Android and iOS are the main platforms for Mobile apps development. One usually needs to develop apps for both platforms, essentially writing different codes. Therefore, Cross-platform development as a concept has recently gained popularity in the mobile industry.
Cross-platform development refers to the development of mobile apps that can be used on multiple mobile platforms. It saves time and effort when building an app.
Consequently, various tools have emerged to make cross-platform development possible and desirable. There are web-based tools such as PhoneGap (Adobe), Xamarin (Microsoft), and React Native (Facebook), each having their advantages and disadvantages which stand in the way of successful mobile app development.
Today, developers are in constant pursuit to expand knowledge levels and learn new technologies to aid them in building high-performing apps. App owners look forward to optimizing the resources and time spent on development. Announced in February 2018 at MWC, Flutterby Google has entered the world of mobile development, trying to make its mark in the field of cross-platform development.
An Overview to Flutter
Flutter by Google is an amazing cross-platform framework, which allows developers to build easy, fast, and native mobile apps. It stands as an open source SDK (software development kit) using which one can create superior quality apps for Android and iOS with the help of a single code base. Adding to this list of platforms, Flutter works with Google Fuchsia as well, which a new platform being developed by Google.
The amazing framework is free and optimized to achieve fast rendering and complex animations thus making the UI coding easier and simpler than it would have been for native development code. It uses the C++ rendering engine and is based on the programming language. Since Flutter works with existing code, it can be easily used by developers and organizations around the world.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of the Flutter framework to mobile app developers and business owners.
Advantages of Flutter
Hot Reload enables developers to see the changes made to the code right away in the app, in just a matter of seconds. Teams can quickly add new features, fix bugs, and experiment, thereby enabling better collaboration between developers and designers when they want to improve how the app looks and check effects immediately.
The need to build for two platforms separately is eliminated with cross-platform development. For two applications, a single code base can be used.
Perfect for an MVP (Minimum viable product)
With Flutter, it’s much easier to have a clear idea of what the MVP looks like. Developing two separate apps would take much more time and money. A Flutter mobile application looks native on both Android and iOS.
The programming language of Flutter is Dart. Using Just-in-Time, or JIT, compilation improves the development workflow by allowing for a hot reload capability to refresh the UI during development without the need for an entirely new build.
Flutter has a rich set of widgets and extensive capabilities for creating complex custom widgets. Not only used for views, in Flutter, Widgets are also used for entire screens and even for the app itself. Catering both platforms, Flutter has a full set of widgets in Google’s Material Design and in Apple’s style with the Cupertino pack.
Being Google’s initiative, Flutter receives great support from the Material Design team and a community of over 1000 developers, who are willing to contribute to the growth of this framework.
Easy to set up
Flutter is easy to set up and start coding on low-end machines. Thus it can be easily handled irrespective of the OS being used.
It is now time to understand and discuss the disadvantages of Flutter.
Disadvantages of Flutter
Since we all know each coin has 2 sides, along with the merits there are certain demerits associated with Flutter. Flutter is still growing and developing and is relatively young in its class. The toolkit has its flaws. Let’s look at them.
Flutter caters to mobile apps only. Web browsers don’t support Flutter. In case, the user wants maximum device flexibility then Flutter might not be the perfect thing.
Native apps have everything in their native SDKs including Stripe, Twilio, and most streaming services such as WoWza and UStream. With Flutter, developers would need to build these libraries themselves, which is time-consuming.
There are several other minor drawbacks with Flutter. However the potential it holds for the future is immense.
One interesting aspect to be noted is that although Flutter offers some brilliant solutions, they are hardly unique to Flutter and many of them are already known to developers working in React Native.
Finally, let’s delve with the differences between Flutter and React Native.
Flutter Vs. React Native
While discussing the future of Cross-platform development, it becomes mandatory to address the elephant in the room. Yes, as its biggest competition, Flutter has React Native by Facebook, certainly much more preferred currently by the industry. While it has not been long enough for Flutter to be out of beta, React Native already has a thriving developer community.
In terms of market reliability React Native currently seems to be leading the race. Facebook itself has made the use of React Native in its own apps to good effect. While on the other hand, the best-known application of Flutter so far seems to be the Hamilton Musical app.
While in implementing Widgets, Flutter is far more revolutionary. Flutter instead of using platform widgets (or DOM WebViews), provides its own widgets. The Widgets provided by Flutter are not only customizable, extensible, fast but they look and feel good as well.
Flutter has proved to be more stable than React Native on many occasions, though there are lags on a few points when it comes to maturity. Obviously, from the above comparison, it is not possible for us to comment on whether or not Flutter is the future of Cross-platform development.
Looking at the brighter side of the coin, the Flutter ecosystem has been assigned considerable resources by Google, making it an extremely stable framework. The standards are yet to see a rise as it has not been fully implemented amongst app developers.
In a nutshell, with all its features and Google’s support, Flutter is certainly very promising, but we have yet to wait and see how it turns out!
Considering the pace of improvement in the programming, it would not be unfair to expect an all new stable and suitable Flutter defying all the odds over the coming years. This doesn’t mean that any older technologies become obsolete, rather this would open more options and new possibilities.