What’s holding mobile app developers back from Flutter?
Note: This blog has been updated from a previously published article.
Since its formal launch in December 2018, Flutter’s popularity has grown among developers worldwide. As an open-source app-building tool and cross-platform UI toolkit, many developers see important advantages adopting this new framework, particularly if they are interested in cross-platform solutions. Created and developed by Google, packed with many time saving features including ready-to-use widgets, accompanied by rich documentation and an active community of developers, and, most importantly capable of producing stunning apps for Android, iOS, and the Web, the question is not what’s great about Flutter, but rather, why aren’t more mobile app developers using this UI toolkit?
What is Flutter?
Flutter is an open source UI software development kit (SDK). It is a highly effective tool for building cross-platform applications, with an intuitive UI and single codebase that can be run on both Android, iOS, and more recently, on the Web. As an SDK, Flutter includes everything required to develop cross-platform mobile applications, such as ready-made widgets, testing and integration APIs, a rendering engine, and command-line tools. That’s why this solution helps development teams significantly save time and resources on creating applications for both platforms.
What’s so special about Flutter?
A growing number of developers are turning to this framework because its inherent features allow for a quicker development process and cost-effectiveness, while still delivering high performance apps with consistent user experience across platforms. Let’s look at some of the advantages of Flutter in more detail.
Single Source Code for two platforms
As a cross-platform tool, one of the biggest advantages of Flutter is its single source code for Android, iOS, and the Web that allows developers to release app updates simultaneously. This removes the need for separate teams to build different versions of the same app and the additional costs associated with this. For business owners requiring a faster time to market and wanting cost optimization, cross-platform development with the Flutter framework becomes a more attractive option than native development.
Faster Mobile App Development
Hot Reload is a great feature of Flutter that improves the productivity of developers. The Hot Reload feature allows you to change your code and view updates in the UI within a matter of seconds. There’s no need to reload the entire app and wait. Instead you can continue to develop features and fix bugs with no interruption. Hot reload comes out-of-the box, with no plugins or configuration needed.
Flutter is fast gaining a reputation as easy to use. The official documentation is extensive and Dart is a pretty straightforward programming language to learn. Google is also quick to emphasise the simplicity of their product noting 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. Flutter’s layout system and declarative nature means that Apps built with Flutter adapt well to different screen sizes and formats.
This cross-platform solution offers a widget approach to building UIs. Flutter provides an extensive set of platform, layout, and foundation widgets which serve as the building blocks of the app. Widgets allow developers to build 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 the entire screen (no matter the screen size) and even for the app itself. You can also customize your widgets as per your requirement; this gives quirky and distinctive attributes that will be loved by your clients.
Flutter expedites all manner of testing which in turn means quicker development time. Flutter tools support 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 driving 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?
With all these great features with flutter app development, it’s a wonder why more developers have not yet moved over to. Clearly, there are some shortcomings associated with being a relatively new technology.
1. A new technology
As a relatively new cross-platform development tool, it’s libraries are still limited and some of its functionality need to be developed by developers which is time-consuming. This has led some in the developer community to claim that Flutter should not be used for building complex commercial apps yet as it’s better suited for simpler apps and prototyping.
2. A new programming language
Another reason developers are holding back from Flutter is because it requires them to learn in a new language. Dart, an object-oriented programming language – is used in Flutter. There are not many Dart specialists in development teams, so pursuing the development of Flutter applications will require developers familiar with building with Android studio or iOS, to become fluent in a new programming language.
3. Cross-platform vs. native performance
Apps built with Flutter generally perform well, but for purists they might not always manage to attain the absolute look and feel of a native app. Clearly, Flutter is not yet as enhanced as native app development and for some developers it might feel like taking too much of a short-cut. If you want your app to strictly conform to Apple Design System on iOS and Material Design principles on Android devices, then you might prefer to build two separate native apps.
While there are some obstacles, at least for now, blocking Flutter’s full ascent to the top of app development framework tools, it still currently remains one of the most exciting tools for building mobile apps and a dominant player in cross-platform technology. Sure, React Native, which has long been a popular framework for developing cross-platform apps, still has an edge on Flutter, simply because it has been in the market longer, but the future of Flutter looks promising.
If you need a mobile app development tool that offers high performance, with readymade but also customizable flutter widgets, and immediate updates via the Hot Reload feature, this could be the right solution for you.
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