Java Full-Stack Index Q1/2023: Front-End Mobile
See Current Version
The content of this page is identical throughout Q1/2023 - January, February, and March.
Summary for Q1/2023
- Popularity trend: React Native dropped from a 2.9:1 lead over Flutter to a 1.9:1 since last April. Among developers, Flutter leads React Native 2:1 and pulls away (except for Google searches, where both slightly lost in 2022). Xamarin and JavaFX have generally declined for years.
- Don’t build two separate applications with Apple’s and Google’s first-party frameworks. Use a cross-platform framework instead.
- If you already use Flutter or React Native in your project, then keep using them. Otherwise, evaluate a migration. In many (most?) cases, such migration doesn’t make business sense.
- If you start a new project or migrate and have used React before, then start with React Native first and use Flutter otherwise.
- If you start a new project or migrate and have not used React, then begin with Flutter first and use React Native otherwise.
Table Of Contents
- Summary for Q1/2023
- State of the Art
These recommendations are for building native enterprise applications on iOS and Android - forms, data grids, reports. They are not for games or media applications.
Here are the choices in alphabetical order:
State of the Art
Declarative UIs are state of the art. Learn about it here.
Why Popularity - and How?
Picking a popular technology makes our developer life easier: Easier to learn, easier to build, debug & deploy, easier to find jobs/hire, and easier to convince teammates & bosses. Now popularity can make a difference in two situations: When multiple technologies score similarly, we could go for the most popular one. And when a technology is very unpopular, we may not use it.
I measure popularity among employers and developers as the trend between competing technologies. I count mentions in job ads at Indeed for employer popularity. For developer popularity, I use Google searches, Udemy course buyers, and Stack Overflow questions.
The mobile analytics company appfigures analyzes all apps in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. That’s why they can publish a list of how many apps use a certain technology. JavaFX isn’t on the list because it has a <1% market share. So here are the results for the other three frameworks:
React Native wins, Flutters is second, and Xamarin is third. React Native and Flutter have the same share on Android. But on iOS, React Native is 50% ahead of Flutter. Xamarin is way behind with 4% on both iOS and Android.
Employers: Job Ads
The Indeed job search is active in 62 countries. I picked 59 countries representing 69% of the worldwide GDP in 2022, excluding three countries because English word searches proved ineffective there: China, Japan, and South Korea. Job searches demonstrate the willingness of organizations to pay for a technology - the strongest indicator of popularity in my mind. Flutter is the baseline.
This is the first time I exclude China, Japan, and South Korea from the ranking because English word searches proved ineffective there. I adjusted all past numbers as well for this issue, so they are different from past issues. And because of technical difficulties on my end, I don’t have the numbers for October 2022.
For comparison, here’s the last chart version with China, Japan, and South Korea from Q4/2022. React Native and Xamarin (starting October 2021) are generally about a quarter higher now than before.
React Native wins, Flutters is second, Xamarin is third, and JavaFX last. React Native has had quite a slump, dropping from a 2.9:1 lead over Flutter to a 1.9:1 since last April. It’s the only framework that has declined in absolute numbers. Flutter now has 38% more job ad mentions than in August 2021. That’s why Xamarin lost 26% last year against Flutter. From a low base, JavaFX increased enough to hold steady against Flutter’s growth.
Please see here for details, caveats, and adjustments to the job ad mentions.
You can find the detailed search results with links here. They include breakdowns by continents:
Students at Udemy
Udemy is one of the biggest online learning sites. They publish the number of people who bought a course (beyond a certain threshold, possibly around 100k). This shows how many people evaluate a technology. This time, React Native is the baseline.
Flutter wins, React Native is second, Xamarin is third, and JavaFX is fourth. Flutter steadily increases its lead over React Native and now leads React Native 2:1. Xamarin actually lost students and dropped from 30% of React Native’s values to just 19% — maybe some courses were removed? JavaFX has been stable against React Native for more than a year.
Here are the links that show the courses for all and the number of students for some:
Google Trends demonstrates the initial interest in a technology over time. “More searches = better” to me.
Google changed its measurement algorithms on January 1, 2016, and January 1, 2022. That caused spikes for all values, especially in 2022.
This link produces the chart above.
Flutter wins, React Native is second, Xamarin is third, and JavaFX is fourth. Flutter and React Native hit all-time highs earlier this year and have declined since then. Flutter still leads React Native nearly 2:1. JavaFX and Xamarin have declined for 5.5 years.
Questions at Stack Overflow
Stack Overflow Trends shows which percentage of questions at Stack Overflow has a particular technology tag. It is a proxy for using a technology during evaluation and productive use. “More questions = better” to me.
This link produces the chart above.
Flutter wins, React Native is second, Xamarin is third, and JavaFX fourth. Flutter grows much quicker than React Native and leads React Native 2.1:1. Both are off their all-time high values by 5-6%. JavaFX and Xamarin have declined for 4-5 years. .NET MAUI, the new “Xamarin rewrite”, already beats both.
I use the following criteria to recommend one of the two choices - Flutter and React Native:
- Declarative: Declarative is state-of-the-art for front-end development. It’s a draw because both frameworks work this way.
- Safe: Google has the image of killing projects and has multiple competing front-end frameworks. Although I personally think that Flutter will be around, good luck convincing your teammates or your boss! That’s why React Native is my winner here.
- Popular: Flutter leads in three of the four popularity indicators but crucially loses in jobs - globally, there are twice as many for React Native. That’s why I declare React Native to be more popular.
- Mobile functionality: It’s a draw as both frameworks can build the applications we need.
- Libraries: I don’t know which of these two frameworks has the most and best libraries.
- Native Functionality: Flutter is the winner here: It has a lot of plug-ins that provide easy access to native functionality (like the camera or pictures), can show native screens, has channels for publish-and-subscribe communication with native code, and has a C API to top it all off.
- 1 Codebase: It’s a draw because both have one.
- Build, Deploy & Debug: I don’t know which of these two frameworks has the shortest build & deploy cycle and the best debug experience.
Based on these criteria and my ratings, Flutter is the winner, React Native is second. That’s why my recommendation is:
- If you start a new project and have used React for building web applications, then use React Native.
- If you start a new project and have .NET experience, then use .NET MAUI.
- If you start a new project and need to use a library only available in Java, then use JavaFX.
- Otherwise, start with Flutter first and use React Native if that doesn’t work out for you.