Why React-Native: Part One

A series about where we came from and where we are now in mobile development.

In this series, we will go back to the time before the smart phone.  We’ll look at how the industry changed with the introduction of the smart phone and how development for Apple and Android phones have changed over the years.  We’ll also discuss the challenges companies face in keeping up with mobile trends and some of the solutions to those problems.  Finally, we share why React-Native is currently the right, first choice, for nearly any new mobile project.

The world of mobile development has come a long way over the last 20 years.  The first 10 years could be considered the dark ages of mobile.  It was the time of flip phones and T9 typing.  Every carrier had their own operating systems, languages, and hoops you had to jump through to get software on their phones.  The end result for the user was an expensive app that didn’t really do much.  And for developers, unless you were an established software company, you had little chance of being able to afford to develop for those early phones.

Keep in mind, this was also the era of the Palm Pilot.  So, software on your phone didn’t matter as much.  You had a phone for phone calls and a Palm Pilot for mobile software.  Writing software for the Palm Pilot was much easier, but there was still no centralized way to distribute that software making it difficult for the user to download.

When Palm OS started making its way to phones, it was the first real game changer.  It still wasn’t easy to get palm software, but it was worth the effort.  The Blackberry was Palm’s major competitor, and quickly won out in the business market.  It had a closed ecosystem controlled by RIM, but it was an email powerhouse and was as secure as mobile could get at the time.  However, both of these platforms were soon to be just a footnote with what was to come next.

Apple announced the iPhone and, from there, the term “smartphone” was born.  It’s not that earlier devices were dumb, but they certainly paled in comparison to what Apple had just presented.  A year later Google announced Android and the smartphone wars began.

Apple’s offering was simple, we have one phone, one carrier (at least in the U.S.), and we’ll give you what you want even though you didn’t know you wanted it.  This went over great with Apple fans and the part of the market that was tired of fiddling with their devices.  They just wanted something that worked, and the iPhone was there for them.

Android’s offering was an open source operating system that any carrier could adopt and change.  The carriers loved this since they no longer had to have a different OS for every phone, and they could still brand it anyway they wanted (something Apple did not allow).  But there was a downside to Android — with no standardization, developing for the phone quickly became a nightmare.

This is how the world was introduced to the smart phone.  Tune into part two where I’ll talk about my personal journey into this industry and how Apple was able to win over a die hard hater.