Swift vs React Native: What is The Best Platform For App Development?
A choice between cross-platform development and native development is often informed by how much time businesses can dedicate to development and how much money they are ready to spend. This article will compare technologies for both approaches — that will be Swift vs React Native (RN) battle — and discuss their pros, cons, and offer recommendations on when to use each.
Swift is a new programming language, created in 2014 by Apple — after they’ve encountered lots of issues with their previous native language — Objective-C.
Now, Apple makes revenue on apps that are earning on its platform, so Swift is a present for developers who write apps for Apple. It’s scalable, easily readable, easy-to-learn, and has many error-preventing safety features. It can be used both for the development of apps for iPhones and other Apple products like iWatch and AppleTV. According to the StackOverflow Developers Survey, in 2020, Swift was the ninth most loved language among developers.
Code is easily available & accessible & fast
In 2015, Apple fixed its mistake of closing off Objective-C and made Swift open source. It’s gained incredible support from developers for such a relatively young technology due to being learnable, clean (especially compared to Objective-C), and safe. (Also, there is emoji programming! So that’s a plus.) It’s also easy to learn, has a lot of English in its syntax, and was created to be people’s first programming language.
Harder to make errors when coding. Swift has error handling features and a typing system that prevents code crashes in the prod and highlights errors right in the code.
Good performance due to memory management. Automatic Reference Counting (ARC) is Swift’s variation of a garbage collector (GC) feature that gets rid of components existing in the code but no longer used by the app, freeing up the app’s memory and CPU, increasing the app’s performance. The difference between classic GC in languages like Java and ARC is that ARC works asynchronously instead of running in the background and eating app RAM all the time.
Interoperability and full-stack opportunities. In addition to the fact that Swift can be used to program for the entire ecosystem of Apple devices, it’s also compatible with Ruby, Java, and other popular back-end languages. Apart from that, Swift itself can be a back-end language — it’s possible to use Swift for server-side programming — using frameworks like Vapor or Kitura. That sort of universality is a huge pro.
Swift is still young—as well as its tools. You might think that 2014 was about a century ago in terms of the Internet, but developers need time to smooth out the edges of their technologies. Swift is the same: its autocomplete still crushes, highlighting still disappears sometimes, and, well, things can be tough in terms of Xcode (main development environment for Swift) performance.
React Native Overview
Now, let’s look at the second option, React Native. RN is Swift’s peer — framework development started in 2013 and Facebook launched it in 2015. Now, it’s one of the most popular cross-platform tools for app development. It has a huge active community.
Currently, React Native programmers build for iOS and Android (obviously), create apps for desktop on Windows 10 and macOS, and even program for the web. Whew! They’ve come quite a journey from the first Facebook app that earned a single star on the App Store.
React Native Advantages
Ready-to-use elements and 3rd-party libraries. RN offers lots of components developers can just put into code and run with it — and multiple third-party libraries are published on GitHub to be used and implemented in code — like native UI elements, modules with animations, maps, etc.
Quick debugging. Fast Refresh, a new feature for React Native that heals the pain developers had with debugging with a framework: errors are immediately visible in the code and explained.
React Native Disadvantages
Version migration. It’s often super hard for developers to move from one version of RN to the next one — and, considering the fact Facebook updates the framework very often, this challenge can affect app development pace.
Comparison React vs Swift
Before comparing these two, a clarification: Swift is a programming language, and React Native is a framework; the comparison will be made to help you choose between two different tools for your project — or maybe even between two different approaches.
User Interface. React Native makes it possible to create authentic UI elements while still maintaining relatively high performance (if the app doesn’t have a lot of complex elements like animations) but it’s not a competitor for Swift’s native UI.
Speed of coding and time-to-market. Both tools are fast-to-learn and allow in-code error-checking. But: RN is a cross-platform tool, so RN developers build two or more apps while a Swift developer builds one — for iOS. So, in terms of time-to-market, RN wins.
Performance. Swift is capable of tackling very complex features and quickly rendering sophisticated graphics elements. On the other hand, React Native hinders the performance of the apps because of the shallow bridge that is described above. So, Swift does offer superior performance.
Developer hourly rate. $121-$140 per hour for Swift developers, and about $81-$100 for React devs for the USA and Western Europe. For other regions, rates are much lower, but the approximate proportion holds: Swift developers’ services are more expensive than that of React Native engineers.
As you’ve noticed from the article, the choice between Swift and React Native often comes to:
Technical requirements. For Apple-focused applications, projects that require smooth processing of heavy graphics, animation, and native-like UI for iOS, you’ll need Swift. For a project, which requires you to build with various third-party integration and interact with a rich, productive, and mature dev community, use React Native.
The cost you want to allocate to development. React Native devs rates are lower than Swift dev’s rates. Note, that React Native developers still need to use native code — so they should either be a bit experienced in basic Swift and/or Java/Kotlin and know how to build what you would want to build or you should hire part-time help. Make sure to remember to check this one in an interview.
It’s a little bit unfair to compare just Swift (as opposed to Swift and Java or Kotlin) to a cross-platform framework because native development as an approach solves different business challenges than cross-platform one.
Native development should be used when you want to fully use all capabilities of the platform you want to build on and have time and other resources for that. Cross-platform tools are perfect for testing business hypotheses and market demands, good for young ventures and small businesses and medium businesses, and so on.
Hopefully, this article would help you get a feeling of where to move in — and understand better what things impact the functionality of programming tools. So, to answer the question posed in the headline: the best software development tool is the one that helps you achieve your business objectives.