Facebook Releases React Native for Android

React Native for Android is here. Facebook open-sourced the "code once, write anywhere" tool so developers can more easily create apps for the web, iOS, and now Android all from a single app. 

Facebook released React Native for iOS about six months ago, and React Native for the web back in 2013. React Native for Android completes the trilogy, which lets app writers recycle significant portions of their code as they create for the different platforms. 

"React Native brings what developers are used to from React on the web — declarative self-contained UI components and fast development cycles — to the mobile platform, while retaining the speed, fidelity, and feel of native applications," explained Facebook in a blog post

The original goal was to help its own developers create faster. Facebook found its developers enjoyed using React for the web, so bringing it to Android and iOS -- the two largest mobile operating systems -- was a natural next step. Facebook later decided that everyone could benefit from making React open source. Not only does it give developers a chance to familiarize themselves with the platform before they join Facebook (improved engineer onboarding, says the social network), open-sourcing the platform led to meaningful contributions from the community. Moreover, the toolset in React allows companies to hire fewer engineers and speeds up development and time-to-market cycles. 

Developers versed in React do not necesarily need to now the intricate ins and outs of developing directly for both Android and iOS. The iOS version lets people who understand JavaScript create iOS apps even if they aren't versed with Swift and Objective-C. The Android version released this week takes the opposite approach. It lets people who are well-versed in Apple's developer languages create apps for Android and the wider web. React manages JavaScript libraries, SDKs, and APIs, and provides standard platform components such as UITabBar on iOS and Drawer on Android. 

Is it effective? Facebook says, "Hell yes!"

For example, the company set out to build native Ads Manager apps for Android and for iOS. It expected the project to take 18 months. Thanks to React, it completed both in half the time -- five months to create the iOS version and then three more to port it to Android. 

Facebook admits that React has a steep learning curve, but contends that even if developers leave Facebook they'll still be familiar with a tool that easily writes apps for Android, iOS, and the web. 

React Native for Android is available from GutHub.

Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.

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