What is Flutter and why it is a game-changer in app development

Posted on by Julia Poltavets

Developers want to increase their productivity and develop high-performing apps faster. Startups and business owners want to decrease development costs. That is why cross-platform development becomes top-notch for building mobile apps. One of the most perspective toolkits is Flutter. It allows creating a codebase compatible with Android & iOS platforms.

The Structure of Flutter

A key feature of the system architecture is that all widgets and the components are part of the application, not the platform. There is no need for context switching and the use of “bridges” that gives a performance increase.

Flutter consists of three layers: Embedder, Engine, and Framework.

  • Embedder
  • This is a platform-specific code responsible for interaction and launch on the final platform. Embedder takes care of platform-specific tasks as Platform, UI, GPU, and IO Task Runners.

  • Engine
  • It is written in C / C ++ and includes Dart as an abstraction level for working with the CPU, Skia – a 2D library for drawing and a subsystem for rendering text borrowed from Android.

  • Framework
  • This is the largest part written in Dart. Layering makes it easy to build applications of any complexity. You can use ready-made widgets from Material-UI or install specific components based on basic widgets. It is possible to work with animation and gesture processing. Thus, you can combine fast work with high-level widgets with the ability to add/redefine deeper layers.

      Flutter’s architecture draws each pixel itself, controls gestures and animations. It does not use OEM widgets, as React Native does. Instead, the Flutter team created two sets of widgets for major mobile platforms: Material for Android and Cupertino for iOS.

      Thus, they redrew all the UI components from both mobile platforms, completely repeating their behavior. The components interact with geolocation, sound, Bluetooth through Platform Channels.

      Flutter SDK

      This is a collection of tools that allows you to build any kind of cross-platform Android & iOS apps. It provides lots of libraries that are available in native SDK applications.

      To work with the code, you can use any text editor and command-line utilities from Flutter SDK to compile the app. There are also plugins for Android Studio, IntelliJ IDEA, and Visual Studio Code text editor. Google has released them to simplify the development.

      Flutter Framework

      It provides all the predefined widgets/widget library, utility functions & packages.

      Flutter uses Dart as a programming language. Google created it in 2011 to solve some Javascript issues. Later, Dart has replaced it and became a basis for Flutter.

      Flutter doesn’t use native components of other platforms. Instead, it creates its own widgets and uses the GPU to render them on the screen. It compiles all Dart code into native ARM code which is run by the processor. This allows applications created with Flutter to run faster. The major components of Flutter include the Dart platform, Flutter engine, Foundation library, and Design-specific widgets.

      Flutter has a clean and nice UI design compared to an Android studio. In Android studio, you would have used XML for building the UI but in Flutter everything is built with Dart so it’s easy for developers.

      The benefits of writing a mobile app on Flutter

      Working on Flutter, the Google team wanted to solve the main issues in mobile development. They succeeded and created the framework with the following strong features:

      1. Cross-platform
      2. Using Flutter, the developers write the application compatible with both Android & iOS systems. You no longer need to have two separate development teams that have to use different sets of tools and coordinate with each other. This speeds up the development and decreases the costs.

      3. Speedy
      4. Flutter has a great feature – hot reload. It allows developers to create interfaces, add features, detect & fix bugs without quitting the emulator. They can also use native functions, and reuse existing native code written on Swift, Objective-C, Java, and Kotlin.

      5. Open-source
      6. Flutter is an open-source framework with a fast-growing community of over 1000 developers. They provide support, contribute to the documentation and develop helpful tools.

      7. Flexible UI
      8. Flutter uses built-in widgets and does not use native user interface components. Currently, Flutter offers many layouts, widgets, platforms for creating graphics and support for 2D-API. You can also find gestures, effects, animations, and other functions. Although Flutter’s interface features are still under development, they can turn into a powerful user interface environment. Flutter also comes with Material Design components.

      Flutter use cases

      Flutter is popular both among startups and established, reputable brands. Let’s see which famous companies decided to build their product using Flutter.

      Google Ads (Utility)

      Google Ads app enables users to view campaign stats on Android devices. The app showcase campaign details like real-time alerts and notifications allow calling Google expert, acting on suggestions to improve the campaign, adding/editing/removing keywords, and more.

      Alibaba (eCommerce)

      The Alibaba.com app is a wholesale marketplace for global trade and incorporates Flutter to facilitate their transactions. The app allows its users to buy products from suppliers around the world.

      Hamilton Musical (Entertainment)

      Flutter empowers the official app of the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton. The app includes exclusive daily news and videos, daily lotteries for New York, Chicago, London, and tour locations, daily trivia game, merchandise store (to buy items from the official Hamilton store), and more.

      Conclusion

      Flutter is a flexible, customizable toolkit that empowers developers with full control of the process. Using Flutter, you will increase your productivity, speed up the development, and earn the loyalty of both Android & iOS users.

      Now, QuickBlox team is working on releasing a Flutter SDK for building a cross-platform text, audio & video chat messengers. Stay tuned!