A practical guide to React Native authentication

Authentication is a crucial aspect of any app or service today, as it allows the app to determine who the user is and which actions they are authorized to perform.

React Native authentication refers to the process of verifying the identity of a user in a React Native app. This is typically done by asking the user to provide their login credentials, such as a username and password, and then checking those credentials against a database of authorized users. 

React Native authentication is commonly implemented with OAuth 2.0, which allows users to sign in via popular third-party services such as Google, Facebook, or Twitter. There are several libraries you can use to implement authentication in React Native—we’ll cover three of them in this article.

Why is React Native authentication important? 

React Native authentication is critical because it provides a secure way for users to access protected resources in a React Native app. Without proper user authentication, anyone could access sensitive information or perform actions that they should not be able to. 

React Native authentication is important for:

  • Protecting sensitive data. Authentication ensures that only authorized users can access sensitive data, such as personal information, financial data, or confidential business information.
  • Enhancing security. By requiring users to authenticate, SaaS apps can better protect themselves against unauthorized access, hacking, and other security threats.
  • Improving user experience. Authentication enables the app to personalize the user experience and provide relevant content or services based on the user’s identity.
  • Supporting compliance. In some cases, authentication is required by regulations or standards, such as HIPAA for healthcare apps, to ensure that sensitive data is protected.

Implementing React Native authentication with OAuth2

OAuth2 is an open standard for authorization that’s widely used to allow users to grant access to resources without sharing their credentials. In the context of React Native authentication, OAuth2 is commonly used to allow a user to sign in to an application using their existing credentials from a third-party service, such as Google, Facebook, or Twitter.

A common flow for OAuth2 in a React Native application is for the user to click a “Sign in with X” button, which then redirects them to the third-party service’s login page. Once the user has successfully logged in to the third-party service, they are redirected back to the React Native application, where they grant permission for the application to access their resources.

Redirects are an important part of the OAuth2 flow in React Native applications. The redirects are used to redirect the user to the third-party service’s login page, and then back to the React Native application after the user has successfully logged in. These redirects are typically implemented using the WebView component in React Native, which is used to display web pages within the mobile application.

What is Proof of Key Code Exchange or PKCE?

Proof of Key Code Exchange, or PKCE, is an extension to the OAuth2 authorization code flow that provides additional security for public client applications. In the standard OAuth2 authorization code flow, an authorization code is exchanged for an access token. This can create security vulnerabilities, as a malicious actor could intercept the authorization code and use it to obtain an access token for the user’s resources. 

PKCE solves this problem by adding an extra step to the authorization code flow, where a code verifier is generated and passed along with the authorization code. The code verifier is then used to verify the authorization code when it is exchanged for an access token, providing an additional layer of security.

React Native authentication libraries 

There is a variety of libraries you can use to implement authentication in your React Native apps. The three discussed here are only a few of the possible options—there are many more libraries you could use to implement authentication in React.

React Native App Auth

React Native App Auth is an open-source library for implementing authentication in React Native apps using OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect. It provides a set of tools and APIs for interacting with OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect-compliant identity providers, such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, to authenticate users.

React Native App Auth supports both Android and iOS platforms and can be easily integrated into a React Native app to handle authentication tasks, such as user login and logout, securely storing authentication tokens, and refreshing access tokens.

The library abstracts the underlying authentication protocol details, making it easier for developers to implement authentication in their apps without having to deal with the complexity of the underlying protocols.

React Navigation

React Navigation is a popular library for navigation in React Native apps. It provides tools and APIs for navigation between screens, handling navigation history, and configuring the navigation header. 

React Navigation can be used in combination with a separate authentication library to implement authentication in a React Native app by controlling the navigation flow based on the authentication state.

React Native OAuth

React Native OAuth is a library for adding OAuth authentication to React Native apps. With React Native OAuth, developers can add OAuth authentication to their apps and interact with OAuth-compliant identity providers, such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, to authenticate users. The library provides a set of APIs and tools for handling common OAuth tasks, such as obtaining and refreshing access tokens, securely storing tokens, and handling token expiration. 

React Native OAuth supports both Android and iOS platforms and can be easily integrated into a React Native app to handle authentication tasks.

React Native authentication example 

Here’s an example of how to use the React Native App Auth library to implement OAuth 2.0 authentication in a React Native app.

First, install the React Native App Auth library:

npm i react-native-app-auth

Import the React Native App Auth module into your React Native app:

import { authorize, signOut } from 'react-native-app-auth';

Add a function to handle the authorization flow:

const handleAuthorize = async () => {
  try {
    const result = await authorize({
      issuer: 'https://YOUR_ISSUER',
      clientId: 'YOUR_CLIENT_ID',
      redirectUrl: 'YOUR_REDIRECT_URI',
      scopes: ['openid', 'profile', 'email'],
      serviceConfiguration: {
        authorizationEndpoint: 'https://YOUR_AUTHORIZATION_ENDPOINT',
        tokenEndpoint: 'https://YOUR_TOKEN_ENDPOINT',
  } catch (error) {

Add a function to handle sign-out:

const handleSignOut = async () => {
  try {
    await signOut(options);
    console.log('User signed out');
  } catch (error) {

Use the above functions in your React Native app to authorize and sign out users.

Protecting the data and privacy of end users is essential in today’s business environment. Not only does it prevent costly breaches and damaged reputations, but it also improves the user experience and ultimately helps boost customer loyalty and satisfaction. Using React Native authentication to verify user identities is a relatively painless and straightforward process that sets organizations up with a strong layer of defense for their core users.

Aviad Mizrachi is CTO and co-founder at Frontegg.

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