- What is the difference between a web app framework and a mobile app framework?
These are all valid and important questions that developers worldwide ask daily. When you've read the whole article, you'll have all those questions answered and more.
We will tell you about JS frameworks used for mobile app development instead of those used to develop web applications.
You don't want to end up in a situation where you've invested months learning a new framework just for it to disappear suddenly.
Start working on a long-term project, and the framework you've been using suddenly stops getting updates or has any issues that aren't resolved. You will find yourself or your business in a very difficult situation.
About the author
Hi, my name is Peter Herzog, and I've been a full-stack developer for seven years. I've worked both in web development and app development. I'm very passionate about software development revolving around AI technologies.
With many happy clients under my belt, I'm here to share my thoughts and opinions on this topic based on my experience and the current state of the programming industry.
If you want to become a mobile app developer, check out my top list of recommended JS frameworks that you should pick from as a career option.
What we'll talk about in this article?
What's the difference between a JS framework for web apps and a JS framework for mobile apps?
- Web App Frameworks: These are designed to help build and organize web applications, primarily targeting desktop and laptop users. These frameworks often include templating, routing, and data binding, to create a seamless user experience.
- Mobile App Frameworks: These are tailored for building mobile applications that can run on iOS, Android, and other mobile operating systems. They focus on providing a native-like experience, optimizing performance, and offering access to mobile device features such as a camera, geolocation, and accelerometer.
- Web App Frameworks: Web app frameworks prioritize performance within the context of web browsers, focusing on rendering speed and efficient data handling.
- Mobile App Frameworks: Mobile app frameworks prioritize performance on mobile devices, emphasizing smooth animations, fast load times, and minimal resource usage.
- Web App Frameworks: Web app frameworks often come with pre-built UI components that are optimized for desktop browsers and follow web standards.
- Mobile App Frameworks: Mobile app frameworks offer UI components that mimic native mobile elements, providing a more native-like experience for users.
Access to Device Features:
- Web App Frameworks: Web apps have limited access to device features, depending on browser permissions and web APIs.
- Mobile App Frameworks: Mobile apps can directly access a wide range of device features, such as camera, GPS, and offline storage, allowing developers to create more feature-rich applications.
It is an extremely popular programming language because of how easy it is to use and how many other programmers use it. It will not vanish overnight. And from the looks of it, it will be around for a very long time as it is used to shape our future and the future of our descendants.
While we all know that if you tried using the Vanilla method to create even a simple app, you would no doubt have a very bumpy journey with lots of headaches, having you question your choices in life.
Because of those drawbacks, many JS frameworks always pop up left and right. Some gain traction and become famous, and some are left in the dust.
And choosing the right one can sometimes be very intimidating.
Probably no surprises here. And we can see that the interest keeps growing – meaning either an increase in programmers worldwide or an increase in particular interest in those specific five listed. Perhaps both.
The apps work on all supported architectures. It does not require experience in native app development. Electron is an open-source project founded in 2014 and is maintained by an active community and the OpenJS Foundation.
- Apps formed using Electron are good alternatives to native desktop apps.
- Electron apps can access, read, and write data on a computer's file system.
- Chromium engine is used for user interface creation by Electron, which gives access to storage, developer tools, and more.
- Takes up large space due to the use of the Chromium engine
- Files are not encrypted.
- Apps created with the framework need to be made cross-platform
- The main process APIs of Electron help to interact with the interface of the operating system used
- Customizing the app window, controlling app menus, and setting alerts is easy.
- The auto-updater module powered by Squirrel helps release updated versions that are sent to Windows and macOS users.
- The community-supported tooling can be used to create tooling for specific platforms, like Apple Disk Image (.dmg) on macOS and more.
- Provides support for Mac App Store, Microsoft Store, and the Snap Store
Electron is a JS framework that runs on Chromium, providing an efficient app-building environment. Users can integrate their favorite libraries and frameworks from the front-end ecosystem or use custom HTML code.
2. React Native
It also enables the creation of platform-specific versions of certain components, allowing for the simple use of a single codebase across several platforms.
Facebook launched this community-driven JS library in 2018.
- Supports both Android and iOS
- Low code
- Declarative API for predictive UI
- Compatible third-party plugins
- Overall performance is lower than native
- Cannot utilize the full potential of native apps
- Cross-Platform Development: With React Native, developers can write code once and use it across multiple platforms such as iOS, Android, and web.
- Native Look and Feel: React Native enables developers to build native mobile apps with the same look and feel as apps built with native tools.
- Hot Reloading: This feature allows developers to make changes to the code and see the results instantly, without having to recompile the entire app.
- Component-Based Architecture: React Native uses a component-based architecture, which allows developers to reuse code and build complex UI elements more efficiently.
- Third-Party Library Integration: React Native integrates seamlessly with third-party libraries, which means that developers can leverage pre-existing libraries and tools to build their apps.
- Declarative Coding: React Native uses declarative programming, which makes it easier to understand and maintain code.
- Performance: React Native offers excellent performance and speed, which is essential for building high-quality mobile applications.
- Community Support: React Native has a large and active community of developers who contribute to the framework, develop tools, and offer support to other developers.
React currently sits at the top of the world in web development. Not so much in mobile app development, though. While it is simple to use, it has its limitations when it comes to performance issues and achieving a full native-like experience. Undoubtedly, those issues will be tackled and resolved under a new version of the React Native library or under a new framework name. We will undeniably see what the future holds!
Cordova can be used to write a single, one-time code that works on various platforms, including Windows, Android, and iOS. It saves the time and effort needed to write codes separately for each platform. Developers can create hybrid mobile apps for each platform with Cordova, just as with a native app.
- Provides a single code for use in different platform mobile apps
- Hybrid app development takes lesser time when compared to developing an app for every native platform
- Easy to maintain and simple to update
- The hybrid apps are slower than the native apps
- Compatibility problems may occur when used on different devices and platforms
- Plugins may require forking or modification for proper functioning
- Reusable code for multiple platforms
- Support provided for offline scenarios
- Ability to access native device APIs
Apache Cordova is a beneficial platform for mobile developers looking to use an app on multiple platforms with a single code. Web developers looking to deploy a web app to multiple app store portals and mobile developers interested in mixing native app components will find this framework advantageous.
As an open-source framework for native iOS, Android, and web apps, Expo helps build a single project that can work on multiple devices natively. Used by more than 400,000 developers, Expo uses a single codebase with genuine native capabilities.
For developers planning on using react native, Expo is an ideal choice. It provides multiple beneficial app-building and scaling features, including live updates, web support, instant sharing, and more.
- Easy to use and provides immediate results
- Live reload is possible in the development phase.
- Library linking is not needed
- Does not support native modules
- Background code execution support is not present.
- Takes up a large space
- Develop apps without using Android Studio or Xcode.
- Can provide big upgrades without native changes
- Can develop performant websites with a similar codebase
- The expo npm package enables a suite of crucial features for building React Native apps and works with any React Native projects.
Expo helps combine the best features of mobile and web platforms. It provides crucial features needed for developing and scaling an app. Its features are free and optional. Their use is independent of one another, and unused features do not take up additional space on the app.
The Ionic framework is an open-source user interface toolkit. It helps to build modern and high-performance cross-platform apps using a single codebase.
- works on all platforms
- Helps in creating functional apps quickly
- Brings UI standards, native app features, and the flexibility of the web fully
- Requires less development time
- Has slow performance due to the use of a single codebase
- It may not be compatible with third-party plugins or use them in other frameworks
- Uses advanced Web and JS features that work fast on all the latest mobile devices
- Has integrated dark mode and helps adhere to web development best practices
- Has an adaptive user interface with more than 100 pre-designed components, base themes, and typography.
Ionic is designed for fast performance on all the latest mobile devices. It helps develop apps with a small footprint. Additionally, it integrates seamlessly with all front-end frameworks like Vue, Angular, and React and without framework also.
Capacitor allows building universal apps and provides access to full native SDKs present on each platform and deploys them to the App Stores. It is easy to add custom native functionality using a simple plugin API or with the help of existing Cordova plugins.
- Provides enhanced developer experience
- Offers progressive web app support and backward-compatible support for Cordova plugins
- Easy to integrate with native APIs
- It may not be compatible with all Cordova plugins.
- The community and ecosystem are new.
- Provides a consistent set of web-focused APIs that help in upholding web standards
- Works seamlessly on mobile apps and desktops
As a cross-platform native runtime, Capacitor helps in the easy development of high-performing mobile apps that work on Android, iOS, and more with modern web devices. It helps in building web-first hybrid apps without hampering access to native SDKs.
Tauri has bundle binaries for all major desktop platforms with binaries for mobile platforms in the pipeline. It is built on Rust, which helps improve performance and security. The framework helps build reusable plugins to extend Tauri core and has enhanced file interaction security.
- Provides superior performance
- Has a self-updater feature that quickly integrates into an application without depending on third-party libraries
- Does not provide browser compatibility
- The resources and ecosystem are still new
- Rust knowledge is necessary for creating an advanced design
- It is a cross-platform framework
- The bundle size is less than 600 KB
- Floss relicensing is possible using Tauri
- Works with any front-end framework, so using another stack is not needed
- Easy to build the Tauri binary for Linus, Windows, and macOS
- Provides cross-platform notifications with poly-filled web API
Tauri uses the WebView libraries of the underlying operating system, but the libraries are not part of the final executable. Instead, they are linked only at runtime, reducing the bundled app's size and performance.
NativeScript helps small- or large-scale companies to build cross-platform mobile apps. One of the key benefits of NativeScript is that developers can reuse existing code and tools.
It is very easy to modify, troubleshoot and update newer versions.
- Hot Module Replacement
- Easy to set up
- We can build rich animations, graphs, charts, and lists
- Developers can use any view as the root of an application
- Lazy coding
- No Dom or HTML support
- Must be familiar with Android and iOS APIs to access certain features
- Debugging in NativeScript can be difficult
The question on everyone's mind is, "Is it worth learning NativeScript?". Well, that depends on what your goals are. If you are trying to build a simple app that is composed of functionalities common to both Android and iOS, then yes – go for it. But without some serious future project planning, you might run into a roadblock if you are not careful.
If you want to use Angular for web components, or if you are looking for a custom native UI but you don't know Objective C or Java, then again – go for it.
But, as promised, here are two more bonus entries. There are simply too many great frameworks out there, and I couldn't resist mentioning some potentially amazing and rising superstars!
Quasar is an open-source Vue.js-based framework. The MIT-licensed framework helps web developers to create responsive apps or websites quickly. It helps in easy code writing and simultaneous deployment.
A single codebase can be deployed in a mobile app, web, or an Electron app. While using Quasar, it is not necessary to have heavy libraries like Bootstrap, as the framework can meet its needs internally without a big footprint.
- Offers best support for mobile and desktop browsers
- Great community on its forum and the Discord chat
- Developed by a single person, which can affect its future growth
- Has one of the largest sets of quality, quick, and responsive web components
- Quasar app extensions help to build complicated setups in websites or apps easily.
- Offers right-to-left (RTL) support for its components and the developer's code
- Provides a unified module definition version, allowing developers to add CSS, JS, or HTML tags to the project without any build step
- Provides support for many platforms, including Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Windows, iOS, macOS, Linux, and more
Quasar has efficient, focused, and complete documentation to make it easy to use by developers. The single code for all platforms ensures app development is finished in record time with the best practices and advanced CLI (Command Line Interface).
NW.js allows the use of all Node.js modules from DOM and helps to write apps with web technologies like CSS3, HTML5, and WebGL. It fully supports browser features, Node.js APIs, and all third-party modules.
- It can be used in development tools, multimedia applications, and web service clients.
- It can be used for video games.
- Implementation of the Graphic User Interface around the existing CLI tools is possible.
- The size is large, making it expensive when compared to native apps.
- Distributing the framework via App Store or Windows Store is not easy.
- The platform is still new and not fully free of bugs
- Shows excellent performance as it runs in the same thread as WebKit
- Easy to port existing web apps to desktop apps
- The native user interface API allows the implementation of native lookalike apps using menus, file binding, tray icons, and more.
- Easy to package, debug, and deploy on Linux, Mac OS, and Windows
NW.js is very useful in multimedia apps and web service clients. However, it is not useful in situations where graphic coherence is crucial. The framework is popular as most applications built on the code have already been distributed.
11. Svelte Native
Svelte Native is a Svelte-based framework that allows Svelte developers to create native Android and iOS applications.
Because there is no wrapper, you may access all available device APIs.
- Supports iOS and Android
- Very easy to use when it comes to creating things yourself
- Less boilerplate code
- Apps perform faster
- More reliable and less prone to bugs and crashes
- Small community compared to other frameworks
- No widespread support
- Very small open-source ecosystem
As is always the case, there is no correct answer for which JS framework you should choose apart from the one you like. A lot of users worldwide enjoy using Svelte Native to develop mobile apps.
12. Sencha Ext JS
It provides high-performance UI components such as pivot grids, trees, lists, forms, HTML5 calendars, and D3 adapters, among others, to assist in getting the best results possible.
- Supports iOS and Android
- Code-compatible and adaptable.
- Provides flexible touch features.
- Crashes and bugs
- It can sometimes be hard to debug to see if the problem is with the framework or the user
Sencha Ext JS has a steep learning curve and can have issues that are sometimes known to be troublesome to deal with. With new updates, bugs and crashes are being dealt with, as with any other framework that has issues.
The reason why Sencha is so low on this list is not that it is bad by any means. It has a considerable fan base - the reason it is so low is that there are easier-to-learn and more secure options.
If you aren't already an expert using Sencha, then it can be hard to justify why you should pick Sencha over something like React Native or AngularJS when building mobile apps.
Bonus: JS frameworks that are primary for web development but can be used for mobile app development
However, Node.js can be a part of the mobile app development ecosystem. For example, it can be used to create backend services that a mobile app can interact with. Additionally, Node.js is often used in conjunction with tools and frameworks for cross-platform mobile app development, such as React Native or Ionic.
Node.js for Mobile Apps toolkit integrates Node.js into mobile apps. While it includes plugins for React, Native, and Cordova, it will also let you add a Node.js background worker to any mobile app – iOS or Android.
But with its planetary popularity, it will surely overcome any obstacle and evolve to adapt to any future that is coming to it.
- Supports iOS and Android
- Easy to learn
- Easy scalability
- The benefit of full-stack JS
- Support of a colossal community
- Compatible third-party plugins
- If built correctly, it offers high-performance
- Inability to process CPU-bound tasks very fast
- Not suitable for heavy-computing applications
Overall, the Node.js framework has made tremendous advancements in the accessibility of mobile application development throughout the years. Many businesses and developers use Node.js.
Huge apps such as PayPal, Uber, LinkedIn, eBay, and Netflix were all developed using Node.js. So, this shows you the power of this framework and its capabilities.
The framework and its use have greatly helped businesses. Node.js made it easier to create high-performance applications with greater flexibility than what you would get with other frameworks.
It also has a strong debugging platform for creating scalable apps for many platforms and devices. An overall amazing choice for a mobile app development framework because of its versatility and effectiveness.
Express.js is a free and open-source Node.js framework. It has features, tools, plugins, and packages that help to simplify development processes. It was produced and first released in 2010 by TJ Holowaychuk, popularly known as Express.
It is not directly used for mobile app development. It is built on Node.js ideas and practices for developing web applications. Express.js is essential for building corporate applications, particularly for automation and technology integration.
Express.js is a backend component of the MEAN development stack (MongoDB, Express JS, Angular JS, and Node JS). This indicates that it is a comprehensive app development solution.
- Supports iOS and Android
- Mobile apps are efficient
- Reduces coding time by half
- Callback nightmares
- Lack of standardization
Express.js comes with all the tools you'd need to build a successful enterprise-level application. And it is easy to scale, adapt, and it would be both reliable and dependable.
If you want to make a dynamic mobile app that allows millions of users to share data, or you want it to handle thousands of user requests – then you should probably take a closer look at Express.js.
Vue.js is primarily a web development framework and it is commonly used for building single-page applications and complex user interfaces for web browsers. However, Vue.js can also be used for mobile app development, especially for building hybrid mobile applications.
It is very fast and easy to learn compared to other JS frameworks. It allows for fast rendering mobile apps that increase performance by Vue automatically optimizing your code for you as it compiles.
So even if you do not optimize the app perfectly, once you render it, Vue will ensure you get as much juice as possible from your developed application.
This is one of many reasons why users prefer Vue over other frameworks; it enables the programmer to focus on his creativity while staying productive. This is a sure enabler for an enjoyable development process.
- Refined Reactivity System combined with Declarative Rendering
- A very popular JS framework
- Does much of the heavy lifting for you
- Can add on modules you need to the main library for your project based on preferences
- Huge community
- Lacks scalability
- Lacks plugins
- Too few Vue experts out there
With a huge community, however, you are guaranteed faster and easier growth and are safer than new and upcoming frameworks, no matter how much better they are. People like to stick to what they know and what has been tried and tested. And Vue.js is just that!
Nuxt.js is the most user-friendly Vue framework on the market today. It enhances the capabilities of Vue.js by including server-side rendering functionalities. A complete Vue.js client-side rendering application, a thorough static generated application, and a monolith application may all be created.
Nuxt.js, which comes with enterprise-ready front-end development architecture, overcomes the challenge of organizing your Vue.js project. Its features are already designed to construct corporate apps utilizing industry standards.
- Supports iOS and Android
- Able to deploy SEO-friendly and fast full-stack Vue apps
- SSG and SSR versatility
- Auto code splitting
- Lack of plugins
- High traffic can slow page speeds
- Debugging is hard
- Still a small community
Nuxt.js is a well-known SSR and statically produced Vue front-end framework. It solves the problem of establishing and configuring SSR in Vue applications and makes enterprise application development faster by following best practices in organizing and architecting large-scale Vue apps.
If you want to create universal apps without the hassle or statically render Vue apps with universal benefits, then Nuxt.js should be your framework of choice.
Nuxt.js Is kind of a big deal in the app development field, and we are eager to see what it brings to the table in the future and what else it can do to improve the way we develop mobile apps.
However, AngularJS is often used as a foundation for building hybrid mobile applications using tools like Apache Cordova or Ionic.
It has aided in the building and testing of apps using MVC and MVVM designs. AngularJS is a popular mobile app development framework due to its plug-and-play components, native-like experience for hybrid mobile apps, and directives.
- Supports iOS and Android
- Two-way data binding
- Personalized widget development
- Dependency injection
- Not degradable
You can't go wrong with a framework that has the Google name behind it. Learning is more difficult than other frameworks on this list, and job opportunities might limit you in certain areas. But there is no lack of it and no lack of demand.
AngularJS, Angular 2, or whatever new name it will be known as is blessed to be an amazing framework that will pioneer others with new technologies and new ingenuities to come.
Next.js is primarily a web framework based on React that allows developers to build server-rendered React applications. While it is possible to create mobile apps using Next.js, it is not the primary use case for the framework. Next.js can still be a valuable tool for certain types of mobile app development. For example, if you want to build a mobile app that has a web component, such as a Progressive Web App (PWA), then Next.js could be a good choice. Additionally, if you are building a mobile app that requires server-side rendering or has complex routing needs, Next.js could be helpful in those cases as well.
Next.js brings server-side components to enable SSR. The key takeaway here is that up until now, SSR was difficult to use for the average joe, but now thanks to their ingenuity, handling server-side components just became an easy-to-use feature.
A lot of these features are inspired by Remix, a Bonus entry JS framework on this list that you can read about below.
- Data Fetching
- Nested Routing
- Easy-to-use SSR by using caching
- No way to write API routes
- Huge changes usually invoke criticism and unrest because you must relearn everything you knew so far
Huge positive changes are good in the long run. But if you are the programmer that is now stuck migrating 20k lines of code, then you won't be as excited for the new changes – no matter how much better the new product might be. People sometimes like sticking with the old, tried and tested because they like the feeling of comfort and reliability.
Qwik was built by a dream team of developers – Misko Hevery(Creator of AngularJS, Angular at Google), Manu Almeida(Creator of Gin and Stencil), and Adam Bradley(Creator of Ionic and Stencil).
What Qwik introduces to web and app development is something called Resumability.
Resumability completely eliminates the need for hydration, a technique used by almost every popular framework today, such as Angular, Next.js, Nuxt.js, and others, in order to make server-rendered websites fully interactive.
This sounds too good to be true – but it works! And it delivers!
- No more need for Hydration
- Has potential for perfect performance scores
- Still new and unproven
- Needs more testing, a bigger user base, and smart decisions to increase its growth potential
Even though some other frameworks have recognized the hydration problem and managed to create their own ways of dealing with the issue, such as Astro, which brings a technique called "partial hydration" to the table, which selectively hydrates, Qwik completely removes it from the equation.
It has huge potential, and seeing how this will affect other frameworks built by giants such as Google and Facebook is extremely exciting. Every day a new framework is created and uploaded, and if only a small portion of them brought such amazing technologies with them, we would end up speed-running toward the future!
Remix is a free and open-source project developed by the team behind React Router. While it wasn't always free, they changed their business model to attract more users. It is still a premium React-based framework that allows you to render code on the server, which tends to result in better performance and SEO – as opposed to using React only on the client side.
Since Remix is built on React, you can potentially create mobile web applications or progressive web apps (PWAs) that run in mobile browsers and can be installed on mobile devices. These mobile web applications can provide a user experience similar to native mobile apps but will run within the browser.
This is nothing new and is a problem that has already been resolved by frameworks such as Next.js. However, Remix goes about it in a slightly different way that I think you'll appreciate much more.
It only does server-side rendering. It doesn't do static site generation or incremental static regeneration as Next.js does.
Since Remix, you're not building jam stack applications – it goes all in on SSR, which means you'll have to have an actual server to run the app, but at the same time, it'll be much more sutured to handling dynamic data.
Remix is ideal for apps that have lots of dynamic data that lives in a database somewhere.
- Only server-side rendering
- No static site generation
- No incremental static regeneration
- Very fast
- Needs server to run apps
- Overkill for static page apps
Remix is still new and has an exciting but uncertain future. Looking at how frameworks evolve to tackle old and new problems in unique and original ways is always blissful.
These types of frameworks are inspirations for other, bigger frameworks out there – for instance, it was a huge inspiration behind the Next.js 13 overhaul. Without these types of tinkerers, such as Remix, we wouldn't have the progression that we have today!
You need to plan out what kind of mobile application you want to develop and pick a framework that will help you create it most easily and reliably and make it efficient but also stable and fast. All those factors can determine the future of an app, and yours is no exception.
They are amazing frameworks, and whichever you select for your career path – you won't make a bad choice.
And no one is stopping you from learning more than one.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below. And if you have any interests that you would like me to cover – I am happy to take suggestions, and if my expertise covers that question.