Developers
July 23, 2020

Swift vs React Native: Which Should You Choose for iOS Development?

Two powerful development methods battle it out for the title of ‘best choice for iOS programming.

Few devices have had such a transformative effect on multiple industries as the iPhone. Since it was introduced in 2007, it has revolutionized the mobile phone market, the photography industry and software development.

For the first time in years, development firms of all sizes were on level ground, eager to cash in on the potential gold mine that would result from a successful app.

As time has passed, however, there have been significant changes in the process of developing iOS software. For the first year of the iPhone’s life, developers could only release web-based applications. That all changed in 2008 with the release of the App Store, allowing fully native apps.

There are a couple of ways to create iOS applications. One of the most popular is using Apple’s own programming language, while the other is to use React Native. The best option depends largely on a developer’s experience and skillset, the kind of app being built and what the developer values, in terms of features.

Swift: Apple’s Language of Choice

Since 2008, when Apple opened iOS development to include native apps, the most popular way of creating those apps has been to use Apple’s programming languages and application programming interfaces (API). Initially that involved using Objective-C, the primary language for both iOS and macOS development.

In 2014, however, Apple released Swift. The newer language had the advantage of benefiting from the languages that came before it, with its creators taking concepts from C#, Ruby and Rust. As a result, the new language had a much simpler syntax than Objective-C and proved to be a hit with many iOS developers.

Advantages of Using Swift

One of the biggest advantages of Swift is that it is the official language for iOS development, with the full backing and support of Apple. As a result, Swift is the most “future-proofed” programming language.

Swift is also a strongly typed language. As a result, it is far easier to catch bugs before the application is built.

Concise syntax is another big advantage of Swift. This means that, on average, it takes less code to do something in Swift than it does using React Native.

Swift generally does better when dealing with graphics effects as well. This can be a big factor, especially for developers of games and other graphically intense apps.

Disadvantages of Swift

While Swift is seeing some use in other fields, such as server programming, the language is primarily used for creating software on Apple’s platform. As a result, the number of experienced Swift programmers pales in comparison to JavaScript developers.

Similarly, there is no fast, effective way to bring a Swift-based app directly to Android.

React Native

React Native was created by Facebook as a framework for mobile app development, and was part of Facebook’s efforts to provide a better experience on mobile apps, rather than relying solely on HTML.

While React Native uses JavaScript to build a mobile app, the resulting app is not a packaged web app, or some type of hybrid. The result is a native application, that uses native widgets and UI elements. The only difference is that the developer is using JavaScript to access those elements, rather than Swift.

Advantages of React Native

One of the biggest advantages of React Native is its JavaScript roots. JavaScript is widely popular, meaning there is no shortage of highly skilled developers to choose from. This also means there is a much bigger development community to tap into and benefit from.

Similarly, because it uses JavaScript to build a native app, developers can reuse large portions of their code from one mobile platform to another, or even from web to mobile. Many developers report 70, 80 and even 90% code reuse when using React Native. This can result in significant time and cost savings when developing for another platform.

While React Native does not do as well as Swift in some areas, such as graphics effects, it has the ability to integrate native code where needed. This makes it easy to overcome any deficiencies in the framework.

Disadvantages of React Native

One of the biggest disadvantages of React Native is the fact that it’s not the officially supported way of creating iOS applications. As a result, while it does an admirable job of creating a native app, there will almost always be a lag time between when Apple releases new features and when the framework supports them.

Swift vs React: Which Should You Choose?

The ultimate answer to that question depends largely on what you are looking for in a development environment and programming framework.

If you want the very best in performance, integration and future-proofing, Swift is the better choice.

On the other hand, if you are primarily a web developer, or you want to easily develop applications for both iOS and Android, then React Native is the way to go.

Ultimately, however, either choice will allow you to create beautiful and powerful applications for iOS.

TagsSwiftReact Native
Matt Milano
Technical Writer
Matt is a tech journalist and writer with a background in web and software development.

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DevelopersJuly 23, 2020
Swift vs React Native: Which Should You Choose for iOS Development?
Two powerful development methods battle it out for the title of ‘best choice for iOS programming.

Few devices have had such a transformative effect on multiple industries as the iPhone. Since it was introduced in 2007, it has revolutionized the mobile phone market, the photography industry and software development.

For the first time in years, development firms of all sizes were on level ground, eager to cash in on the potential gold mine that would result from a successful app.

As time has passed, however, there have been significant changes in the process of developing iOS software. For the first year of the iPhone’s life, developers could only release web-based applications. That all changed in 2008 with the release of the App Store, allowing fully native apps.

There are a couple of ways to create iOS applications. One of the most popular is using Apple’s own programming language, while the other is to use React Native. The best option depends largely on a developer’s experience and skillset, the kind of app being built and what the developer values, in terms of features.

Swift: Apple’s Language of Choice

Since 2008, when Apple opened iOS development to include native apps, the most popular way of creating those apps has been to use Apple’s programming languages and application programming interfaces (API). Initially that involved using Objective-C, the primary language for both iOS and macOS development.

In 2014, however, Apple released Swift. The newer language had the advantage of benefiting from the languages that came before it, with its creators taking concepts from C#, Ruby and Rust. As a result, the new language had a much simpler syntax than Objective-C and proved to be a hit with many iOS developers.

Advantages of Using Swift

One of the biggest advantages of Swift is that it is the official language for iOS development, with the full backing and support of Apple. As a result, Swift is the most “future-proofed” programming language.

Swift is also a strongly typed language. As a result, it is far easier to catch bugs before the application is built.

Concise syntax is another big advantage of Swift. This means that, on average, it takes less code to do something in Swift than it does using React Native.

Swift generally does better when dealing with graphics effects as well. This can be a big factor, especially for developers of games and other graphically intense apps.

Disadvantages of Swift

While Swift is seeing some use in other fields, such as server programming, the language is primarily used for creating software on Apple’s platform. As a result, the number of experienced Swift programmers pales in comparison to JavaScript developers.

Similarly, there is no fast, effective way to bring a Swift-based app directly to Android.

React Native

React Native was created by Facebook as a framework for mobile app development, and was part of Facebook’s efforts to provide a better experience on mobile apps, rather than relying solely on HTML.

While React Native uses JavaScript to build a mobile app, the resulting app is not a packaged web app, or some type of hybrid. The result is a native application, that uses native widgets and UI elements. The only difference is that the developer is using JavaScript to access those elements, rather than Swift.

Advantages of React Native

One of the biggest advantages of React Native is its JavaScript roots. JavaScript is widely popular, meaning there is no shortage of highly skilled developers to choose from. This also means there is a much bigger development community to tap into and benefit from.

Similarly, because it uses JavaScript to build a native app, developers can reuse large portions of their code from one mobile platform to another, or even from web to mobile. Many developers report 70, 80 and even 90% code reuse when using React Native. This can result in significant time and cost savings when developing for another platform.

While React Native does not do as well as Swift in some areas, such as graphics effects, it has the ability to integrate native code where needed. This makes it easy to overcome any deficiencies in the framework.

Disadvantages of React Native

One of the biggest disadvantages of React Native is the fact that it’s not the officially supported way of creating iOS applications. As a result, while it does an admirable job of creating a native app, there will almost always be a lag time between when Apple releases new features and when the framework supports them.

Swift vs React: Which Should You Choose?

The ultimate answer to that question depends largely on what you are looking for in a development environment and programming framework.

If you want the very best in performance, integration and future-proofing, Swift is the better choice.

On the other hand, if you are primarily a web developer, or you want to easily develop applications for both iOS and Android, then React Native is the way to go.

Ultimately, however, either choice will allow you to create beautiful and powerful applications for iOS.

Swift
React Native
About the author
Matt Milano -Technical Writer
Matt is a tech journalist and writer with a background in web and software development.

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