React vs. Swift: Which One Is Better for Your iOS App

React vs. Swift

When developing an iOS app, usually one of the first questions businesses have is whether to use React Native or Swift. While React Native is one of the most successful Javascript frameworks, Swift is another relatively new programming language gaining popularity. 

So similar, yet so different, both of these app development tools can be very useful. However, it can be challenging to determine which option is better for your app.

The main goal of designing an app for your business is to bring your business closer to the audience and offer them something of value. 

Mobile users spend 14% of their time on mobile websites and a staggering 86% on mobile apps. People like using apps because they have great support, allow for better connection brands, and can easily be notified about loyalty or reward programs via a simple push notification. People typically look for transactional uses and features in a brand app, but they also like to see the value that matches their experience with the brand itself and other branded apps. For example, they want to find features such as value-add products or services, having omnichannel access to their favorite brand, and the ability to personalize and customize their experience.

Now, another thing you need to decide is whether a single iOS app will be enough to support your goals, or you will need to expand to Android as well..

With that in mind, let’s explore both of these useful frameworks further, analyze their advantages and disadvantages and see which one would be a better choice and why.

React vs. Swift: Explaining the Terms

It would be fine and dandy to dive into the arguments that X is better than Y straight away, but it would also be irresponsible as not everyone is familiar with these two frameworks. 

What is React Native? 

Simply put, React Native is a framework used for creating device-agnostic apps. It was developed by Facebook and built on JavaScript, which makes it a perfect choice for developing cross-platform applications.

It is an open-source cross-platform development framework for Android and iOS that was born out of necessity. To create and deliver a cross-platform experience to their users, Facebook used to rely heavily on HTML5. They were using the wrong framework (HTML5 is slower than native apps) but had the right ideas. So, they created React Native and got the link they needed to deliver an exceptional user experience across iOS and Android. Android and iOS app development is React’s ultimate target.

Unlike native apps that rely on different programming languages for each platform, the base of React Native is – JavaScript. That allows users to share the code between different platforms, such as iOS, Android, and web apps. React Native is leveraged by Walmart, Shopify, and Facebook apps (among many others).

When it comes to cross-platform native app development, React Native is:

  • Cost efficient
  • Fast and with high code reusability
  • Has a large developers community
  • Supports building apps for the web

What is Swift? 

Swift, on the other hand, is a coding language. It is made specifically for creating native applications for various iOS devices. As such, it’s sometimes viewed as a better choice for developing iOS-specific apps. Created as a one-stop platform for future Apple product development, Apple has developed it to make the most of its hardware, meaning that Swift is purpose-built to leverage all the power that Apple hardware has.

Apps developed with Swift can also be designed to run on macOS, tvOS, watchOS, and z/OS that’s powering IBM Mainframe computers. It is a relatively new programming language (launched in 2014) distributed on Apache license, supports Objective-C code, and Cocoa Touch frameworks.

So, now that we’ve briefly explained the main differences between the two, let’s try to see which one is a better choice and why for your iOS app development.

Swift has:

  • Broad functionality (you get access to all the device’s features and native APIs)
  • Smooth UX, high performance, and excellent responsiveness (because it is tailored for iOS)
  • Compatibility with Apple’s products

Pros and Cons of Using React Native 

Pros of using React Native

  • Faster to build – React Native offers shorter development time, particularly if you’re building apps for both iOS and Android. Since React now offers a plethora of ready-to-apply solutions, using it will significantly reduce the time necessary to create an app. When compared to Swift, building an app with React Native takes about 33% less time.
  • One framework, multiple platforms – without repeating ourselves too much, React Native offers a single framework for multiple platforms. The strongest advantage is that this will significantly cut app development time, but there are still some disadvantages to this, which we’ll discuss further later in the text.
  • Simplified UI – React Native mostly focuses on the mobile UI. This makes it easier to predict user paths and spot any potential bugs. Needless to say, the same can be achieved with native development, but it will include significantly more steps.

Cons of using React Native

  • Debugging and compatibility issues – this may be a surprise to many, but React Native is still in its beta phase. This means that developers will sometimes come across various difficulties regarding debugging tools and even package compatibility. But since React Native is continuing to evolve, these issues will surely be addressed and resolved in due time.
  • Limited custom modules – again, just like with the previous con, React Native lacks certain components. Additionally, there are even some underdeveloped parts of the tool as well. But chances are that you won’t even need to use any of these when developing your app as it still offers a plethora of modules that are completely functional and perform great.
  • The need for native developers – Finally, it’s important to mention that any time a native app is being developed, you’ll also need to look for a native developer’s input. The majority of the iOS app can be created with React Native, but there will be some things native developers will need to create from scratch.

Pros and Cons of Using Swift

Pros of using Swift

  • Swift is open-source – as an open-source language, Swift is available to everyone. It also has a great community behind it where developers of various skill levels and experience can share their experiences with others. Needless to say, this greatly reduces the resources that would otherwise be spent on bug analysis.
  • Offers fast development – as the name itself suggests, Swift offers far faster development than other coding languages when iOS apps are concerned. That being said, using Swift will enable significantly faster app development.
  • As well as easy maintenance – simpler syntax that Swift is based on allows for easier reading and understanding of the code.

Cons of using Swift

  • It’s still relatively young – since Swift is only about six years old, it still experiences some common growing issues. This also means that the community is still not as big, diverse and experienced as some other communities are. But all of these issues will resolve themselves over time.
  • Has some compatibility issues – since this coding language is evolving so rapidly, it sometimes experiences back-compatibility issues. What this means is that each new version of Swift won’t be compatible with its previous versions. So, for instance, projects that are done on Swift 1.0 can’t be further maintained in Swift 2.0 or 3.0.

React vs. Swift: Main Differences

Many different factors will affect the success of your app. This powerful market-penetrating tool will, of course, need to be properly designed and well-optimized. On top of that, you also need to consider app promotion. 

With the help of some of the best digital media marketing companies, you can ensure that your app not only reaches the market but establishes itself on it as well. But you first need to ensure that you create the best possible app for your business.

To some, it may seem a bit odd that we’re discussing and even comparing React Native with Swift when iOS app development is concerned. The answer to the question of “Which is better for iOS app development, React or Native?” may seem quite straightforward – but it’s actually not.

1. Performance

When talking about React Native vs. Swift comparison, we must first pay attention to the performance of the two when CPU consumption, memory usage, and GPU speed is concerned. 

For instance, it’s worth mentioning that while Swift is highly efficient when CPU consumption is concerned, it underperforms and is even inefficient when memory usage and GPU speed are in question. 

Alternatively, React Native performs inefficiently with CPU consumption, but it’s highly to moderately efficient with memory usage and GPU speed, respectively.

Solely based on performance, one could argue that React Native is a better choice than Swift. But the fact of the matter is that performance is not the only parameter that the decision should be based upon.

2. Development

As mentioned earlier, React Native allows you to develop device-agnostic apps. What this means in terms of development comparison is that up to 70% of the code will be easily shareable cross-platform, which will reduce development time, thus significantly cutting the cost.

On the other hand, if you’re only aiming at creating an exclusive iOS app, Swift will enable you to create a lightweight app. However, the development team will need to create the code from scratch. This means that every app design element will be created separately, which will affect the development timeframe.

3. Speed of Coding

When it comes to the speed of coding, it’s important to define whether you’re looking to create an exclusive iOS app or you’re looking to leave more room to expand to other platforms in the future. Swift provides the most time-efficient way to build an iOS app.

However, if there’s any possibility that you’ll be expanding to Android as well sometime in the future, the last thing you want to do is to have to create two separate apps. 

In such a scenario, React Native offers a far more time-savvy solution. This is due to the fact that you’ll be able to use the majority of your already existing code when developing the second version of the app.

4. Complexity

Another important thing to mention is the complexity of the app itself. When developing an iOS app for your business that will be highly complex and offer various features, it’s always best to go with the native coding language – Swift. But if you want your app to look, behave and work the same for both platforms, choose React instead.

If we’d to get down into the weeds, Swift is the framework to go with when developing complex apps. Swift has less frequent source code updates and it is optimized to make the most of Apple’s products, which is why complex apps are best written in Swift. React Native can also be used for building complex apps, but some things that are trivial in Swift can be quite difficult in React. React Native is not as mature as Swift and it changes quickly, so things may break easily.

Let’s take Airbnb for example. In 2016, they were one of the early adopters of React Native and they had built up numerous screens using this framework (with many third-party integrations). However, they abandoned it in 2018, stating that it didn’t work well for their app and was immature, and went with Swift because it was more sustainable and economical for their business.

But this is how things work with startups – they never start building correctly from day one. Once they start scaling fast, reach millions of users, and hit their expansion plateau, a complete app rewrite becomes sensible. Therefore, React Native is often used for regular apps with fewer graphics, while Swift is used for more complex projects (it’s also a bit costlier than React Native). 

The Bottom Line

In the end, there really is no clear-cut answer whether React Native outperforms Swift or not. As emphasized, the choice will highly depend on the type of app you’re looking to create, as well as your company resources – both time and money-wise.

If you’re looking to hire a talented React developer (check our salary guide here) or a Swift developer, we can help you. As a remote recruitment agency, we not only specialize in helping companies hire tech professionals; we help them find elite remote developers who will match or succeed their expectations. Contact us, and let us help you find the talent you deserve. 

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