Why You Should Migrate Your App From Ionic, Cordova, or PhoneGap to React Native

Yashu Mittal

A few years back, hybrid apps built with Ionic, Cordova or PhoneGap were a perfect and cost-effective alternative to native development. However, with the technology moving forward, they might not meet users’ expectations anymore. React Native is a good alternative that can save your app from going under.

Differences Between Ionic, Cordova, PhoneGap, and React Native

Ionic, Cordova and PhoneGap are hybrid apps. Cordova is a framework which runs a JavaScript app in a WebView that has additional native extensions, which is the definition of a hybrid app. Ionic is based on Cordova and comes with Angular. It has set of standard controls that mimic native controls. PhoneGap is a distribution of Cordova with a few custom packages and tweaks.

They are all essentially websites embedded in a mobile app through what we call a WebView, whereas apps built with React Native are not mobile web apps, HTML5 apps, or hybrid apps. They are written in JavaScript but are rendered using native components, which means that the user experience will generally be closer to other native apps, because they will conform to the standards imposed by the operating system. React Native comes with better performance and smoother animations. Using React, we can build truly mobile apps indistinguishable from apps built using Objective-C (native iOS apps) or Java (native Android apps).

The biggest problem with hybrid apps is their performance. The web was originally built for web pages, not the complex apps we produce today. Hybrid apps are going to run just fine on high-end phones but still not as smoothly as you would want. Low-end phones are where the biggest problem lies.

Most smartphone owners spend the majority of their time using only a few apps, and they expect any new app they try to be as polished as Facebook, YouTube, or Uber. With high user expectations, hybrid apps can’t live up to such benchmarks. They offer poorer user experience with slower animations, lack of platform-specific gesture recognition, and keyboard misbehaviour.

Another problem is that building a hybrid app, you automatically inherit all the issues that the web has. This means bugs that only appear in one or more browsers or styles working differently across different browsers. Another thing that the popularity of hybrid apps is on the decline. Both PhoneGap’s and Ionic’s showcases demonstrate a noticeable shortcoming in premier apps. In contrast, the list of apps that have migrated from hybrid/native to React Native is long. The list includes Facebook, Airbnb, Instagram, Skype, and many others. It would be quite challenging to find a high-end app that has moved from native to hybrid.

Main benefits of RN over Ionic/Cordova/PhoneGap

The biggest benefit that React Native offers is its much better performance than in the case of hybrid apps. In React Native, all views are Native, so apart from higher efficiency, you get the Native feel with super smooth animations. On top of that, the hardware functionalities are processed by the specific platform and not by Cordova. React Native renders native views without using Webview, so you don’t have to worry about any problems with browser compatibility. Finally, React Native is based on React, a framework with much better support – both from Facebook and the community. Thanks to the ongoing support, React Native stays up-to-date, offers higher reliability, and gives you a superior knowledge base, where you will be able to find out how to develop apps and solve problems.

See also: React Native FAQ


React Native gives you the advantage of hybrid apps – that is cost-effective multiplatform development – but doesn’t bring along their disadvantages such as sluggish performance or poor user experience. React Native has already been adopted by many big players such as Uber, Airbnb or Instagram, which is a social proof for its reliability. Nowadays, a successful mobile application should be fast and highly responsive. Otherwise, users will abandon it.

Building hybrid apps was good in the past, when we had limited resources and the technology wasn’t mature enough yet, but now, in 2017, when we have React Native, I wouldn’t take the risk of developing an app in Ionic/Cordova/PhoneGap and would move my app to React Native instead. We can help you do this!

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