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What is React Native JavaScript framework and how to build native iOS and Android Apps

By Editorial Team on 2017-08-28

When you decide to design a native App for either Google Play or Apple Store, you have few coding choices. If you are already familiar with JavaScript, the easiest way to design a native App is via React Native which is a popular JS framework. However, if you know Java, the best choice is to design Android Apps with Java. Lastly, if you know Swift, you can easily design iOS Apps for iPad and iPhon

Native mobile App development has grown in popularity significantly since the public release of SDKs that allowed developers to create mobile Apps. Using compiled languages like Objective-C, Java and Swift enabled developers to create faster-performing applications and access native APIs of the platform. However, this increased control over the application and the base platform made development more unstable. Developers were prone to crashing their applications if one state was not changed correctly or a single view wasn’t connected to a component, causing a null pointer exception. These problems were all issues that were facing developers before the introduction of hybrid applications.

Hybrid applications are Apps that have the same code base for mobile and web. Platforms like PhoneGap and Titanium allow developers to create hybrid Apps in HTML and CSS. However, these frameworks are quite verbose and can make development much less rapid with slower compilation times. React Native, a JavaScript library created at Facebook enables developers to create hybrid applications using JavaScript, following the same paradigm as the web abstration, React.

Because React Native follows an almost similar paradigm to React for development, developers well versed in React can easily transition over. However, there are a few nuanced differences between the two that change development a little bit. While React Native retains the declarative nature of React, enabling developers to simply explain the state of their components, from which the compiler would handle the functionality, React Native uses different components with different lifestyles. These components are similar to native mobile App components and allow for user interface differences to be minimized.

React Native also allows developers to interact with native mobile APIs. Many hybrid application platforms have limits when it comes to the level of hardware which it can access. React Native has libraries that enable bridges between the native APIs and React Native. This allows users to access native hardware like the camera, gyroscope, GPS and other sensors that can be on a phone. However, it takes time for libraries to be created that allow developers to access such APIs. A recent example is with the ARKit SDK released by Apple to enable augmented reality in their applications.

React Native also enables developers to hot swap code to more easily prototype their applications and test them. This allows developers to more quickly see changes in their application, as only one part of it is actually being compiled as opposed to the entire App. This can be beneficial for changing small differences in a feature of an App which wouldn’t change the functionality of the App as a whole.

While React Native is very popular, it isn’t as performant as native mobile development. However, React Native allows developers to export their applications to Xcode and Android Studio to further develop from there. This enables developers to prototype their applications in JavaScript, and optimize in a language of their choosing. Additionally, this allows developers to use SDKs that would not otherwise be available to them.

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 (for iOS) or Java (for Android). 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  or Ionic Android to design Java Android Apps while using Swift or Ionic iOS to design iOS Apps.

React Native coding is 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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