An iOS Developer’s Journey Into React Native
XCTest is great, but it feels like a legacy testing framework. It’s hardly different from JUnit, limited to one
setUp method and one
tearDown method, and has no ability to automatically run tests on save. Alternatives like Quick/Nimble are great and modern, but basic features (like running an individual test) will remain missing without first-party support built into Xcode.
git clone to a copy change. Incremental builds could be anywhere between 20 seconds to 3 minutes — just long enough to lose focus or get distracted by Twitter. The simulator restarting, and having to manually navigate back to your controller is painful.
Enter: Hot Reloading.
Performance and “Feel” of React Native
Even when I began to hear about the improvements in the non-native development environment, I scoffed. I remember how awful PhoneGap applications felt and how difficult working with Xamarin was (it may have improved over the years?). I remember how the mobile applications produced with those technologies didn’t feel right and how they were slow to scroll or transition.
But, even though React Native definitely has some increased overhead, its performance is fast enough to the point where I’d be hard-pressed to know which apps I use are native or react-native. And when it comes to doing something that requires performant code, you can write that code natively in your React Native application — meaning, that you can live with a better development environment, faster cycles, hot reloading, and better tests in 99% of cases. For the remaining 1% of cases, it’s easy to fallback to the native environment that you’re likely already comfortable with.
The future of React Native isn’t as certain as the future of Swift. There’s little fear of Apple dropping Swift tomorrow, next week, or next year — but who knows if React Native will still be an active project in five years? These fears are fair, but realistically it doesn’t make sense to think about the technology of five years from now. Pull up your phone. Page through your apps. How many of those apps have existed for more than five years, and of those that have, how many of them haven’t gone through a complete re-write or re-architecture recently?
Years ago, when I chose to become an iOS developer it was because I was building for device that felt intimate and personal, but it was primarily because the developer experience was fantastic. The community support was great, and the ubiquity of the tools and frameworks made it so that iOS developers were all using a shared set of tools. Xcode and its tooling had advantages over web development environments.
Today, the better experience lies with React Native — when it comes to testing, development, tooling, and arguably even IDE-performance.
Over the next few months I’ll be documenting my journey into the world of React Native from the lens of an iOS developer, where I’ll uncover and share all of the great, not-so-great, and just-okay things about React Native development.
- Intro to React Native for an iOS Developer — Artsy Engineering
- makeitopen.com · Building the F8 App
- Swift vs. React Native Feels — Ash Furrow
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