What Is Flutter and Why You Will Benefit by Using It
Aug 10, 20227 min read
Senior full stack developer and CTO at Ideamotive.
Say, what comes to your mind when you think “the ultimate goal of any business having big-time aspirations”? You are probably thinking about reaching out to a maximum number of consumers, and you are totally right. In the age of mobile phone ubiquity, it means creating an app that will play well with any smartphone, whether it relies on Android or iOS as an operating system. To develop such a product, you have to employ an adequate tool, and Flutter is an excellent choice of a cross-platform framework. So, what is Flutter, and why is it highly advantageous in your app-building endeavors?
Strange as it may appear now, Flutter (back then Sky) originated in 2015 as a UI framework geared for exclusively Android-powered gadgets. Google as its creator, was whipping it into shape for three years and, in late 2018, released it under the current moniker. Gradually, it has extended its focus to eventually turn into a powerful cross-platform tool that is widely harnessed for building applications via using one codebase to run on Linux, iOS, Windows, or any other operating system fueling all kinds of gizmos.
Such modification told positively on the niche popularity of Flutter that is growing apace, having added 12% within two years (from 2019 to 2021) – an astounding spike for a young product like this.
What is Flutter made of? In fact, this name embraces two elements.
The first is a comprehensive SDK (Software Development Kit) which includes a range of tools, testing and integration APIs, command-line programs, and other software. They can be utilized both for building apps and for rendering their code into the native one. The second is a UI library containing various buttons, sliders, text inputs, and other widgets helpful in-app customization. If the gamut seems unsatisfactory, programmers are free to build their own widgets that will suit them better.
How does this organization benefit mobile developers poised to create cross-platform apps?
How Does Flutter Work?
First of all, Flutter doesn’t compile immediately to native apps. Instead, it launches apps simultaneously with the engine, which enables Flutter to replace all native app elements with its own SDK components.
Both these characteristics allow for the short startup time of the app as well as its quite decent performance on most devices – 60 frames per second – and twice as much if the device where the app is run supports Flutter. The flip side of this advantage is the size of Flutter apps that weigh more than average.
A special feature of Flutter that won universal acclaim is its Hot Reload function. It allows programmers to see all code modifications in any gadgets and continue their development process with the updated code after this button is pressed.
Among other assets of Flutter worth mentioning is the availability of generational garbage collection, the existence of a tree shaking compiler, the refreshment of the view tree for every new frame, and a huge database of software tools.
All these features promise numerous boons to developers who employ Flutter for app creation.
Fortes of Flutter Scrutinized
Specialists note the following benefits of this framework for app building.
1. Mild Learning Curve
Dart is easy to master for any programmer, even for those who never dealt with mobile development. A very basic prototyping experience would be sufficient as a departure point. To help novices excel, Google publishes various tutorials and practical exercises, whereas other platforms (like Udemy or Udacity) reinforce official releases with materials available there.
2. Swift Development
Instead of creating two apps for each major operating system, you produce one solution that will run on all devices, which spells twice less time for each aspect of development – from coding to testing. Besides, the Hot Reload button accelerates the process even for one app because it rules out the necessity of restarting the app after each alteration of code.
Another facilitator is the enormous collection of widgets the Flutter library has in store. It enables boosting the UI customization efforts – the development procedure that takes the longest to accomplish, as a rule. Moreover, the tree-pattern arrangement of widgets streamlines rendering immensely.
The speedy development benefits business owners who commission the solution as well since by opting for a Flutter app, the time-to-market is drastically curtailed.
3. Cost Efficiency
Obviously, building one app instead of two isn’t only faster but also cheaper. To tell the truth, app creation is never a chump change issue, but one item is always easier on the pocketbook than two. So for cash-strapped startups, a Flutter app is a godsend.
Thanks to its APIs, third-party ports with plugins, and keyboard and mouse functions, Flutter apps can operate on any gadget with a screen (even a TV!). Officially, Google didn’t release any of such products, but the robust advent of IoT gizmos is likely to encourage the Flutter team to harness these functionalities one of these days.
5. UI Universality
No matter how old the device is or what operating system it is powered by, Flutter apps will look the same on them. Moreover, you won’t need to pay for supporting older versions.
6. Open-Source Nature
The growing developer community supplies a great variety of motion APIs, Cupertino widgets, and design options free to be employed by any Flutter developer.
7. Rare Compatibility Problems
Due to the minimum communication between the framework and the app, compatibility issues for Flutter applications are virtually non-existent. Such close-to-zero interaction is guaranteed by the collection of Flutter’s own widgets (which means OEM widgets can be ignored) and Dart that compiles directly into the native code.
8. Internationalization Options
Flutter creators offer developers a choice of 24 languages for UI design. Moreover, you can enjoy different layout models (the direction of writing the characters – from right to left or vice versa), dates, currencies, measurement units (feet or meters), etc. Thus, your content can be easily localized for usage in various regions of the world.
9. Accessibility Opportunities
Wishing to meet users with disabilities halfway, Flutter extends inclusivity functionalities that streamline interaction between them and the app’s interface. These include screen contrast enhancement, screen reader availability, and font size adjustment, which are meant to provide comfortable UX for visually-disadvantaged people.
Manifesting a plethora of merits, Flutter has some demerits, though.
Shortcomings of Flutter Exposed
As the recent StackOverflow survey shows, Flutter is among the top five most loved and least dreaded by developers' frameworks.
Being only of a "pre-school age," Flutter lacks stability, and requires the removal of slight development flaws and the augmentation of some functions – the problems typical for any young technology, in fact.
2. File Overweight
The average weight of Flutter apps exceeds 4MB, whereas native apps are much smaller in size (approximately 5,000KB). This may be a problem for many mobile phone owners whose devices tend to be crowded with videos, games, music, photos, and other content, eating up a lot of memory space. Yet, this is the price you have to pay for the outstanding performance of Flutter apps.
3. Inadequate Password Manager Operations
This bottleneck is the flipside of another asset of Flutter – its non-native widgets. Because of them, extracting passwords from integrated third-party managers can be a problem when users deal with autocomplete input fields.
4. Poor Support of iOS Features
Although the Flutter team tries to keep its widgets updated with every new release of Apple products, you have to wait for some time until it happens. Besides, some iOS-specific features (for instance, Guided Access, Audio Description, VoiceOver) aren’t supported by Flutter apps. Handling photos by such apps is also substandard since they delete EXIF files, depriving pictures of data and location indication and causing their wrong orientation. Given all these deficiencies, it is recommended to consider Swift as a language for iOS app development.
5. Scanty Library Support
The availability of access to third-party libraries safeguards broad customization opportunities. Unfortunately, Flutter supports only a limited number of those. Yet, their roster is likely to grow with every new release and update of the know-how. Until it occurs, you can always make use of Flutter’s integrated widget library.
As you see, most of these drawbacks are growing pains that are sure to decrease as long as the technology gets more mature. So you can embark on Flutter app creation – as soon as you hire a qualified Flutter developer.
Is It Easy to Find a Flutter Developer?
Having only a couple of years of history behind it, Flutter is gaining significant traction among the developing community, so the question “what is Flutter?” isn’t relevant for the majority of programmers anymore. While two years ago, it ranked nine among the most used frameworks with 7.2%, by 2022, Flutter has almost doubled its popularity, rising to the 6th spot.
Naturally, such a rapid increase is made possible thanks to a hefty surge in the developer community. However, this number is still insufficient to cover the ever-growing market needs. That is why collecting an entire team of mavens competent in Flutter is a rather challenging endeavor so far. Yet, in the foreseeable future, we will witness an expansion of the competent Flutter workforce, hopefully making the search for the respective IT talents easier. In the meantime, even this as yet modest pool of Flutter developers has managed to produce some high-profile apps. We have some of them onboard the Ideamotive team - take a look.
Flutter App Success Stories and Future Prospects
While a couple of years ago, the majority of companies asked themselves, "What is Flutter?" today, the breakneck speed of its expansion prompted many blue-chip businesses to launch their Flutter apps.
Google Ads. It would be strange if the creator of Flutter didn't extensively use it. Trying to set an example, it overhauled its Google Ads solution by extending its feature roster. Now it sports real-time alerts and in-depth campaign details.
Alibaba. When the brand felt that its vibrant business had outgrown the e-commerce site they have, it launched a mobile app which was then upgraded with the participation of Flutter. As a result, Alibaba’s global transactions manifested a spike as well as the company’s customer satisfaction indices.
Groupon. The existing app called Groupon Merchant, which is owned by the organization, was revamped by integrating Flutter modules. Such a way out saved the company a pretty penny since they didn’t build a new app from scratch.
Birch Finance. This fintech app helps to efficiently manage the client's money by monitoring and analyzing reward points credit card users earn.
Hamilton Musical. Launched by the famed Broadway show, this app enables music fans to enjoy the uploaded videos and keep abreast of the latest news and tour schedules.
Evidently, Flutter apps are widely used by major-league players (such as Uber, eBay, BMW, and Airbnb) as well as smaller fry across a slew of industries, including finance and banking, retail, entertainment, automotive, real estate, etc. As the demand for cross-platform products grows, the number of Flutter users is going to expand steadily, if not dramatically, with an ever-growing list of businesses opting for this cost-efficient way to boost their workflow and reach out to the global target audience. Besides, a Flutter app is an excellent choice if you need an MVP to present to potential investors or a product that will link up with a gadget via Bluetooth.
Nowadays, digitally-driven businesses face the problem of being able to get home to the maximum pool of consumers. Building a cross-platform app that would run on any device irrespective of the operating system it utilizes is possible via leveraging Flutter. This robust framework allows for the fast and cost-efficient creation of portable mobile applications that are sure to add value to a business in any sector of the economy. Contact Ideamotive to engage first-class specialists in Flutter development and give your organization a powerful boost with the product they will create.
Dawid is a full stack developer experienced in creating Ruby on Rails and React Native apps from naught to implementation. Technological superhero, delivering amazing solutions for our clients and helping them grow.