What is the last thing you touch before going to bed at night and the first thing you lay your hands on as soon as you wake up in the morning? Not really a poser, but rather a cinch. Your mobile phone, of course. This gadget stopped being just a communication device long ago but came to contain an entire universe whose core is its owner. We use it as a tool that provides news, entertainment, shopping, work, etc. All of these are made possible via mobile apps.
Ingenious app developers stay abreast of the novel trends in the realm to help entrepreneurs augment their revenues by discovering new channels of rapport with their customers. One of such trends is cross-platform app development that offers essential boons in comparison to the conventional native-first approach. Among numerous frameworks employed in this domain, Flutter is widely recognized as one of the most robust whose usage manifested the most astounding growing pattern over the last year.
To understand the reasons why Futter app development is getting such triumphant traction nowadays, it is necessary to scrutinize the roots of dissatisfaction with the old-school native app mobile development.
Native app development: Shortcomings made patent
The advent of mobile apps can be rightly called the Native Age because all applications developed at that time were produced with a view to the operating system of the device (Android or iOS) to be used on. Moreover, they were written in a platform-specific programming language.
Being thus limited in scope, native apps have a slew of merits, displaying a wide array of functions (mobile payment, push notifications, geofencing, smart lock, proximity sensor, to name a few), excellent energy-efficiency, and seamless congruity with cognate software. Since their market entry is allowed only after meticulous checking by respective app stores, native apps are high-quality products. Moreover, they employ certificate pinning, multi-level authentication, and other security steps that prevent compromising and mishandling the clients’ personal or financial data.
Given all these indisputable boons, native apps have two major deficiencies that are hard to mitigate, motivating developers and entrepreneurs to seek viable alternatives to them: inflexibility and cost of development.
When the multitude of gadgets with a whole gamut of screen sizes inundated the market, it became evident that native apps fall short of the users’ expectations.
It is especially true with Android-powered devices whose display dimension versatility is bewildering. To make corresponding apps operable on all of them takes additional tweaking, headache, and investment. And speaking of the latter: the necessity to create two apps for each operating system doubles the initially high price to pay for developing a native app.
A solution to the problem seemed to be attained when web apps (and notably Progressive Web Apps) came into play. PWAs are a kind of websites that leverage to the full extent their nature. They are cheap to build, don’t require installation, weigh a little, show high SEO-visibility, and can be run even when no network is available. However, their functional scarcity and lack of native-like performance are the two factors that significantly hamstring PWAs’ aspirations to turn into the dominating power in the app realm.
Seeing the inadequacy of web apps, developers pulled an about-face maneuver and tried to tinker with native apps, hoping to find a way to overcome their deficiencies. What they have finally come up with was an idea to build a mobile app compatible with multiple operating systems. Consequently, cross-platform app devs introduced novel approaches to code-handling and programming, creating hybrid and rapid mobile app types.
This revolution gave rise to cross-platform tools, some of which came to rival native ones, and Flutter is one of them.
However, being around for quite a time, Flutter development is still a terra incognita for a large portion of business owners who contemplate effective strategies of outselling their rivals in the highly competitive global market today.
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Flutter: A star in the making
Today, Flutter is an open-source framework whose single codebase is leveraged to build apps for various operating systems, including Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, Linux, and Google Fuchsia. It was kicked off in 2015 as Sky and its first stable version was released only at the end of 2018. Google as its creator initially meant this toolkit to be used exclusively for Android-fueled devices, but it has eventually developed into a cross-platform issue whose popularity is on a steady rise.
Such a boom in Flutter mobile app development is due to Google’s consistent effort aimed at perfecting and updating its product. In 2019, the Flutter version for the web was released and a year later, Flutter 1.17.0 was launched that manifests considerable improvement of performance on iOS-powered gadgets, support for creating Chrome apps, a whole range of fresh material widgets, and enhanced network tracking capabilities.
In fact, what is conventionally termed “Flutter” has two components. Flutter SDK (Software Development Kit) is a set of tools – including command-line programs as well as testing and integration APIs – utilized both for creating apps and rendering their code into the codes native iOS and Android apps are based on. The second constituent is the framework that is a UI library containing text inputs, buttons, sliders, and other widget-powered elements, enabling app customization to suit the vendor’s purposes to a tee.
What differs it from other frameworks and is universally recognized as one of the Flutter advantages is the programming language it uses. Dart is an object-oriented language that relates to Java, so it will take a Flutter developer proficient in the latter (or in C++) a little fine-tuning to learn programming in it.
Peculiar is also how the components are structured to form Flutter architecture. Here, the operating system acts as a canvas where an interface is construed, while animations, gestures, rendering, painting, and other services are located in the framework per se.
This unique structure lets developers exercise complete control over the system and streamlines both the building process and Flutter app functioning.
The way Flutter works: Brass tacks
Being seasoned actors in the sphere of mobile app development, the experts of Diceus believe that a whole collection of inherent widgets and tools as well as a native compilation to the ARM processor together with fail-safe rendering are the greatest Flutter development advantages. Devs can build new widgets if the integrated collection seems inadequate to them, but the available bunch looks pretty impressive in itself, enabling the definition of Flutter app elements. The latter encompass structural (buttons and menus), stylistic (colors and fonts), and layout (padding) features.
Learn more about our mobile app development services.
How does Flutter mechanics function?
How is it possible? The answer is simple – Dart. This language is an unquestionable forte on the list of Flutter pros and cons. Alongside providing a direct communication path with the native platform, it employs Ahead-Of-Time (AOT) techniques to compile into the native code of the platform. Consequently, applications are launched simultaneously with the engine, with Flutter SDK components replacing respective native elements.
Plus, a repository of its own widgets allows Flutter to do without OEM ones. All these factors explain shorter startup time Flutter mobile apps manifest in comparison to other cross-platform ventures.
Dart brings other pleasant perks in its wake. The employment of this language enables refreshing the view tree for every new frame, availability of a “tree shaking” compiler, utilization of generational garbage set, and a long list of software tools to be further leveraged to enhance the app’s capabilities.
The way debugging is performed in Flutter is also peculiar. It can’t be done directly in a browser (like it happens in Ionic) because WebView isn’t used in Flutter. Nor is it affected through third-party tools (namely Chrome Developer Tools) like in React Native and NativeScript. So again, Dart steps in. Specialized tools available in it (Dart Analyzer and Dart Observatory) are engaged in detecting errors. Alternatively, it can be done with the help of IDEs and their debuggers that Flutter supports.
Another important aspect of app creation is testing. Being a comprehensive SDK, Flutter enables three test types (unit, widget, and integration tests) via an automated toolset it contains.
The performance of Flutter apps on most devices is 60 frames per second – quite a solid number. But the rendering speed can rise up to the spectacular 120 FPS on gadgets with Flutter support. However, nothing comes without a cost. This nice characteristic is somehow tarnished by the size of the Flutter apps that tends to be above the average.
Featuring in Flutter development Hot Reload function is a godsend for programmers so it deserves a special mention. Once you press the respective button, you will immediately see a whole scope of code alterations in all gadgets (emulators and simulators including). Then you can proceed with app execution from the moment immediately before you pressed the button since the code has been updated automatically.
As it is the way with any app-building toolkit, working with Flutter developers may not only appreciate appealing merits, but also face some unsavory shortcomings.
Flutter advantages and disadvantages
What are the assets that devs working with Flutter and business owners who commission apps enjoy?
Saving on expenditures
The very nature of Flutter as a cross-platform framework presupposes the ability to build one app instead of two that can nevertheless be run both on Android- and iOS-powered devices. And one is always cheaper than two, isn’t it?
It is hard to give an accurate sum you will have to fork out to create a Flutter app since the final number depends on both the complexity of the app and the price a developer charges for its services. The ballpark estimations of a Flutter app development cost start with $26,000 for a simple product with basic features and can amount to $55,000 if you want to furnish it with a number of sophisticated characteristics and functions.
This price can be decreased significantly if you hire a developer from Eastern Europe. Diceus is a perfect choice in this respect since our company can deliver a high-quality product in any industry at a reasonable price.
Making one item isn’t only cheaper but also faster than producing two of them. Besides, testing takes less time as well. As a result, building an app can be accomplished within 2-3 months, so you can start reaping revenues almost in no time.
This decent time-to-market index is achieved not only through simple arithmetic calculations where 1<2, but also due to the hot reload feature mentioned above. It excludes the necessity to restart the app once each alteration has been ushered in. Instead, all code changes become visible to the developer immediately. Plus, all bugs and errors can be disposed of with the app running. Of course, you will have to reboot the app from time to time but the process is really fast.
Another development-booster is the collection of Flutter widgets. They are visual objects (buttons, fonts, paddings) that are employed to create layouts in UI. Typically, UI customization is the aspect of app building that is most time-consuming (especially for cross-platform apps). Thanks to the available set, Flutter speeds up the process immensely.
Since widgets are arranged in trees, rendering becomes a cakewalk. Though, the same model somewhat complicates the entire structure where large apps may contain up to 10 code layers. Yet, that difficulty can be easily overcome in case you plan the structure beforehand.
Flutter will see to it that even new apps look the same on older devices, be their operating system Android or iOS. And no extra cost is required for supporting older versions, too.
Being a complete SDK, Flutter can be adapted to run on any gadget with a screen, even a TV. Thus, third-party ports containing plugins, APIs, and mouse and keyboard functions were built to enable producing Flutter apps for various operating systems. These aren’t official Google releases but with the vigorous advent of IoT technologies and devices, it is safe to assume that such functionalities will be formally adopted by the Flutter team sooner or later.
Scarce compatibility problems
Compatibility issues that Flutter apps may experience approach zero. The explanation of it is found in two previously mentioned SDK features. The first is the renowned Dart. This language compiles directly into the native code, so no “translation” is required for the app to understand the native “speech”. The second is the availability of Flutter’s own widgets, which means OEM widgets are rendered superfluous. Thus, communication between the app and the framework where all incompatibilities conventionally lurk is kept to the minimum.
Being accessed freely by all stakeholders of the process is a great asset with a view to creating a perfect product. While completing a project of any complexity, developers can avail themselves of limitless design options, abundant motion APIs, Cupertino widgets, problem-free scrolling behavior, and other boons Flutter has in store.
Catering to people with disabilities is an important summand of the inclusive design approach practiced by the Flutter manufacturer. It boils down to foolproof, prompt, and direct interaction between a user and the app’s interface. The accessibility is effected via three basic components:
Font size adjustment. Fonts can be made as large as the user wishes to specify in the unique operating system settings.
Contrast enhancement. By revving it up, the user makes a text easier to read.
Screen reader utilization. The spoken feedback on UI components is turned on.
Moreover, before automating the selected options, users can test all design settings on their smartphone to see, for instance, how a large font shows on a small screen.
It is yet another step by which Google ensures that their product is accessible to a wide audience of potential users. With this end in view, content localization is implemented. Before the content is created, the code is prepared in a peculiar way so that the app could run in different languages to be used in various regions.
By such internationalization adjustment not only one of 24 languages can be selected, but also layout options (depending on the direction language characters are written – from left to right or vice versa), measurement units (yards or meters), dates, currencies, and many other details that make UX a comfortable one. Flutter’s widgets are highly instrumental in accomplishing internationalization.
Increasing popularity and sizeable community
The previous advantage translates into this one. Being quite a young technology, Flutter displays a quick growing pattern winning a large audience of adherents and attention of both startups and many major-league companies. Its robust community is always ready to lend a helping hand in case a developer faces some issues or needs advice.
Mild learning curve
Learning to program in Dart is quite doable even for people with very limited previous experience in prototyping and no mobile development practice at all. Mastering Dart is made easier by a plethora of real-case projects as well as by the persistent effort of Google to publish relevant detailed and well-structured documentation. Moreover, the Google team releases video tutorials and practical exercises, to say nothing of unofficial courses on Udacity or Udemy. Manufacturers take pains to keep both the framework and its widgets in constant development, which compares favorably with older technologies like React Native that can’t boast of the same commitment.
Sporting plenty of boons, Flutter has some drawbacks, though.
Being underage, so to say, Flutter displays shortcomings that are symptomatic of all novel know-how. It still lacks stability, needs augmenting some functions and tools as well as eliminating minor development flaws. Developers are generally new to this technology and collecting a whole team of them with adequate qualifications is going to be a job of work.
Poor support of iOS features
Flutter apps don’t support Audio Description, VoiceOver, Guided Access, and some other features that are iOS-specific. Handling photos is also a problem in such apps because they delete EXIF files, which causes wrong picture orientation and absence of date and location indication on it. Moreover, Apple’s unenthusiastic attitude to any venture produced outside their company makes it necessary for the Flutter team to update all widgets available in it to conform to every new version of iOS. They do it eventually but having to wait for the update may seem to developers a nuisance.
File overweight issue
The solid performance Flutter manifests tells upon the file size of Flutter apps (above 4MB), which considerably exceeds the weight of native apps (5000KB on average). Since contemporary users tend to pack their devices’ memory with tons of various content (videos, games, music, photos, other apps), they may find it difficult to find space for Flutter apps.
Problematic password manager support
Another forte of Flutter (its non-native widgets) turned to be its undoing. While operating autocomplete input fields, users may face problems with extracting passwords from integrated or third-party password managers.
The availability of open-source third-party libraries provides developers with ready-made models to utilize instead of coding everything from scratch. Being a budding technology, Flutter supports a rather limited list of those. Yet, the Flutter team is working on it constantly, so this aspect gets better with every new release and update. And after all, devs can always rely on the integrated widgets Flutter is proud of.
As the nature of the enumerated demerits shows (which are twice as few as the advantages Flutter enjoys, by the way), they look more like growing pains than non-repairable defects. Of course, it can’t compare to native app-building frameworks, but Flutter is streets ahead of other cross-platform SDKs in terms of visualization and performance.
But whatever framework you will opt for to create the app of your dream, the task should be entrusted to professionals in the field. Diceus has relevant expertise to provide end-to-end mobile app development services, including building business Flutter apps as well as staff augmentation with Flutter specialists for IT companies.
Cross-platform apps are an invaluable boon for businesses that want to reach out to a large consumer audience or present an MVP to prospective investors without making a hole in their pocket. Flutter is second to none in this niche, capable of yielding a product that will let your company stand out among competitors and bring a stream of revenues into its coffers.