a lightweight language and has simple and clear syntax, which makes it easy to read and maintain. And developers need to put a little effort to write a few lines of code for some specific task. They can easily track errors using Xcode during the development process. It gives developers more time to focus on the app logic and maintain the app’s complex part efficiently.

9. App Size

The React native app size is small which increases due to the third-party libraries; however you can reduce it using some tools. For example, the initial size of the Hello World app with React Native is 7 MB and the size increases up to 13.4 on adding the native dependencies. Using Proguard and enableSeperateBuildPerCPUArchitecture element, you can reduce the app size greatly by auto-generating split builds for all native and external libraries.

Swift 5 is a binary compatible which is capable to reduce app size and launches it quickly. For example, the build size of the Hello World app in Swift is 6.7MB.

9. Learning Curve

For Java developers, it takes just two or more days to learn React Native. However, web development is somewhat different from mobile app development, so developers may find it pretty tough to learn and implement the framework. With time, React Native has launched several libraries, extensive documents, and tutorials which improved the learning curve.

Swift is a modern coding language and developers are required to take a training to learn it. Apple also provides training programs for learning Swift. Swift Playgrounds is released specifically for entry-level developers and students which helps learn the language smoothly.

10. Community Support

React Native has a huge community and a big number of active users. Community members include experienced professionals, developers and beginners as well. It provides a great support to novice users as well as whoever seeks help, many projects are live where developers come together to fix the issues. Some of the popular platforms are Meet Up, Slack, Discord, Telegram, Reddit, Stack Overflow, where you can come across with other React Native developers, projects and conferences.

Swift is a new technology, so it does not have a huge community as of now but it is growing remarkably fast.

Popular apps of React Native are Facebook, Walmart, Bloomberg, Instagram, SoundCloud, Wix and more. Popular apps of Swift are SlideShare, Airbnb, Twitter, American Airlines, Lyft, Test Center and many more.

Final Thoughts

Now when you know that React Native is a cross-platform framework and simple to use; and Swift is relatively faster technology, you can choose the one which suits you best your project needs. Both the React Native and Swift frameworks are easy to use and test.

The needs of your project depend on the functions and features of your app. If you’re developing an app with complex user interfaces, high memory management, native features, and for single platform iOS, then you can certainly go for Swift. If you want to build a cost-effective and cross-platform app which doesn’t depend much on native APIs you must consider React Native.

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