You may not realize it, but you’ve likely used applications created by Flutter. You may have shopped at Alibaba or run an ad campaign through Google Ads or paid with Google Pay or coupons that were digital. You’ve probably seen the outcomes of Flutter’s relatively short existence.
After the launch of its alpha version on May 17, 2017, as well as then the official stable version launched in December 2018. It took Flutter a long time to achieve immense popularity, as evidenced by the number of stars on GitHub (143k against the 104k of React Native). It continues to draw more attention than other technologies.
In May 2020, Flutter’s 3rd Generation of Flutter was launched, with enhancements and improvements that offer a more user-friendly experience for both users and developers alike. We looked under the hood to uncover Flutter’s benefits and drawbacks. We also helped you determine whether it’s the right fit for your app of the future.
What is Flutter?
Flutter is Google’s open-source technology that allows the development of desktop, mobile, and web applications using the same codebase. Contrary to other popular options, Flutter app development is not an application framework or library, it’s a complete SDK software development kit. Let’s clarify this a bit to ensure that we’re all on the same page.
The term “library” refers to a library that is essentially a reusable part of code that can be included in your program to accomplish a specific function.
Frameworks are an arrangement that provides users with a basic structure to build software. It’s a collection of tools that form the foundation of your application and requires users to complete the gaps by writing code to create the whole structure and achieve the functionality you want.
The term “SDK” refers to a set of tools/ or software development kits. SDK offers a larger application since it’s a bundle of tools, which include documentation, libraries, APIs, often frameworks, and even more that provide everything you require for developing software. This is the case with Flutter. It already has everything needed to develop cross-platform software.
Other technology options like Xamarin, React Native, Ionic, and NativeScript can also be used to build apps that function across different platforms. We provide a thorough analysis of these cross-platform applications in a special article. What exactly does Flutter have to provide?
Because Flutter app development is a complete SDK, it has a rendering engine with ready-made widgets and integration and testing APIs as well as integration APIs. Let’s discuss the major components and how it functions generally.
The three major structural layers that comprise Flutter app development are
- An embedder that utilizes an OS-specific language that lets the application run across any OS;
- An engine is written in C/C++, which provides an implementation at a lower level of Flutter’s fundamental APIs. This comprises images (through Skia 2D graphics library) and text layout I/O from network and file systems accessibility, as well as plugin architecture and a Dart runtime toolchain, and
- A framework that is based on the Dart programming language. Its implementation isn’t required however it comes with an array of libraries that can be separated into layers: the fundamental foundational classes such as layers of rendering, widget layers, and the Material/Cupertino library.
A key component of Flutter is the widgets. They are part of the Flutter SDK and function as building blocks to be used to cover all aspects of development. Flutter app development not only offers an array of ready-made widgets but also permits users to modify the ones they like or design their own.
Flutter also has automated test tools specifically for three kinds of tests that include widget test, unit test, and integration test. Below are Google’s instructions for these tests. Additionally, Flutter supports the Continuous Delivery model through Fastlane which is a platform for free that connects Flutter with well-known CI tools like Travis, Jenkins, or Cirrus (check the manual for more information on continuous delivery using Flutter).
Debugging in Flutter is carried out by using Flutter’s DevTools (also known as Dart DevTools). They are used to examine layout, analyze the performance of apps, debug them, and more.
Flutter 2 as well as Flutter 3 expansion to new domains and platforms
In the beginning, Flutter was created to be a mobile-centric SDK that could be used for making Native Android and iOS applications using the same codebase. But, Google has been hard working on refining and developing the idea behind Flutter. Flutter 2 was the first version of Flutter, released in 2021, it was the long-awaited ability to build applications for the internet and Windows. Flutter 3, which went into operation in 2022, has solid compatibility with Linux and macOS operating with Intel as well as Apple Silicon processors. In total Flutter 3 allows users to create UI on six different platforms.
The third version continues to expand into the game development domain, which was not Flutter’s top priority at this point. In addition to the 2D games engine Flame, it also has an SDK that offers the casual Games Toolkit that allows for the rapid creation of puzzles, board, and card games, as well as strategies for iOS as well as Android. It’s integrated with in-app advertisements (AdMobs) as well as in-app purchases that allow you to make money from your app. This feature allows users to link directly with Apple’s Game Center as well as Google Play Games Services.
In addition, The third release also included support for folding phones as well as Material Design 3.0, which is the most current version of Android’s oriented set tools and components to build a stunning UI. It also improved the integration to Firebase service backends that are used by 62 percent of Flutter’s developers.
What exactly is Flutter employed to serve?
A lot of large companies have opted to use Flutter app development to develop mobile apps that are branded and that provide an excellent customer experience. The most well-known clients include Toyota, BMW, eBay, Alibaba Group, Groupon, and Etsy to mention just some.
The SDK is also perfectly integrated into the startup ecosystem because it’s free, feature-rich, and affordable. A few startups which have been growing using Flutter include
- Nubank is one of the Brazilian Neobank and the most important online bank in Latin America, as of the present time;
- Invoice Ninja An invoice and payment platform designed for small-scale businesses.
- Reflectly is an AI-powered mental health application.
Although mobile apps that are cross-platform are not the only thing that is Flutter’s main focus but the SDK is used in a variety of other areas. Rapid development cycles and its portability make it perfect for creating Minimum Viable Products ( MVPs ) and prototyping. It is easy to test your business idea across different platforms.
For Web development, Flutter app development could be the ideal solution for progressive web applications ( PWAs) and single-page apps (SPAs). It also allows you to extend your mobile app to desktops and the internet.
Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals of the Flutter technique, we can look at its strengths and weaknesses.
Pros for Choosing Flutter for App Development
What’s new, unique, and more effective about Flutter? Let’s look at the features that could cause you to consider rethinking your traditional software for a more modern one.
1. Flutter widgets for speedy UI programming
We have previously discussed that Flutter makes use of pre-made widgets. It is possible to say that Flutter is a widget. One of the things that are revolutionary about the product is that it assists in creating a user interface using the building blocks. Contrast this with other methods that make use of different objects (layout views, views, controllers) in the event that Flutter is a consistent and unifying model of objects.
Every object that is in Flutter is an element of a widget, from buttons to padding or the font. Widgets are able to be combined to make layouts, and you are able to utilize widgets at any level of customization, from the existing building blocks up to the most basic level when you design your own widgets using the same tools that the Flutter team used to create theirs.
The widgets of Flutter are arranged in tree-like structures which are useful to render but could create a sloppy complication of the overall structure. Larger applications can require as many as 10,010 layers to build a basic object therefore you’ll need to think about the structure prior.
Flutter has widgets that match Google’s Material Design and Apple’s Cupertino designs. The UI modification that typically takes the longest to finish for cross-platform development takes only a short amount of time using Flutter.
2. Dart programming language- an efficient and simple tool targeted toward Java programmers
Dart is an object-oriented language that reminds users of Java and C++ with its syntax. It can be used with two powerful and weak styles of typing, which makes it easy to master for those who are new to the field. We have mentioned above that Dart is the main reason behind some essential aspects of Flutter. Let’s look at what aspects of Dart’s personality create Flutter.
It’s both the Ahead-of-Time (AOT) as well as Just-in-Time (JIT) types of compilation. In development, engineers typically have to go for compiling their programming language supports. AOT-compiled programs generally load quicker because they’ve been converted into native machine code before. Just-in-Time compiles source code throughout execution and results in slower startup times, but also lets you move the code around more easily. This can significantly speed up the design of apps since it is easy to switch between writing programs and testing on various devices. Flutter is a combination of both worlds, making use of JIT compilation during development, and AOT to release the app.
There is no need for XML documents. In Android development, the work is split into code and layout. The layout is composed in XML as Views which are then referenced in Java code. Dart handles this by keeping all the layouts and code in the same spot. Because everything within Flutter functions as widgets and the layout is also designed within Dart.
3. The most gentle learning curve to get an easy beginning
Since getting familiar with Dart isn’t a huge obstacle for you, figuring out the program itself is simple. The Flutter team points out that they’ve encountered people with very little understanding of programming, prototyping, and designing applications, and they also point out that no previous experience in mobile development is needed to start using Flutter.
4. Excellent documentation and learning resources
Google is well-known for producing comprehensive and well-organized documentation, which is something React Native is struggling with. Beyond the traditional documentation, there are also videos by the Google team and work-through exercises that you can do through. There are just a few of the official resources available. There are a myriad of online courses at Udemy and Udacity as well as join Facebook communities as well as a Study group for Slack.
5. The Flutter developer community is a great resource for sharing knowledge
Given its relatively short time in existence, it’s possible that Flutter isn’t getting the support of the community. An emerging technology, it’s expanding rapidly. We’ve already talked about the amazing figures from GitHub as well as Google trends. The annual report by Stack Overflow has placed Flutter 5th in the top five most popular frameworks and libraries across diverse areas. . The score clearly indicates that, as of the present, Flutter, as of today React Native are the two most sought-after cross-platform technologies.
A myriad of Flutter users who are on Medium, Stack Overflow, Discord, Reddit, Gitter, and all major social networks will not let you down for any issue that might occur. In addition, Dart communities are also abundant.
6. Google to ensure long-term assistance
Since Flutter app development is supported by Google and Google itself is a major user of the technology, you can be sure that the product will receive continuous assistance. Every bug is fixed right away and the application will continue evolving into the future.
There’s another project that Google worked on for several years and is also currently working on the Google Fuchsia. It’s an open-source operating system that is based on the Zircon kernel. In order to make it multi-platform and provide high performance, Google is developing Fuchsia UI and applications that use Flutter. Given its role in such a large project, we think that Flutter will not disappear anytime in the near future.
7. Hot reload feature to receive instant updates
The “hot reload” tool is already embedded into Flutter’s structure and doesn’t require plugins in order to work. It lets you observe code changes in real time. Imagine that you’ve experienced an error when running a program. In Flutter, you will have the ability to repair the problem right away and continue where you left off without having to restart the entire program. Reloading quickly increases programmers’ productivity, facilitates rapid iterations, and allows users to test without a lengthy delay.
React Native has a similar feature known as Fast Refresh and Xamarin provides Hot Reload with XAML.
Another option to hot reload in Flutter is to use a hot restart. The difference is that hot reload retains the app’s state, while hot restart erases it, and the code is compiling again. In the end, it requires longer but is more efficient that the normal restart. It is important to note that hot reload cannot be used for web development using Flutter. So your only choice will be a hot restart.
8. High performance
There are many factors that determine the performance of an application: the central processing unit (CPU) used, the number of requests per second (RPS), the average response time, the number of frames per second, and many more. The Flutter Team promises an unbeatable 60fps (or 120 frames per second on devices with 120Hz updates). This is the speed at which modern monitors show a smooth image.
To see how Flutter app development does its job, get to know what compares Flutter, Xamarin, and React Native performance. The results are shocking: Flutter came in first with 58 fps and an average launch time of 220 milliseconds. Xamarin’s launch time was 345 milliseconds with 53fps. React Native came second with 229 milliseconds and 57 fps.
There were other comparisons made and the results were slightly different. Based on the thought bot, Flutter almost matched native app CPU utilization, however, it used 50% higher memory in comparison to React Native, while a recent study of performance by inertia found that Flutter’s performance is nearly native performance, while React Native having the worst results.
We’ve previously explained why the performance of Flutter app development is greater due to direct compilation with no bridges that can slow the performance. To further enhance the experience, Flutter 3 introduced an algorithm that calculates the difficulty of picture rendering. This data is utilized to optimize memory use without affecting the Flutter app’s performance.
Following the announcement of Flutter 3, the SDK transformed from being mobile-oriented to being portable and platform-agnostic. Thanks to Dart’s portability, as well as its ability to compile this codebase, Flutter can be used across the internet and five major operating platforms: iOS, Android, Linux, macOS, and Windows. Additionally, Google is working on expanding the embedding possibilities of Flutter to include TVs, cars and smart home appliances, and many more.
10. Accessibility and internationalization
Being a champion of inclusion and diversity, Google provides built-in opportunities to make its apps available to a greater number of users. When you plan to make your app to be able to run in different languages and utilized it in various regions, you have to make sure that your code is prepared for locally-adapted content that is usually created later. This process is called internationalization.
Flutter native has widgets built upon Dart intl. The Dart package makes this process easier. It currently supports 78 languages and currencies, in addition to units of measure and dates and the layout option (for language written left to left), and much more. This is a comprehensive guide to internationalizing Flutter apps.
Flutter also guarantees access to the internet and is able to support the following three elements:
- Large fonts: adjust the size of fonts to what the user specifies in OS settings.
- Screen readers provide oral comments regarding UI elements, as well as
- The right amount of contrast helps the text be easy to comprehend.
Although all of these processes are automated, designers should test their designs with various settings. For example, instance, you could make use of the largest font size to determine how the design will fit on a mobile device with a smaller screen. For more information, head to Flutter’s accessibility guidelines.
Cons for Choosing Flutter for App Development
Each technology has its own weaknesses in the early stages of its development. Uncertainty and inexperience alone that will evolve with the new technology might deter future innovators.
As we continued monitoring the development of Flutter it was evident that there was steady growth, and many of the initial problems were resolved. For instance, early doubts about Flutter’s compatibility with iOS have been resolved. issue because of the constant updating of Cupertino widgets. Additionally, its efficiency and reliability have been proven time and time again by major companies like Alibaba as well as Google Ads with millions of downloads and daily users.
1. Lack of libraries from third parties
Third-party libraries and programs can play an important role in automatizing software development and alleviating the need to code every single thing from scratch. These libraries are usually open source, readily available, and tested – who would not want to test an application that has been tested and tested in various settings?
For many older and well-known technologies, finding the required package isn’t an issue, however, for the latest ones, it’s usually a problem. But, as of now there are over 25k applications available on the official site and the number is increasing. Of course, this is lower than the main rival, React Native, but it’s still more than adequate. As we’ve said Flutter widgets are capable of taking care of the majority of the development cycle without the need for third-party tools.
2. A relatively low level of adoption for Dart
3. Flutter app size
There is a limited amount of storage available on their smartphones, which is why it’s best to create applications that don’t make users delete them to make the way for photos that are precious or music libraries. To reduce the size of the app developers tend to steer clear of animations, limit the number of libraries and applications to the minimum, or compress images.
Because Flutter app development comes with built-in widgets, the minimum size of the app is greater than 4MB, which is more than native Java (539KB) and Kotlin (550KB) applications which is the minimum version of the app. In fairness, its competitors have the same issue, and perhaps even more so, the new version for Xamarin will require nearly sixteen MB and 7MB for React Native.
How can I begin using Flutter?
We’ve looked at Flutter’s primary features and compared them with other software and hopefully will help you develop your own opinions about Flutter’s technology. So, how can you start using Flutter app development?
Review your system’s parameters. Windows users should have the latest 10th version with the 64-bit processor, must have at least 1.64 GB of space on their disks, and also be running PowerShell 5.0 along with Git on Windows installed. For macOS, the minimum specifications are 2.8 gigabytes of space on the disk and the most current version of Xcode installed. Linux users require just 600 MB of disk space and some Command-line programs within the development environments they use.
Download the Flutter SDK. Choose your operating system then follow directions. All operating systems support development with iOS and Android however you’ll also require a specific editor for your platform. To do web development, you’ll require the Chrome browser. Dart is pre-installed in Flutter.
Download the editor. You can opt for any IDE that supports Flutter command lines, however, Google suggests using their plugins for officially approved editors like Android Studio, IntelliJ, and Visual Studio.
Can Flutter be able to replace React Native and Xamarin?
The short answer is No.
Long answer: In light of Flutter’s exponential growth within a short period of time and the ongoing support from Google, Flutter is definitely here to remain. As more and more developers are attracted by its performance, capabilities, and user-friendliness Give it a shot and then become a fan.
Are You Still Confused For Choosing Flutter for App Development
iTechnolabs do not intend to endorse Flutter and any other technology, and we always objectively present the pros and cons. But, in the case of Flutter App Development, we’re confident that it’s an effective alternative to older and more advanced frameworks, and that the market part of Flutter mobile apps – and as well as desktop and web applications will continue to grow.
We hope this article has answered many of your Flutter-related questions. Let us know which latest technology you’d like to learn more about in the series The Good and the Bad.