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Native iOS App Design with Swift versus React Native JavaScript –What to Pick

By Editorial Team on 2017-10-20

Have you wonder how to design an iOS App for iPads or iPhones. If so, this article gives you more info on most popular platforms for building an iOS App. In particular, we compare Swift with React Native- a JavaScript framework and tell you which one to learn.

Many developers need to develop Apps quicker, and in the past have turned to a few solutions. One of them is using an Application to run a WebView and show a website optimized for a mobile phones. Another was to use slow cross platform engines that would run the application on top of its own very slow virtual machine. Later, the React library was extended to allow for native access using similar React code.

React was first developed at Facebook to allow developers to use JavaScript  code to develop performant web applications. It utilized JavaScript  and JSX, an XML templating language, to create views for websites and add business logic. React Native was an extension to the library by creating bindings for React code to be compiled to either iOS or Android APIs. React Native enables developers to write an application once in JavaScript  and then port it to a mobile platform of their choosing.

React Native has an inherent advantage over native development for both platforms. While native Apps require the compilation of large codebases, React Native allows developers to hot swap code for a faster development process. This gives developers more time to prototype and less time waiting for their App to get built from source code. React Native also enables more efficient code reuse in the form of components and allows developers to write less code for vastly complicated logic.

For iOS developers, using React Native can be a very drastic change from their usual development styles. For one, because React Native uses its custom XML based template for creating components on an application, it provides a different experience from Xcode which allows developers to drag and drop their components on a visual interface and then connect components to blocks of code. This can be a bit of a learning curve for developers who started with iOS design and have not worked with HTML, XML or other similar tag based scripting languages.

Additionally, React Native can give iOS developers a disadvantage for incorporating new iOS Kits into their applications. Because React Native uses a kind of middleware to access native features such as the camera or GPS, it requires developers to create this middleware once a new Kit has come out. The most recent can be seen with the ARKit that Apple released to allow for augmented reality in iOS applications.

React Native also does have comparable performance to Swift when tested in a production environment. React Native usually utilizes less memory than Swift while Swift can more effectively exploits the GPU and CPU power from the Apple devices. Swift, however, can be much more optimized for any new changes Apple chooses to make in its products that React Native might not be able to account for. This might affect performance in the future and in fact incentivize users to switch to iOS development. 

Nonetheless, React Native does offer a good solution for developers. Developers can convert React Native applications to iOS applications that they can open in Xcode and keep developing. This allows them to create a base App in React Native and then add more functionality once the application has been ported to Xcode. Companies like Uber, Airbnb and Tesla all use React Native in some part of their development process.

Programming Languages and Resources for App Developers
Here are a brief summary of coding languages and resources for developing web Apps or native Apps without using Swift. In general, you need to know common web programming languages such as  HTML, CSS (or HTML5 & CSS3) JavaScript (or JS frameworks like jQuery, Angular, React Web, Node, React Native, Ionic, jQuery Mobile or Express) and  a database  like MongoDB. Knowlege of a back-end coding in language such as PHP, MySQL, Apache or Ruby on Rails is useful but not required. For those interested in learning more about web design and development, here are a list of step-by-step training guide articles: i- Become CMS specialist, ii- Become front-end specialist, iii- Become expert SQL developer, iv- Become expert PHP developer. Lastly, you can use Java programming to design Java Android Apps. 

Swift and React Native coding are well suited for those interested in pursuing a career in mobile App design and development; however, other options are, system admin, web design and development and software engineering. It is advisable to consult with an IT career counselor to understand what career options best fits your skills. For instance, if you want to be a software engineer, learning HTML and CSS might not fit the bill. Here is an excellent article for learning more on coding and technology career roadmap. Once you know what career path you wish to pursue, you can make a plan on what, when, and how to learn. There are lots of online resources for learning coding and technology in general. For teenagers and high school students, High School Technology Services offers variety of hands-on training. For adults and professionals, Coding Bootcamps and DC Web Makers Companies offer basic to advance project-based programming and technology classes.

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