Building Apps With Expo & React Native: Pros & Cons

Table of Contents

What is Expo?  

Expo, in a nutshell, is a set of tools and services built around React Native that allow developers to create powerful, scalable, and appealing mobile applications.

expo homepage to give a visual explanation of what is expo react native

It simplifies the building process by providing pre-configured environments, allowing developers to direct their focus primarily on the core functionality of their apps. Expo allows developers to write code once and use it across multiple platforms. 

Comparing Expo to Alternatives 

When compared with alternatives like React Native CLI, Cordova, or Xamarin, Expo stands out in its ease of use and rapid development process.

FeatureExpoReact Native CLICordovaXamarin
LanguageJavaScriptJavaScriptHTML, CSS, JavaScriptC#
FrameworkReact NativeReact NativeNone (uses WebView).NET
PerformanceNear nativeNear nativeGenerally slower than nativeNear native
CommunityActiveActiveEstablished, but decliningActive
Ease of UseHighModerateModerateModerate
DevelopmentFast development cycleStandard development cycleStandard development cycleStandard development cycle
Access to APIsAccess to most native APIs via ExpoFull access to native APIsLimited access to native APIsFull access to native APIs
OverheadHigher overhead due to managed workflowLower overheadModerate overheadModerate overhead
PluginsExtensive range of Expo-specific pluginsFull access to React Native ecosystemLarge range of plugins availableExtensive range of .NET libraries
Platform SupportiOS, AndroidiOS, AndroidiOS, Android, Windows PhoneiOS, Android, Windows
Learning CurveLowModerateModerateModerate
Community SupportStrong community supportStrong community supportDecent community supportStrong community support
DeploymentSimplified deployment processStandard deployment processStandard deployment processStandard deployment process
Offline SupportExcellent support via Expo SDKAvailable with additional setupAvailable with additional setupAvailable with additional setup
CostFree to start, paid for advanced featuresFreeFreeFree

While these alternatives permit extensive customization, they require detailed knowledge and longer development times. 

Expo, on the other hand, takes care of much of the complex under-the-hood processes, creating a seamless development experience. 

U/GetsHighDoesMath says it best:

developer on expo subreddit sharing the hierarchy of expo app development


Pros of Using Expo For App Development

1. Cross-Platform Compatibility

Here’s where the advantage of code sharing across platforms and devices truly shines: significantly reducing time for cross platform development.

In fact, we’d argue this ability is its greatest advantage.

You can develop an application once in JavaScript using Expo and use it on both Android and iOS.

developing cross platform mobile application in javascript using expo

This capability shortens the development process significantly and reduces the potential for platform-specific bugs. 

2. Faster Development 

Expo accelerates the development process substantially.

Developer-friendly features like live reloading and hot module replacement, coupled with its extensive library of APIs and services, make it a real time-saver.

It eliminates the need to continuously rebuild your project or manually link libraries, which considerably boosts development efficiency. 

3. Access to Native Features 

With Expo, you can easily access device-specific features like:

  • the camera
  • accelerometer
  • push notifications

Just to name a few.

It has a range of pre-built modules and components that help you quickly integrate these native device features right out of the box, paving the way for more interactive and feature-rich apps. 

4. Community and Ecosystem

As with any robust and open sourced framework, Expo boasts a vibrant, helpful, and growing developer community that all contribute towards extending its capabilities and filling in gaps.

official expo developer community invite in discord

Check out the official Expo Discord server!

Being open-source, it continuously benefits from contributions across the globe, meaning an ever-evolving and upgraded ecosystem.

As a result, finding solutions to common issues becomes easier, and learning from others’ experiences can significantly enhance your productivity. 

Cons of Using Expo For App Development

Despite its several advantages, there are some limitations to consider with Expo.

  • Higher overhead due to managed workflow
  • Limited to the features provided by Expo
  • Dependency on Expo for updates and features
  • Less flexibility compared to React Native CLI
  • Dependency on Expo’s build servers for app builds
  • Limited access to native modules and libraries
  • Difficulty in ejecting from Expo for more control over the project.

Overall, however, given the incredible popularity of Expo, developers generally accept these potential drawbacks and see using Expo as a net advantage to cross-platform app development.

Ultimately Expo is a Top Developer Choice

In conclusion, Expo provides a user-friendly, efficient and comprehensive platform for creating remarkable apps with React Native.

While perfectly suited for some projects, it might have limitations for others.

Determining its suitability depends on the app’s specific requirements, the development team’s proficiency, and the project timeline.

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