“What’s the difference?” “Why switch?” You probably ask yourself first. If you work in the area of cross-platform development, you might wonder if and how it is more efficient than other native app development solutions.
Flutter is one of the most effective cross-platform solutions for app development. Having intuitive UI, Flutter is growing fast among development companies worldwide. Google released a new open-source solution, which supports the cross-platform applications development using a single codebase. In other words, it can be run on both Android and iOS. Flutter is an SDK – software development kit. This SDK already includes everything required to develop cross-platform applications, such as ready-made widgets, testing and integration APIs, rendering engine, and command-line tools. That’s why this solution helps developers to significantly save time and resources on creating applications for both platforms.
Until now, React Native used to be the most popular framework for developing cross-platform apps. It began as an internal secret project at Facebook back in 2013 and was announced only in 2015. At that time React Native allowed using some native development functions.
It brings quite inclusive widgets. React Native doesn’t have such an extensive choice as Flutter has. Furthermore, some of these components are adaptive, so they are able to evaluate which platform they are running on and deliver the compositions relevant to the specific platform.
Though React Native saves resources required to deliver an application, it still lacks in the area of performance and UX. React Native has more numbers of packages available, because of staying at the market for more than three years. Here Flutter is clearly losing.
At Google I/O 2019, Google assured that Flutter is also expected to be used both for web and desktop app development.
What’s so special about Flutter?
Flutter has a lot of benefits. It has achieved dominance in the market thanks to a large community of developers and other app owners. Let’s look through the advantages of a new solution for developing mobile applications.
Single codebase for two platforms
Flutter is a cross-platform tool. So its major advantage is the single codebase for Android and iOS that allows developers to release app updates simultaneously. Its widgets support platform-independent code creation. However, Flutter can also build separate apps.
Hot Reload is another great feature of Flutter. It allows changing your code and looking through the updates in the UI immediately. Flutter contains Hot Reloading out of the box, no plugins or any configuration is necessary. Flutter improves the productivity of developers very quickly. Hot Reload has benefits in bug fixing. If you have a build error, it will show a message saying that Reload not performed. After the correction of your issues, you save it and the application will still be running.
With regard to simplicity, Flutter declares in the documentation that coding with Flutter is so easy that no previous programming knowledge is required: “Experience with object-oriented languages is definitely helpful, but even non-programmers have made Flutter apps!”.
Support for multiple devices
With Flutter, you can develop applications that run on different devices and even older versions of them. The new solution allows reuse of your existing Java, Swift, and C code to access native features and SDKs on iOS 8 and Android.
The cross-platform solution uses widgets to build UIs. Flutter offers a widget approach. It provides a modern, reactive framework, and an extensive set of platform, layout and foundation widgets. Widgets allow developing user interfaces of any complexity that are no different from native UIs. Moreover, widgets in Flutter are not only used for views. They’re also used for entire screens and even for the app itself. You can also customize your widgets as per your requirement; this gives quirky and distinctive attributes which will be loved by your clients.
The new tool supports unit, functional, and UI testing that is accompanied by detailed documentation. Widget testing allows running UI tests quickly and effectively. In addition, Flutter Driver class allows to drive the application in another process and delivers different useful methods to test user interaction and interface of the app.
Why isn’t Flutter the top app development framework yet?
Although Flutter is noted for many of its interesting features, it is still not as enhanced as native development and has some drawbacks which do not let it become the top app development framework, at least for now.
Like all new tools, it may experience issues of relatively fresh technology. And though it has a significant Google support and offers great functionalities ready to be implemented, it’s still new, its libraries are limited. All that is the reason why its functionalities need to be developed by the application developers themselves that can be quite time-consuming. Some developers claim that it could not be used for building a complex commercial app yet and it’s better suited for simpler apps and prototyping. That’s why we at QuickBlox doesn’t use Flutter these days.
Another drawback is that Flutter only serves the mobile application and isn’t supported by website browsers. Flutter is not made for maximum device flexibility.
Another reason why it is not the number one cross-platform solution is Dart. Developers creating native Android and iOS apps hold back the study of another programming language. Dart is used for Flutter’s development and has both benefits and drawbacks. It is an object-oriented programming language. Not many smart developers experience Dart, and it can be challenging to find new specialists in your team. It is an essential factor to keep in mind when going for a cross-platform approach.
To sum up, there is no question that Flutter is currently one of the most exciting tools for building mobile applications. It is the right solution if you need a mobile app development tool that has a high performance, accessibility and internationalization, ready widgets, and immediate updates. However, take into account its disadvantages in order to avoid all unpleasant surprises.