Why Flutter is going to dominate the cross-platform development world
The tech world is thriving and evolving. Technology is brightening the future of every industry, every economic sector, every company. To accommodate this, the number of emerging development tools has been steadily increasing. As a result, we are facing a recurring difficulty in choosing appropriate technology to accommodate our specific development requirements. Particularly when our future app needs to work well and look good on as many devices as possible.
According to Statista, Android runs on 87% of mobile devices while iOS is found on 13%. For startups and emerging businesses, it’s vitally important to completely cover their specific target audience and develop their app for both of these leading platforms. Still, application development for different platforms comes with many challenges, including but not limited to the high cost of production, the complex nature of the development process, and the need for expert level development resources for both iOS and Android.
So, here comes the cross-platform development breakdown. In this Flutter review, we are going to get to the bottom of what makes this SDK such a powerful tool, which sorts of projects it’s right for and exactly how to get the most out of it.
What is Flutter?
Flutter is an open-source Google SDK, perfect for building high-performance native-looking mobile, web, desktop, and embedded applications from a single code base. Flutter is a cross-platform tool, which helps target both iOS and Android.
Google launched Flutter in 2015 with the codename “Sky”, and the 1.0 version was introduced in 2018. Since that time the eager excitement around the tool has become more and more intense. To date, Flutter is one of Google’s best-delivered application development projects.
Core components of Flutter:
- Dart platform
- Flutter engine
- Foundation library
- Design-specific widgets
The principal idea of the SDK is the extensive use of widgets, which serve as building blocks of a user interface and can form the entire UI of your application. The widgets are highly customizable; they combine with each other to constitute layouts. Widgets in Flutter are arranged in trees, which assists in rendering. Moreover, if you lack a specific widget, you can create it on your own.
There are two types of widget: Material Design widgets and Cupertino widgets. Every widget defines a structural element (button or menu), stylistic element (color scheme or font), layout aspect (padding, etc.), and many more categories.
Pros and cons of using Flutter
Let’s consider the time-proven benefits, which might attract you to this SDK when considering which technology to use for your next mobile app:
- Substantial cost savings
This tool enables you to utilize the same code base for both Android and iOS apps and cut application development costs by half, and the same is true for required development resources.
- Reduced time-to-market
When you develop your app in Flutter, you can expect to spend half the man-hours you would developing for iOS and Android separately.
- High productivity
Apps developed with this SDK, are fast and efficient. They reduce CPU loads and don’t murder device battery life. They also have fast startup times and fewer performance issues.
- Quick development
The hot reload feature allows you to see a change in your app, while it’s under development, after every slight change to the code, without having to keep running the app afresh and wasting time on restarts. Modifications can be injected into the running application. Changes to the code reload in less than a second.
- Native app performance
Dart compiles into native code, which leads to superb performance and fast start times. Plus, due to Flutter’s widgets, there is less communication between the app and the platform. The widgets seamlessly incorporate core, platform distinctive features, including scrolling, navigation, fonts, and icons, and provide flawless native performance on both Android and iOS.
The tool is free to use. The vast open-source community provides out-of-the-box support, as well as offering free resources to up-skill, and extensive documentation.
- Mild learning curve
Even people with little coding skill and no mobile development experience can develop prototypes and apps in Flutter.
- Cataloged widgets
Feature-rich widgets implement common UI patterns you can re-use. You can build your whole UI by combining different widgets.
- Beautiful UI and animations
The layered architecture of widgets allows the creation of expressive and flexible designs. On top of that, Flutter allows for a potentially enormous level of UI customization. Apps created in Flutter’s SDK are smooth and seamless.
- Less testing
Since the app is built using one codebase for two platforms, developers write an automation test once, so QA takes less time.
- Perfect for MVP
Flutter comes in handy when you need to bring your idea to MVP without substantial investments.
There a few limitations of Flutter, which are still to be fixed:
- UI limitations
Flutter renders its own UI without using components provided by iOS and Android SDKs. This may lead to missing UI components. Also, there are a limited number of Cupertino widgets.
The tool hasn’t been around for long.
- Heavy apps
In comparison to Native apps, Flutter apps have above average size and take a long time to download and update. In some cases, these file sizes could present a significant issue.
- Limited libraries
Since the SDK is still relatively new, you may not find every single feature you need.
- Not native
A very attentive user can still find the differences between a Flutter app and true native behavior.
What Flutter is good for:
- MVPs and proofs of concept
- E-commerce apps
- Chat apps
- Social media apps
- For teams with limited mobile app development experience
What is Flutter not recommended for:
- 3D games
- AR/VR apps
- Complex dynamic apps
- Progressive web apps
- Instant apps
There are plenty of cross-platform mobile development tools available. Let’s take a closer look at the three most popular frameworks: Flutter, React Native, and Xamarin, and compare them.
Comparison: Flutter vs React Native vs Xamarin
|Date of release||2018||2015||2011|
|GUI||Proprietary widgets||Native UI controllers||Native UI controllers|
|Architecture||Flutter Skia C++ engine||React Native Flux||Xamarin Mono execution environment|
|IDEs||Android Studio, Intellij IDEA, Visual Studio Code||Atom, Nuclide, Visual Studio Code, React Native Tools||Visual Studio, XCode|
|Tools||Flutter SDK, DevTools, Hot reload||Expo, Redux, Ignite, Flow, Reduxsauce, ESLint, React Navigation||NuGet, Xamarin Inspector, Prism, MFractor, Resharper|
|Code reusability||50-90% of code||90% of code||96% of code|
|Pricing||Open-source||Open-source||Open-source + paid|
|Community support||Average||Very strong||Strong|
|Use cases||All apps||All apps||Simple apps|
|Third-party library compatibility||High||High||Moderate|
|Binary size||Relatively big||Relatively big||Relatively small|
How to get started with Flutter?
When you have little or no Flutter development experience and want to start new projects armed and ready, you should first of all:
- Learn more about Dart.
- Write your first Flutter app.
- Take a course at Udemy or Udacity.
- Check the MTechViral and The Boring Flutter Development Show YouTube channels.
- Join the Flutter Community.
How can Flutter speed up your cross-platform development?
Now that we have taken the SDK apart in detail, we can clearly see that the potential of this cross-platform tool for app development is incredibly high. The tool is enormously helpful in accelerating app development because of its specific features. Flutter allows developers to code in one place, and use a single codebase for both iOS and Android platforms. The hot reload function enables you to see gradual modifications in the app in real-time without having to restart it. This function provides space for experimenting with the code to identify the optimal solution and significantly decreases app development time.
In addition, Flutter’s rich set of widgets allows you to build beautiful and efficient interfaces in minutes. The layered architecture enables fast rendering and flexible designs. It’s not hard to understand why Flutter is becoming increasingly popular among developers who strive for performance, efficiency, and time-saving. This SDK is a win-win option when it comes to cross-platform development.
Flutter is undoubtedly gaining a lot of traction among mobile developers, and that’s not surprising. This SDK offers ease of development for well-equipped high-fidelity applications, while maintaining visual consistency across platforms.
The takeaway message of this article is that Flutter is a promising candidate to be your mobile SDK of choice in the near future. It is invaluable for quickly building amazing UIs, easily adding new features, and immediately fixing bugs. The SDK helps accelerate the development process, offers superior performance, and allows you to write code just once to run on two platforms.
Flutter is Google’s vision for the future of the web. In addition, it’s free, open-source and seems to be perfect when budget limitations mean that building a pure native app is not a viable option. That said, Flutter might not be mature enough just yet to handle more complex projects.
Flutter is an impressive piece of technology. Go Flutter!