Should you be developing apps with Flutter?
Let us look into what Flutter actually is and what it can offer you as a developer.
Flutter is quickly becoming one of the most popular frameworks for developing cross-platform applications. From ensuring faster mobile application development to facilitating simultaneous updates to easier maintenance and code re-usability, Flutter offers a wide variety of benefits for the developers.
But irrespective of these wide-ranging benefits, Flutter has some disadvantages as well. Though Flutter is highly useful for all kinds of mobile application development needs, it should not be considered a magic solution for development issues and troubles.
Here we will look into the key features, pros, and cons of the Flutter framework and whether you should focus on it over native app development.
What is Flutter?
Flutter is an open-source, cross-platform mobile app development framework that uses a single codebase to build multiple versions of the same app. Flutter framework uses Dart as the programming language, which Google develops.
The best thing that differentiates Flutter from other cross platforms mobile application development frameworks is its capability to deliver a native user experience despite using the same code base. The benefits of the framework are twofold. On the one hand, by using a single codebase for two platforms, Flutter allows faster development saving time and money for the cross-platform developers and the clients. On the other hand, by offering a native user experience, Flutter provides a truly user-friendly experience.
Why Flutter for Mobile App Development?
Mobile apps are increasingly tending to go for native user experience more than anything else. This is happening because people are already habituated to the effortless and easy user experience of native apps. At the same time, the cost and time advantages of building cross-platform apps remain vital. Some frameworks like Flutter came as the great technology alternative to deliver the best of both worlds, respectively native app and cross-platform development.
Flutter is widely known for its capability to deliver a native user experience befitting to both iOS and Android mobile platforms. Simultaneously, it is a cross-platform development framework that allows reusing the same code for apps on both platforms. This feature is why app projects that want to bring together both the native user experience and the cost advantage of cross-platform app development choose Flutter.
Key Features of Flutter
Let’s have a quick look at the key features of the Flutter framework.
● Hot Reload: This feature will allow developers to see the changes made by them in real-time through the app. This active feature will help fix bugs and app errors faster than ever before and improve development time for applications.
● Native Feature: Flutter comes with native code, allows easy third-party integration, and incorporates platform-specific APIs. All these things ultimately help enable the app to give a native user experience to the users.
● Widgets: Flutter allowing access to a wide variety of traditional widgets also allows the quick creation of custom widgets.
● Minimal Code: The Dart language of Flutter that uses JIT and AOT compilation to improve the function and accelerate the app performance uses very minimum code.
Pros and Cons of Flutter
Now that we have explained the key features and how the Flutter framework works for diverse applications across the platforms, it is necessary to understand the framework with a balanced approach. Flutter framework has its positives and negatives, meaning Flutter’s use depends on which outweighs the other.
Let’s explain the pros of Flutter.
● Hot Reload: The hot reload feature allows developers to see the changes they make in the app in real-time. Hot reloading features help to add new features quickly. Thanks to this feature, the developers can see the result of the latest changes in real-time, boosting the work’s efficiency, as they are no longer waiting for the code to compile and the emulator to run to see the effect their change has made.
● Robust Support: Flutter developers enjoy tremendous support ranging from support from the material design team to community support from more than a thousand developers. Flutter, being maintained by Google, enjoys unparalleled support from developers all over the globe. However, it does require a lot of community support in an attempt to include the latest native features offered by Android and iOS.
● Single codebase: Flutter allows building native iOS and Android apps while using a single codebase for both app versions on the intended platforms. Due to this, it helps development companies to reach out to more customers and create a solution that works for all. This also makes Flutter a popular choice for new developers that are getting started and do not know which platform they want to develop.
● Easy usability: The most notable thing about Flutter is that it is highly flexible and allows easy usability. Flutter is very easy to set up and involves a shallow learning curve. If you want to build a solid cross-platform app and don’t want to pay a considerable budget on the app project, Flutter can be the right solution.
● Versatile: Developers can also use Flutter for diverse app projects ranging from low-cost app projects to powerful and feature-rich solutions for large enterprises. Flutter doesn’t require mighty machines with complex computing capabilities, another reason why it is a popular option for new developers that may not have an extensive budget to buy high spec equipment.
● No coding knowledge: Any company can utilize Flutter for their app projects even if they don’t have Flutter experts onboard. As the learning curve is shallow, and one can use the framework without any prior coding knowledge and experience, it fits into any app project.
Now let’s look at the cons of Flutter.
● Limited choice of libraries: Flutter lacks many features that developers frequently need, despite having support from Google and various quality libraries. This limitation is valid because Flutter is a relatively new framework and is still going through development and value additions from its core team and the community. When it comes to features and respective libraries, Flutter is still in its budding stage. Due to this, the development of some large applications may not be possible if there are specific features that it requires.
● Large footprint: As for the file size, Flutter has a large footprint. The file sizes of apps built with Flutter are relatively more significant than apps built with other frameworks. The bigger file size has been a crucial deterrent for many developers to choose Flutter for their app projects. Since device storage is continuously a problem for users, large footprint files are a significant inconvenience for developers and users.
● Skills and expertise: Though Flutter is exceptionally easy to use, it is built upon Dart language, which is a bit uncommon in the development world. Since Dart is not that popular, to try your programming skills with Flutter, you need to deal with a more significant learning curve than usual. Learning Dart for a project can contribute to development time and budget as well. However, there are still plenty of resources being continuously added, especially on platforms such as YouTube.
Native or Flutter development?
Flutter, as a framework, is here to stay. Although its shortcomings are quite a few compared to these positive aspects, the framework is popular for several reasons. Expectedly, over time Flutter will get better and reduce the lacking mentioned above. However, for the time being, native development is still the way to go. For any new developers, they should focus on a staple app development language, Java or Kotlin for Android, Swift for iOS. Not only will these languages allow you to build better native applications, but they also provide a safety net should Flutter not receive the support it needs in the future, therefore making their skills versatile as they would be able to proceed still with a mobile developer job within that field.
Flutter is a perfect fit for anyone looking to get their first app on the store, as they would be able to publish on both the Google Play Store and the Apple App store. Getting that first app on the store is crucial for mobile developers. I explain why in my blog on “Why you should build an app for the app store.”
What are your thoughts on the Flutter framework?
Let me know in the comments.