Apple to Android
ICON Creates App For Both iOS and Android Using New UI Framework

Mobile apps aren’t just the next big thing: they are the big thing. Mobile software is now an ever-present part of our daily existence, and just as dynamic as the apps themselves, are the ways they get implemented. Kevin Vitale, ICON’s Director of Mobile Development, knows this better than most.

“You have to stay on top of these things,” Kevin says, having spent the last decade crafting experiences within several startups, as well as within bigger companies, like Microsoft and Domino’s Pizza. “For developers, emerging technologies hold exciting potential that may open shortcuts to success which benefit users for a multitude of nuanced reasons.”

So when Facebook announced its latest mobile framework, React Native, on its developer blog, Kevin knew it would get a lot of developers talking.

“I was very impressed, no doubt. A lot of developers who aren’t typically mobile engineers would be able to repurpose [their] web development skills for a whole new platform,” he explained.

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“The focus of React Native is on developer efficiency across all the platforms you care about – learn once, write anywhere.”
— GitHub Project Page

Originally, React was a web-only UI framework. Now, with React Native, applications can use UI components written in JavaScript (which execute natively), resulting in mobile apps that can be written for both Android and iOS simultaneously. It bridges the typical divide between these operating systems, making app development that is both fast and flexible.

Which brings us to ICON’s own Junior iOS Developer, Alex Harrison, who started to hack on the library his very first day on the team. Within no time, Alex learned the in’s and out’s of React Native, and its simple, unidirectional-flow premise. The end result was ICON’s very own mobile cross-platform YouTube, ReacTube.

“ReacTube is a YouTube player for both iOS & Android, that allows the user to search for and watch videos, as well as skip to similar videos, built from the start using React Native,” Alex exclaimed.

ReacTube-iPad-Info_Screen

When comparing the experience with the more conventional approach, Alex was struck most by what React Native didn’t do: “Creating and laying out views programmatically can be difficult because you end up writing tons of code to create just small parts of the user interface. However, React Native has styling options that allow developers to create precise interfaces quickly, using smaller amounts of code, and in a much more declarative way.”

Asked about what he thought was the coolest part about using React Native, Alex responded immediately, “I’ve never developed an Android app before!”

“It took Alex just days, not weeks, to experiment with new and different ideas.”

“As someone with zero experience developing Android apps, the idea that I could quickly create one with a small learning curve was very intriguing,” he continued. “Furthermore, I was in awe over the idea of developing two apps for different platforms simultaneously.”

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It took Alex just days, not weeks, to experiment with different ideas. Facebook, for their part, is showing every intention to support React Native, and the platform is evolving quickly, with an update every two weeks.

Kevin continues to embrace the exciting pace in which developer tools change. “Having our engineers explore new technologies is not only fun, but practical. It comes from the same desire everyone at ICON shares when committing to the high level of quality represented in all aspects of our work.”

ReacTube is available now on Android for the Google Play Store, and will be available soon for iOS on the AppStore.