Over the last few years, Flutter has become the leading open source technology that forces us to rethink the ongoing debate about native vs. cross-platform app development. It not only took the first place from React Native in the cross-platform category, but is now considered as a perfectly viable choice for projects that previously had to be made as native apps.
You can read more about the ongoing debate in our in-depth article Flutter versus native development from a few months ago. Now, let’s focus on Flutter and how far it evolved because it surely deserves a separate article.
I’ll talk about the key updates, new capabilities of Flutter, and what they mean for businesses that want to build a new app.
How has Flutter development changed in recent years?
Let’s start with the big number. According to Statista, from 2019 to 2021, the percentage of mobile cross-platform developers that use Flutter technology grew from 30% to 42%. Although we don’t have the numbers for 2022 yet, it’s fair to assume it’s even higher due to the release of Flutter 3. In the same period, a vast majority of similar solutions were on a losing track. And there are several reasons for that.
Flutter performance and stability
One of the critical factors is the impeccable performance and stability of apps made with Flutter. The same Flutter mobile app written in other cross-platform frameworks will very likely load slower, run at lower FPS, and use more memory and battery power. The only technology that can compete in this matter is probably React Native.
Since Flutter 2, Google developers also introduced image decoding and a 120 Hz refresh rate in the 3.3 version that was released a few months back, which adds even more possibilities and potential to Flutter app development.
No matter how well the app is designed, those are the aspects you can’t get around as a developer. More importantly, they’re always crucial for users and can play a significant role in the app’s success or failure.
Cross-platform development in Flutter
Before the 3.3 version, Flutter was already a very versatile framework. It allowed developers to create complex and fast apps and deploy them to iOS and Android. That’s great, but it wasn’t the only framework that could do that in an efficient way.
The newest version of Flutter takes it much further with desktop operability for Windows, Linux, and macOS, so all Intel-running devices. Now, all those platforms can run applications from a single codebase, and I don’t think I have to say how much time and money it can save.
Native features in Flutter app development
Flutter is a robust framework for cross-platform development, but it doesn’t mean that it limits developers in terms of adding purely platform-specific features. Quite the opposite, the framework has quite a wide range of stateful and stateless widgets for Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, and Linux.
The system gives programmers a lot of room to work, allowing third-party integrations and APIs using Java, Kotlin, Swift, Objective-C, or C++, depending on what platform we’re trying to build for. So, when we build apps with Flutter, we can surely include native features without them having a significant impact on the app’s performance.
User interface in Flutter
For quite a while, creating User Interfaces (UI) for different devices has been one of the key issues in cross-platform development. If your priority was to maximize the potential of each system and its specific features, native app development was your only choice. It was definitely a more expensive choice, but the only one that would take you where we wanted to go.
The decision is not as plain and simple anymore. Nowadays, Flutter is equipped with a number of tools that allow devs to utilize platform-specific features and capabilities. It’s often said about Flutter software that it “feels like native.” While it might be an exaggeration, it’s not far from the truth. And it’s becoming more accurate every year.
Ultimately, it all depends on what you’re trying to achieve and what are the key requirements of the project. Native development still has the upper hand in many aspects, but when we look at what the Flutter framework is already capable of, it’s certainly getting closer.
You can read a bit more about those key differences between the two approaches in this article:
The devkit provided by Google Flutter team is the main reason why Flutter app development is a clean, fast, and cost-effective process, which appeals both to developers and those who actually have to pay them.
It comes with a massive amount of available libraries that facilitate the development process and leave plenty of room for flexibility. Whether we’re trying to implement out-of-the-box solutions, integrate third-party APIs or simply do things by the book, Flutter lets us do so in an efficient manner.
One of our recent projects, a Flutter mobile app for professional soccer clubs, is an excellent example of how those tools can help us achieve our goals.
Data & backend
While it may not be the right path for every type of project, Flutter development can greatly benefit from the use of BaaS (Backend as a Service). Using solutions like Firebase, Backendless, or parse platform, we can focus on the actual product instead of easily replicable technicalities. That alone can save more than 50% of the entire budget in the case of a Flutter mobile app.
Dart programming language
Is Flutter the best framework for your project?
The evolution of Flutter in the last few years certainly brought many new arguments in favor of cross-platform development. More and more projects that were previously destined to be natively complied can now be developed according to the WORA (write once, run anywhere) philosophy, thanks to Flutter.
And most importantly, Flutter advanced to the point that it allows devs to create such apps in the cross-platform approach without cutting corners.
To sum up, it’s one of the most universally liked frameworks by developers because it allows them to work efficiently and deliver outstanding results. But enough about the developers.
Why should CEOs like Flutter?
- Fast and cost-efficient development process with Dart, which is considered one of the most liked programming languages in the community.
- One source code for all operating systems, both mobile and desktop, which greatly reduces costs (Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, Linux).
- Constantly evolving technology backed by Google (no risk of dying out).
- Impeccable app performance compared to many competing solutions.
- Widely known and liked (large community makes it easy to extend or build a dev team for a project).
The last one can be particularly important. The ease of use and popularity of Flutter makes knowledge transfer smooth and simple, allowing owners to start their own dev team after the app blooms or get another round of investment. The same goes for team extensions.
Of course, Flutter still isn’t an all-purpose solution. It shouldn’t be picked only based on its own advantages. The choice of technology for a project matters a lot, and it should be made after a detailed project discovery process. Only after we know the key requirements can we make a good decision.
Should you build your app with Flutter?
With the big company behind it, Flutter certainly isn’t going anywhere. It’s free, it won’t stop evolving, and time and time again, it will force us to come back to the ever-present native vs. cross-platform debate. And I’ll be back here to report on it.
In the meantime, let’s make something happen with the fantastic set of tools that we already have. And if you have an idea for an app, we’d love to hear about it and help you make it real. Let’s talk.