What Is React Native? Beginner’s Guide + FAQ

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

An introduction to React Native for all levels of technical expertise.

[Featured Image] Two React Native developers plan a project on a whiteboard.

Whether you want to develop an application in your spare time or become employed as a developer, learning about React Native is an excellent starting point. Studies suggest plenty of opportunities for those interested in mobile application development. The global revenue from mobile applications is expected to reach 613 billion US dollars by 2025 [1]. You can use the article below to find out what it is and how you can use it.

What is React Native?

In software development, a framework serves as a platform for developing applications. React Native is an open-source framework, meaning it’s free for public use. It contains resources like pre-built components, libraries, and reference material. Like the framework of a home, React Native provides the basic structure of an application. Developers can then customize it to suit their needs rather than building the application from the ground up.

What does “native” mean in React Native?

When an application or software is native, it’s written for the computer’s natural operating system (OS). For example, a Playstation 5 game's native platform is the Playstation 5 because it was designed for that specific device and OS. Native-run applications and native code typically provide a better user experience. They perform better and faster because they were created to suit their particular platforms. React Native enables you to render applications natively. In other words, your application will use the same programming platform as a native application, despite not being specially created for that device.

React Native vs. React

React is a JavaScript library. It’s also referred to as ReactJS or React.js. Like React Native, it provides developers with building blocks for development, such as pre-written code and configurations. Unlike React Native, those building blocks are web components rather than native components. When used together, React.js and React Native complement one another. The chart below explores some similarities and differences between React and React Native.

ReactReact Native
JavaScript libraryJavaScript-based framework
Used for front-end web developmentUsed for mobile application development
Developed by the Facebook engineering teamDeveloped by the Facebook engineering team
A virtual representation of the user interface (UI) renders to the browser’s programming interface. This representation is also known as a virtual document object model (VDOM).The UI renders to the native platform’s programming interface rather than creating a web-based view.

Read more: Java vs. JavaScript: What’s the Difference?

What is Expo React Native?

Expo is a framework that you can use to build JavaScript and React Native applications. It includes libraries as well as a set of services and tools designed specifically for React Native development and testing. Expo was created to simplify universal app development for the web and mobile platforms like Android and IoS. 

What is React Native for?

React Native is most famous for its cross-platform development capabilities. Cross-platform development refers to the process of building software that is compatible with more than one type of device and OS. With React Native, developers can create platform-specific versions of components. Instead of building applications natively for each platform, developers can build their codebase just once and use it for both iOS and Android applications. Additional React Native features include:

  • Active community and ecosystem of tools. ReactJS and React Native both have large communities of developers and tech experts. For example, you can ask questions and share insights with the Native community on the Reactiflux Discord channel or attend a React Native Meetup.

  • App performance. React Native enables applications to behave like native applications, which run faster and more efficiently than their non-native counterparts.

  • Code reusability and cost savings. Reusable components are a key advantage of React Native. In addition to cost efficiency, reusing large amounts of code across platforms allows for shorter development time and a simplified development process overall.

Examples of applications built with React Native

React Native is one of the most popular technologies among developers worldwide [2]. The list below compiles a few of the most popular cross-platform apps that use React Native:

  • Facebook

  • Pinterest

  • Oculus

  • Salesforce

  • Airbnb

  • Coinbase

  • Shopify

Working with React Native

Thanks to the open-source nature of React Native, anyone can use it to develop their own mobile projects. However, you can also seek employment as a freelance developer or on an engineering team. React Native developers are software developers who specialize in using the React Native framework to build mobile apps.

A mobile app developer’s typical day will likely involve writing and reviewing code, troubleshooting bugs and defects, and designing user interfaces (UIs). React Native developers typically focus on front-end development but may also work with other development teams to ensure quality across the entire application.

Read more: How to Become a React Developer in 3 Steps

Salary and job outlook for React Native developers

The average total pay for a React Native developer in the US is $95,864 per year [3]. As of June 2023, there are over 52,000 open React Native developer positions on LinkedIn [4]. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates job growth of 25 percent for software developers between 2021-2031 [5]. Compared to the 5 percent median growth rate for all occupations, careers in this field are growing much faster than average.

Read more: React Developer Salary Insights: From Entry-Level to Senior Engineer

Start developing with React Native on Coursera

You can learn React Native from an industry leader in technology with the Meta React Native Specialization. In this beginner-friendly, self-paced course, you'll learn the basic concepts you need for cross-platform application development. You'll gain additional hands-on experience with Javascript, GitHub repositories, and version control. Upon completion of this course, you'll have a Native project to add to your professional portfolio and a certificate from Meta for your resume.

Article sources


Statista. “Revenue of mobile apps worldwide 2017-2025, by segment, https://www.statista.com/forecasts/1262892/mobile-app-revenue-worldwide-by-segment.” Accessed June 5, 2023. 

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