NativeScript vs React Native: Choosing a Cross-Platform Framework

NativeScript vs React Native: Choosing a Cross-Platform Framework

Today’s JavaScript developers have a lot of options for building mobile apps. This is where the cross-platform mobile development comparison comes into play. Often, NativeScript vs React Native are stealing the limelight. Why? There is no need to risk your time and learn new programming languages or development approaches. You can build both Android and iOS applications with JavaScript-based frameworks.

At the same time, businesses have to be aware of which technology to use and when. Many entrepreneurs put these frameworks on their radar. Especially, those who are on the lookout for 

  • smarter ways to spend the budget 
  • building the native-like apps 
  • reducing the release time

What’s special about the NativeScript vs React Native? What benefits and drawbacks they got? And why is it so hard to make a choice between those two? If you have trouble deciding, this article is tailor-made for you. Keep on reading.

NativeScript: key points review

The rapidly changing market and competition impact the technologies and frameworks too. NativeScript strives to enhance the development of well-crafted, cross-apps largely due to business demand.

What is NativeScript?

NativeScript is an open-source framework for building native mobile apps. As a rule, it uses JavaScript and CSS to render the UIs and ensure native-like experience. 

NativeScript attracts users with its customized tech stack that may work with Angular, Vue.js, or TypeScript. Back in 2014, Progress Software EAD (formerly Telerik) helped this framework see the world. Currently, it has 166 contributors on GitHub and works on extending the community.

How does NativeScript work? 

We’ve already mentioned that NativeScrip uses JavaScrip to craft user experiences. Let’s dig a bit deeper into other aspects. Working with this framework, you are supposed to declare the UIs with the help of XML-based language. The styling requires a subset of CSS to achieve a delicate balance of what is fresh and what is effective.

So how does it actually work? NativeScript built includes runtimes, core modules, CLI and plugins. The combination of these parts helps you access the native APIs of the platform right away from JS, TypeScript, Angular or Vue.js.

Where can you run your NativeScript? To execute the JavaScript commands, you can use the V8 virtual machine for Android, and JavaScriptCore virtual machine for iOS.

It’s important to note that NativeScript widgets are unified. Basically, they run equally on Android and iOS devices. They keep the tradition of a standard styling (i.e. Material Design or Cupertino). 

Here is also a quick refresher of what is NativeScript CLI. That is a command-line interface for creating, building, and running apps using.

At the NativeScript marketplace, you can find the code and page samples, as well as the app templates.

Who is using NativeScript?

The showcase of NativeScript apps includes MyPumma, Raiffeisenbank, California Court Access App, Dockbooking, Regelneef, Daily Nanny, GeoAgro, BitPoints Wallet, and many others. 

The framework shares the problem and goal understanding of businesses that work in the next industries

  • retail and shopping
  • banking
  • communication
  • government services
  • booking services
  • agriculture
  • lifestyle
  • education

React Native: quick overview

Everybody wants better results in less time. If you share this idea, then you can’t afford to overlook React Native.

What is React Native?

On the whole, It is a free, open-source framework for building cross-platform apps. On the technical side, React Native uses JavaScript as a language and React library as a component source. It hit the mobile development world twice in 2015. First, it was in March: Facebook released the iOS version. Later, in September, when the Android version appeared on GitHub. Speaking of the community, React Native has 2083 contributors and it is backed by Facebook too.

How does React Native work?

The basis of React Native is the reusable UI components. That makes the framework all-wheel-drive to efficient work for both iOS and Android apps in most cases. The codebase sharing is heading to a nice round 100%, so there is a place for platform-specific components too. 

To ensure the consistency of the layouts, React Native employs Flexbox. It works as it does in CSS on the web. A subset of CSS helps to tune the overall styling. However, JavaScript objects and properties declare the style.

How do things work? After you compiled your code, it creates a thread that functions like a “bridge”. The React Native render requests the actual Android/iOS code to the native elements it needs. There are four types of such “bridges”-threads:

  1. Main thread deals with native platform UI rendering
  2. JavaScript thread executes the JavaScript code and makes API calls. 
  3. Native modules thread reaches the platform-specific APIs.
  4. Render thread creates the OpenGL commands employed during the UI drawing.

The community support of React Native also deserves separate mentioning. If you want to upgrade your skills and work with seasoned developers, be sure to check out these open-sourced projects.

What is a React Native showcase?

No wonder that React Native lies in the core of Facebook, Facebook Ads, Facebook Analytics and Instagram. Let’s not forget that this cross-platform framework brought a kind of smashing success to many other applications. To enlist a few: Adidas GLITCH, Vogue, Salesforce, Pinterest, UBEReats, Bloomberg, Tesla, Skype, Tencent QQ and so on.

The apps built on React Native performs mainly in social networking, communication, retail and shopping, news and lifestyle, business and photo & video categories.

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NativeScript vs React Native: which is more popular?

What does it take to innovate in a highly competitive industry? One of the answers is to improve customer experience with mobile apps. Here is where cross-platform app development comes onto the stage. NativeScript vs React Native comparison takes a lot of attention from developers and businesses. Why? Four reasons to prove it:

  1. Cost-effectiveness. Android and iOS applications are built at the same time by the same team.
  2. JavaScript-driven frameworks enhance learning for developers and simplify employee hiring for business.
  3. MVP is headed to the market faster in comparison to the apps built with Kotlin/Java or Objective-C/Swift. 
  4. Enhanced post-release maintenance and quick feature updates.

React Native vs NativeScript are both popular as they both are built on JavaScript. This language was the most popular in 2019 due to the StackOverflow survey

nativescript vs react native

Talking about web frameworks, React.js has overrun Angular/Angular.js and Vue.js. It turns out that developers prefer React.js.

react native vs nativescript

At the same time, React Native got 10.5% among 58,543 respondents in the frameworks, libraries and tools category.

react native angular

The riddle is fixed. React Native gets more attention and shares higher popularity than NativeScript.

What is the difference between NativeScript and React Native?

The choice between two JS-based frameworks isn’t easy. Both are cross-platform and deliver pretty much the same benefits. Even so, there are some differences in how NativeScript and React Native work and impact on your app. So the mission is clear: compare the following aspects to ensure that you have zero doubts:

  • aim
  • price
  • learning curve
  • development workflow
  • performance

The aim

NativeScript and React Native are trying to reduce the resources and improve performance. Both support native-like mobile app development built with the same codebase. Still, the aims and focus of these frameworks vary. 

NativeScript sets the priorities on the code: you write the code once, then you can use it everywhere. So the same code works properly on Android and iOS apps.

React Native put the accent on learning: you learned how to write code, now you can use it everywhere. This framework goes for high-performing apps that got attractive and comprehensible UI. So each platform (i.e. Android and iOS) has an outstanding user interface.

The price

NativeScript is an open-source project and has no fees to pay. But, if you decide to use Sidekick cloud services, you’ll have to pay for their subscription (from $19 user/mo). The subscription offers community support in your app development.

React Native, in its turn, is an open-source framework; you can use it and its libraries free of charge.

The learning curve

Neither NativeScript nor React Native is an innovation to a developer with some JS experience. Think about it this way. At the start, NativeScript will feel easier to work with for developers with Angular background. While the transition to React Native will be smooth for programmers with a React background.

The development workflow

React Native has a kind of game-changing aspect in development speed. Unlike NativeScript, this framework comes with reusable components. What does it mean? Once you have created the UI component, it can be used on various app screens.

As for the development workflow, these frameworks share the same approach and steps. 

  • Create a new project
  • Use components or widgets to build UIs
  • Apply layout and customize styling
  • Check the app on the emulator/simulator
  • Add required functionality
  • Install packages
  • Run tests and debug the app
  • Commit changes

Well, you get the idea of how the workflow looks like. With the expense of Chrome DevTools, you can debug your app written either NativeScript or React Native. One drawback is that the tool doesn’t have an element inspector. Its in-app view inspector is useful only for simple apps. To fix this weakness, NativeScript devs debug with the extension: Visual Studio Code and React Native developers use React Native Debugger or Reactotron.

The performance

To get quick access to native APIs, NativeScript apps have one thread model. Besides, the framework is based on Angular, VueJS, and JavaScript, so the app may be stuck if the intensive code is executed.

React Native performance is a multi-thread approach: JS and UI run on different threads. That way speeds up the access to the native APIs. React Native apps use virtual DOM to refresh and synchronize UI components. So the React-based apps run faster than NativeScript-based.

React Native vs NativeScript: how to choose a right framework

While the growth and expansion of applications have been going on for the last years. For better or worse, cross-platform mobile apps are disrupting the business landscape of every industry. So the technology stack should be handpicked too. Let’s look at the two lists that will help to define the framework to shape your idea in an app.

NativeScript is the best choice for the apps

  • that are expected to use JS or/and TypeScript
  • with the common functionalities for iOS and Android
  • where you are going access web components with Angular or Vue.jsweb app

You’ll stay ahead of the game with React Native if your app

  • should have a native-like performance on Android and iOS
  • will include UI components along with Kotlin/Java and Objective-C/Swift in its codebase
  • will access hardware functionalities without 3rd party extensions
  • is expected to get the MVP to market within 3-4 weeks

NativeScript vs React Native: pros and cons

The hallmark of any popular application is polished features and smooth performance. So let’s recap the strength and drawbacks of NativeScript and React Native.

What are the strong sides of NativeScript?

  • Cross-platform app development: once written, run everywhere.
  • The knowledge of JS, CSS, and XML creates a solid starting point for building apps with NativeScript.
  • NativeScript uses Command Line Interface (CLI).
  • The application works and feels like a native one on all platforms and devices.
  • NativeScript supports existing native libraries.
  • The framework updates its version and features to comply with the mobile OS versions.

Where does NativeScript fall short?

  • This framework doesn’t support HTML or DOM. That deprives developers of using some libraries (e.g. jQuery).
  • The community keeps on building documentation and resources.
  • With NativeScript, you need to know the native Android and iOS APIs to access the device hardware and other platform-specific features.
  • Debugging is more complicated than in React Native. It has to be done on a device or emulator.
  • Some UI components aren’t free of charge.

What are the benefits of React Native?

  • It allows building a cross-platform app with a rich, native experience despite the platform type and device.
  • React Native employs the virtual DOM to improve app performance.
  • The auto-reload option shows the changes immediately, without the app recompilation.
  • JavaScript and React as a core make the learning curve straightforward in comparison to NativeScript.
  • The community is large and backed with Facebook support.
  • The app can be updated without the Play Market/App Store approval.

Limitations of React Native to deal with

  • The apps employ more device memory (compared to native apps).
  • React Native performs better on iOS than Android.
  • If your app needs a device camera or onboard hardware, you’ll have to add some platform-specific modules.
  • The device-related issues may take more time to fix them.
  • React Native documentation could be more explicit than it is at the moment.

Over to you

From the points above, you can see that NativeScript and React Native ease the lives of developers. Now it’s your turn to outline your objectives, business ideas, and select a framework to shape it into an app. 

NativeScript would be the best choice for rendering the Angular or Vue.js web apps to mobile versions. React Native is good for those, who just start to work in this area and have no prior experience in mobile development.
In case, you lean towards the React Native, make sure you drop us a line. Apiko’s team will gladly consult you on how to work out the most of this technology for your cross-platform app.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is React Native actually native or hybrid?

The framework is rather a mix of both. It’s neither fully native nor hybrid. Mobile apps look and feel like native ones. But if the application needs access to camera or other device-specific features, the native code should be applied along with React Native UI components. That makes the hybrid part of this framework.

Is NativeScript faster than React Native?

No, React is faster due to employing the Virtual DOM.

Is React Native the best framework?

It depends on the requirements and functionality of the app you want to build. React Native serves best for the apps that
  • supposed to use the exposed APIs
    • aim to check MVP and POC (Proof of Concept)
    • should be lightweight and cover lifestyle, fashion, business news
  • serve for event booking or fulfill the eCommerce purposes
  • have limited resources

What Should I Know to Start with React Native?

You need to have the basic knowledge of HTML, CSS, HTML DOM, Node.JS, and understanding of ES6, API, HTTP protocol, and web requests.

Should I learn React.JS before learning React Native?

Long story short: choose the environment that is closer to your experience. If you got experience with mobile app development, then you better start with React Native. You will learn the basic things of React development with this framework. In case, you have worked with HTML and CSS than React.JS may feel easier to start with. Using familiar technologies will give you more confidence before switching to React Native.