Jindrich Pikorafrom Prague and London based web and app developers, www.applifting.cz, introduces us to Flutter, a new software tool that is empowering and speeding up app development.
According to Statista there are now over 6 billion smartphones being used across the globe so it’s no surprise that the number of apps available to users is increasing all the time. New apps are constantly being developed, some getting millions of downloadsand others just a handful of downloads. Flutter – Build apps for any screen
The developers behind these apps have many different tools at their disposal. One of them is Flutter, which has become increasingly popular in the last couple of years so for this reason it’s a good time to look at this app development platform.
What is Flutter?
Flutter is a framework developed by Google that allows you to create mobile apps for iOS, Android, and other platforms using a single source code. It is a cross-platform technology with which you can develop several apps at the same time. Compared to going native, it comes with several perks, such as speeding up the overall process of development; there are, however, also a couple of disadvantages too but let’s go into that later.
The first mentions of Flutter appeared in 2015, but it was only in December 2018 that the first stable release was out. Nowwe have Flutter 3.0, which compared to the previous releases is more secure, powerful, and packed with more features. Originally, it was used to develop mobile apps only, but this has now been extended to web applications and macOS, Linux, and Windows apps.
The pros and cons of Flutter
Flutter isn’t the first attempt at making a tool for creating cross-platform apps. It is predated by Xamaric, Ionic, or React Native, to name a few. Nowadays, Flutter is the most popular of those so how does it fare in comparison to Swift and Kotlin in terms native mobile app development for iOS and Android?
- Cross-platform—you can develop two apps with one source code. No need for two different technologies. It isn’t twice as effective, as one might think, but it does help save a lot of time.
- Speed—the way the code is developed is another aspect that saves time. Declarative programming significantly speeds up development, much like the hot reload function, thus doing away with the need to recompile.
- Performance—which is comparable to native apps. For example, you can add snappy animations of any complexity.
- Customization—there is a vast array of easy-to-use premade components. Flutter’s intuitive approach to combining components allows you to tailor your app to any design, no matter how complex it is.
- Documentation—the technology is open source, therefore everyone is free to look at the source code. What’s more, all the parts are well documented and detailed, so you won’t run into any trouble there.
- Community—with an increase in use and popularity, Flutter comes with an ever-growing number of new libraries, improvements, and tutorials.
- Size—the final size of apps is larger. Downloading, installing, and updating takes a longer time, and the apps take up more space in users’ phones. Compared to native apps, we’re talking about a 20% increase in size.
- Specific requirements—accessing certain hardware functions on mobile devices is more complicated than it is with native development. In some cases, you need to implement things twice, both in terms of the technology as well as the system Flutter is running on. In general, the more system functions the app utilizes the less you benefit from how quick the development is.
- Flutter is new—it’s been just a few years since it’s been released, and it’s still a work in progress. As much as the community is growing, there simply aren’t that many tried-and-true best practices yet.
When to use Flutter
Due to the advantages mentioned above, developing cross-platform apps in Flutter is in high demand. Even larger companies use Flutter for their apps, such as Alibaba, BMW, or even Google itself.
Consequently, some developers thought that native development is no longer needed and everything should be developed in Flutter. That is not the case. We must not forget its shortcomings, which make developing native apps for each platform separately the better choice.
As has been mentioned before, you can use Flutter to develop desktop apps as well, though it isn’t that common. Web development is suitable only for a couple of web apps—like those dealing with administration, games, and graphically demanding systems. On the other hand, it’s not suitable for your run-of-the-mill websites. There are certain limitations that it comes with, like some packages not being supported or the lack of browser optimization (SEO).
Where does Flutter shine?
Flutter is a great choice for small-scale apps that often just display and send data to a server. In such cases, you won’t find yourself running into trouble during the development, you will progress quickly, and you’ll need just one team of developers instead of two
It’s also suited for app prototypes or swift product validation. While there are other tools for prototyping, they are often locked away behind paywalls, and experience is needed to make their use worthwhile. In comparison, Flutter is universal, and its strength lies in the Dart programming language, which lends itself well to implementing prototypes.
When to think twice about using Flutter
It is possible to develop larger apps with Flutter, but they shouldn’t come with too many native features. You also need to be prudent and consider whether the app will scale massively and what other features might be required. Then the disadvantages might be more obvious. But if all these concerns are taken into consideration, there is nothing stopping you from getting on with development.
Flutter is still a somewhat novel tool for developing cross-platform mobile apps, but over the course of its existence, it has come out on top as the most sought-after one. Much like any other technology, it has a share of benefits and challenges. Before you commit to using it, it’s important to think through the features your app will have and whether choosing Flutter will speed things up for your developers. If you get the balance right,using Flutter for app development is then a great choice.