Mobile Metamorphosis

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Consumers are adopting new technologies at light speed and great customer experience is no longer appreciated, it’s expected. It’s difficult for companies with digital products and services to keep up. They are at risk of being disrupted by more nimble, innovative competitors that can deliver new products with great customer experience at rapid speed and scale. This threat is particularly pertinent when building native mobile applications.


Designing, building and managing native applications across multiple devices is extremely slow and expensive. But why is this the case and how can we solve it? The answer is React Native, a framework which I believe will re-define mobile development for companies and consultancies alike.


Why are native apps slow and expensive?

The proliferation of native applications has returned us to a world similar to pre-web times. Companies such as Apple and Google will always try to distinguish themselves from each other, so it’s not surprising that such efforts gave rise to different proprietary operating systems. The unfortunate result of this landscape has been dedicated teams for each platform, slow delivery times, huge maintenance costs and an in-flexibility to adapt to rapid consumer demand.

React Native allows teams to build like they would for the web.

React Native, developed by Facebook, allows teams to build native apps much in the same way they would build web applications. It is what Facebook calls a horizontal platform. It differs from cross-platform solutions such as Cordova which tout the ability to “write-once, run anywhere” but that suffer from poor performance and weak customer experience.

React is what Facebook describe as “learn once, write anywhere.” In other words, once you learn React, you can then use that knowledge to write code for any platform – React Native being the platform for native apps.

React Native allows sharing across application program interfaces (APIs), tools, languages and huge code bases. However, it also works seamlessly with native development so when you want to take advantage of proprietary capabilities or need to tweak performance, you can. This also provides the added bonus of being able to leverage existing native code should you not want to throw it away and start from scratch.

React Native provides all of the consumer benefits of native development (including offline capabilities and high performance), but it also provides organisations with a myriad of other benefits, including:

  • The ability to have one development team for all devices

  • Quick and easy application updates

  • Continuous deployment capabilities

  • The power to reuse a huge amount across all platforms

  • The flexibility to do multivariate testing without waiting for App approval

  • All of this results in fast and cost-effective deployment of great customer experiences and the ability to adapt quickly to ever-changing consumer demands.

Why should you bank on React Native?

The adoption of React Native both is accelerating, with more and more investment pouring in. Facebook is banking the future of its own native applications on React Native. Outside Facebook, many Fortune 500 companies as well as startups are using technology for their apps. I fully expect that its future will be bright and its adoption within the developer community robust.

According to Redmonk, JavaScript is the world’s most popular language. It’s used on over 88% of all websites, runs on pretty much every device on the planet, and continues to rapidly evolve. React, a JavaScript library, has seen huge global adoption – not only within the open-source community, but also with many large organisations such as Netflix, Airbnb, Uber and the BBC. React Native provides all of the benefits of React, but with the added ability to leverage the advantages of the native environment. Additionally, React Native is part of an amazing eco-system of complementary tools such as Relay and GraphQL. 



Where is the proof?

Facebook is building more and more of its own native applications in React Native. They have started migrating whole portions of the core Facebook application (the world’s most used app) into React Native. They have also built a new ads manager application entirely in React Native across both iOS and Android, with a single developer team and with both applications sharing 85%-90% of the same code. The Oculus Go App is another 100% React Native example. The Engineering team at Instagram has been experimenting for the last two years with React Native to allow product teams to ship features faster through code sharing and higher iteration speeds. This is staggering.


React Native projects at Red Badger

At Red Badger, we’ve helped to rebuild Tesco’s UK and International grocery sites in React and were able to repurpose the new website as an iOS and Android prototype app over the course of a single weekend. We also delivered this year’s Pride In London App using React Native, and currently working on a number other projects for our clients. The power is obvious to see.


If you have a mobile project in mind, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch at hello@red-badger.com

 

This article was originally published on SoDA report in 2016. The article above is an updated version.

Illustration by Taiwan-based illustrator, Kuocheng Liao