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The State of the Mobile Market: React Native Supremacy, the Fall of Ionic and What To Expect from Flutter?

The choice of whether to use a cross-platform or native technology when building a mobile application in 2022 isn’t very difficult. Cross platform technology will be the right choice in 90% of cases – with exceptions coming only in cases of very specific performance needs or particular native functionality that isn’t available.  The real choice is between different cross-platform mobile development tools.  The  list of technologies includes a wide array of futuristic sounding words like Xamarin, Cordova, lonic, React Native, Flutter, Unity, NativeScript, PhoneGap, ApacheFlex, Kendo, Kivy and others. 

There are really only 5 technologies in this expansive list that merit your attention.  According to the results of a developer survey published by Statista in 2022 the top 5 tools based on their market share in 2021 were Xamarin, lonic, Cordova, React Native and Flutter. This list can be divided into two groups – those losing popularity (Cordova, Xamarin, Ionic) and those gaining popularity (Flutter, ReactNative) Why is this the case?  And which technology will be the ultimate winner moving forward?  We will explore those questions below.

Let’s start with the losers.

Xamarin was created in 2011 as an open-source cross-platform mobile applications framework for building responsive iOS, Android and Windows applications all sharing the same C# code base.The estimated code reusability rate of about 80% offered a very efficient experience for those building with a focus on a Windows based audience.. After an acquisition  by Microsoft in 2016 huge hopes were put on the technology., Since then it has failed to live up to expectation and has been losing popularity steadily. The latest research shows that in the past 3 years Xamari's market share has fallen from 26% to only 11%. One of the common concerns about Xamarin is that build and run times may be too slow for the realities of the 2020s.  In practice, the reality of Xamarin performance rarely has lived up to theoretical expectations.  More specifically, it is hardly possible to finish a production quality project that works on both Android and iOS without bugs. In light of these challenges and with the rise of ReactNative and Flutter…it might be wise to hold off on building your next application with Xamarin. However, NET MAUI which was launched in 2022 (and described by Microsoft as the next evolution of Xamarin) has the potential to raise the former Xamarin technology from the ashes. But that doesn’t seem so likely.

Apache Cordova was created and introduced by Nitobi in 2009 and purchased by Adobe Systems in 2011 with the goal of providing mobile application developers access to Javascript APIs which offer access directly to device functionality (i.e. camera, gyroscope, etc). By combining these APIs withUI frameworks like jQuery Mobile or Sencha Touch, a mobile application can be developed with only the use of basic web technologies. In the early 2010s, this was a very innovative idea and allowed for vanilla Javascript and older JS libraries to be used to build apps. Since the “Javascript Framework Revolution” of the mid 2010s (Angular, React, Vue), Apache Cordova isn’t  distinctive or exceptional in terms of development technologies anymore. Cordova announced its retirement from ongoing support in October 2021 which means it definitely isn’t the best choice for starting a new application moving forward.

The third technology in the group that is losing popularity is Ionic.  The platform was founded in 2012 and has become one of the most widely used hybrid application frameworks available on the web. It enables developing mobile applications using the languages of the web: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.  It was first released in 2013 as a complete SDK for hybrid mobile development. The original version was built on AngularJS and Cordova, while the latest versions have been rebuilt allowing developers  to choose their preferred Javascript framework: Angular, React or Vue.js.  This begs the question– why has a really popular framework used in more than “five million applications”(source: Ionic Website)  dropped its market share to only about 16% in 2021?

A major reason is that the architecture of Ionic requires  that there is a Cordova/Capacitor-like software layer which acts as a bridge between Ionic’s web functions and the iOS/Android native application libraries which is a major dependency.   Ionic also has a very limited number of built-in plugins and if there is no available plugin for a native functionality, you’ll need to write your own plugin. Ionic is not capable of using Native plugins without transforming them into JavaScript.  Another challenge for Ionic is the frequency of releases and a situation where subsequent versions of a library or functionality have contradictory documentation. This requires developers learning Ionic to depend heavily on more experienced Ionic developers to get answers to questions about which documentation is correct. In some cases,  more experienced Ionic developers seem to have concluded that a better decision would be to switch to another framework with less potential troubles in terms of support, plugin availability and maintenance (based on 2022 statistical trends). In spite of these challenges, Ionic is not a bad technology and can still be a useful option if your goal is getting a new product to market quickly.  It allows for very rapid development.  Its declining popularity is a bigger risk than problems with the technology itself.

Even more important than the pros and cons of Xamarin, Cordova and Ionic, the fact is that much better frameworks have come along.  This pattern follows the common historic software pattern of inevitable evolution where older technologies are replaced with ones that more specifically meet developer and end user needs.. It’s safe to say that cross platform development is currently  a competition between two participants; React Native and Google Flutter.

React Native is an open-source JavaScript framework launched by social media king Facebook in 2015.  The main advantage of React Nativeis that it allows the creation of cross-compatible mobile applications using only JavaScript.  Unlike Ionic, it does not rely on a third party API to access device functionality.  This is built in.   It has intuitive architecture, hot reloading, quick development timeframes, good performance and code reusability between iOS, Android and web platforms. There are also ready-made components which can be used instead of coding from scratch which can save developers  considerable time. The framework also has a large community ready to help new users with any issues they may have.  One limitation of React Native is that it provides only UI rendering and device access APIs. This means that the framework relies on third-party libraries, namely JavaScript libraries, which come with various security vulnerabilities in highly sensitive cases. This needs to be considered when working with data sensitive applications (i.e. banking data).  These issues can typically be resolved even if you are working with sensitive data and React Native is your preferred choice.

During the last couple years of guiding technology choices at ScrumLaunch, our work and results support the thesis that React Native is a great choice for cross-platform application development in 2022. Given that popular apps such as Instagram, Uber Eats, Pinterest, Wix and Coinbase all use React Native there is no doubt about its supremacy over other frameworks.

Flutter is the newest technology of the bunch, launched in December 2018 by Google. The platform can be described as a complete SDK, including a rendering engine, ready-made widgets, testing and integration APIs, etc. Flutter applications are written in the Dart language.  From the most optimistic perspective, you might believe Dart is  positioned as an alternative or even replacement to JavaScript. One of the language creators Mark Miller said that “JavaScript has major flaws that cannot be fixed and this is the reason why Dart was created”.

Google describes Dart as  “a client-optimized, object-oriented programming language” which is capable of compiling into native code for mobile and desktop as well as into JavaScript. Since Dart compiles directly to native code it doesn’t require any additional bridge to communicate with mobile  platforms as doReact Native and Ionic. This considerably improves deployment times and speeds up overall application performance. Within the Flutter SDK there are also built-in widgets which serve as building blocks that can cover almost all aspects of development. Flutter allows the ability to customize these widgets or create your own. The framework offers automated testing tools  specifically for unit tests, widget tests, and integration tests. Debugging in Flutter is conducted via Dart DevTools which is used to inspect layout, analyze performance, debug applications, etc.  As a result of Flutter’s supersonic growth in just a few years and Google’s ongoing support, Flutter is definitely expected to take roots in the development community for years to come.  . Flutter’s continuing growth in mobile market share provides strong evidence of this ongoing momentum within the developer community.

Research from Statista places Flutter as the leading cross-platform mobile development framework in 2021 beating outReact Native by only 4%. If you are building a mobile application in 2022, choosing either Flutter or React Native would be great options because of the mix of performance, robust community support and positive future outlook (this suggestion is based on ScrumLaunch’s 6 years of delivering mobile apps).

At ScrumLaunch, we are continuously analyzing and investing in new technologies, monitoring their growth and assessing their pros and cons based on our customer needs.

Author:  Maryna Kharchenko

Maryna is research analyst at ScrumLaunch responsible for tracking the latest trends in the technology industry and providing insights to our clients and the broader startup community.


Maryna Kharchenko


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