Flutter Framework As An Efficient Tool To Create Native Multi-Platform Apps

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14 Aug 2019
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11 min
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Sergey L.
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When creating a high-quality user interface on mobile, it is necessary to choose appropriate tools that will simplify its process. Otherwise, wrongs tools will make a situation worse and can become the reason of failure. I bet nobody wants to start doing everything from the beginning, that is why pay your attention to advanced UI framework for mobile app development like Flutter. It’s a framework from Google that was released one year ago.

Let’s find out why this framework is worthwhile for native mobile app development services and what capabilities it has.

What Flutter framework is

At the end of February 2018 Google introduced a first beta version of Flutter framework. This is an open source cross-platform toolkit for developers to create native interfaces for Android and iOS. As of August, 2019, 1.7.8 version of final product is available.

What’s special about Flutter? This framework makes it possible to combine the quality of native apps with the flexibility of cross-platform development. Native compilation for ARM processors helps simplify the development, and simple rendering, set of integrated widgets and tools and new features facilitate this process as well. What’s more, since it is open source framework, as it was noted above, any developer may make changes in framework on GitHub in real-time mode and send merge request. Thus, developers contribute to making Flutter better.

flutter app design

Flutter official website

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Check it out what architecture our Android developers use. Read The architecture we use for Android apps

As for features, one of the most interesting features in new Google mobile framework is Hot Reload button. When you click on it, all changes in code will be immediately displayed in gadgets, emulators, and simulators. A user interface of an app can be easily customized with the help of multi-level architecture. But it has one hidden surprise - unlike other frameworks from Google, this one requires Dart language for the development of apps.

What’s the final Flutter version has up its sleeve:

  • DevTools. It is a suite of performance and debugging tools for Flutter and Dart. Developers can analyze the UI layout and state of a Flutter app, debug memory issues in a Flutter or Dart command-line app, and fix other possible bugs;
  • New widgets. Google pays a lot of attention to widgets which provide users with functionality. Last version of Flutter design got new slider to create good-looking ranges. For example, when users want to change price range in mCommerce app, they will use a cool widget that captures attention;
  • In-app purchase plugin. Now, Flutter offers a new plugin for purchasing items in apps.
  • AndroidX support. That is, developers have improved support for Android with new support for AndroidX from an external contributor. It means that migration process fto AndroidX is simplified.
  • Android bundles support. Since August, 2019, all apps that are created for Android Pie should be provided both in 32-bit and 64-bit version to Google Play Store.
  • New fonts. Latest version of Flutter UI design boasts about new rich typography including different styles of figures and letters. Interaction with fonts for iOS is improved

On the whole, after official release Flutter has got improved stability, higher performance and better quality of framework functionality. There are already thousands of apps created using this framework although it is rather young.

Why use Flutter if you plan to make a cross-platform mobile app?

Cross-platform development with Flutter design tool doesn’t make software products worse. A framework provides developers with all native widgets of Android and iOS interfaces like Material Design and Cupertino accordingly. It can change the behavior of separate elements to make a habitual user experience for users.

Also, as a robust framework, Flutter makes it possible to implement discrete files compilation in the development mode. JiT compilation speeds up the development and software debugging. Moreover, a framework supports a lot of plugins like Firebase, SQLite etc. Pub.dev service will help you find the required plugin. Besides that, Flutter is compatible with elements of standard programming languages for a specific platform.

One more reason to use Flutter tool is that developers actively work on Flutter for web and desktop use as well. Just imagine, our development team will build an app for you that will run on Android, iOS, web, MacOS, Linux, Windows. Sounds promising, huh?

On the whole, many developers already use Flutter for today. Cleveroad developers also start dealing with this multi-platform UI framework. Google itself uses its framework actively. For example, AdWords platform is the one where Flutter contributed.

By the way, Google is creating new operating system called Fuchsia. Its UI is built using Flutter mobile app development framework. But a new operating system is the topic for a new article, I think. You can get acquainted with Fuchsia OS more deeply on official website.

How Flutter works

As we mentioned, apps made with Flutter can be launched in iOS and Android along with desktop and web apps, but here tool is work is functioning in a different manner from common UI frameworks for both operating systems. But in fact web and desktop apps built with Flutter are too raw to use, so Flutter is still being improved.

ui flutter

Flutter framework to build cross-platform apps

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Guide to converting iOS to Android app. Read How to convert iOS app to Android and vice versa

Flutter isn’t compiled directly to iOS or Android apps. Apps are launched on a basis of a combination of rendering engine built on C++ and Flutter design UI framework built on Dart. All files generated in this way attach to each app, and SDK assemblies software for a specific platform.

This approach can be compared to game development principle. A game doesn’t allocate its framework and main functionality is implemented with the game engine. The same concerns Flutter software - all apps on the basis of Flutter SDK replace all parts of native frameworks with Flutter elements.

It can have an impact on the size of the end Flutter application that can be heavier than usual apps. However, the performance of such app is also better - rendering is performed with the speed up to 120 FPS.

New to expect from Flutter in future

Google plans to add some interesting details to the following versions of Flutter. There are some of them:

  • Existing applications will get Flutter screens that will be embedded into applications;
  • Updated APIs will make it possible to simplify navigation and routing;
  • Firebase platform will become the one that will get additional maintenance;
  • Core engine will go smaller.

Advantages of Flutter

benefits of flutter

Strong sides of Flutter

Flutter is aimed at mobile app developers of any level. And current Flutter version can boast about the following advantages:

Hot Reload

This feature allows developers not only to make the development faster. It is a smart innovation. If you need to change something in your data when you create an app interface, you can simply add necessary changes in code when software is being implemented, and all changes will appear in the app as if you created a website. To make changes active, just click Hot Reload button.

Fast development

Apart from Hot Reload button, there are a large number of widgets, controls, libraries with animations that you can customize according to your current needs, and they accelerate native UI development process significantly.

Screen reader

A kind of software for visually impaired developers that can create UI with the help of acoustic cues and signals. It makes Flutter UI framework more accessible and more people can use it.

Quick rendering

Due to quick rendering, it is possible to build images and 2D models faster.

Cross-platform

Flutter makes it possible to build user interfaces both for iOS and Android with the help of such tools like IntelliJ, Android Studio, and Visual Studio Code.

It goes native

Google Flutter UI framework contains all necessary plugins and other elements for iOS and Android, so using Flutter, you can create a native first-rate app easily and without technical issues.

Open source and free

The only thing developers should have is their need for app development. Flutter is available for everyone, no costs, no restrictions - just work!

Themes

A wide range of themes and Flutter UI components makes it possible for developers to create themes separately for Android and iOS devices, and it enables proper display of user interface on the specified device.

Having listed main Flutter advantages, you can see that Flutter has some strong reasons to use it. Now I offer you to proceed to technical details of Google framework Flutter.

What about Flutter disadvantages?

Of course, even the most perfect technology has its dark side upon closer examination. Flutter is not the exception to this rule. We have drawn up the list of the most obvious shortcomings of a new mobile UI framework.

flutter drawbacks

Weak sides of Flutter

Mobile only

At the moment Flutter functions only with mobile apps and there is no web browser support yet. It is a matter of time since this drawback will be fixed soon, but still waiting.

The low popularity of Dart

Unlike Java or Kotlin which are the main languages for Android app development, Dart has not gained such popularity yet and it will unlikely get the same level of success one day. That is why not all developers want to learn a new language if habitual Java and additional widespread UI frameworks are enough for them. However, Dart has more advantages than Java has in Android app development, but less than Kotlin has. At the same time, Flutter’s killer feature like Ho Reload will not function without Dart’s capabilities.

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Steps to hire Android developer for your project. Read Android developer hiring guide: steps and important details to consider

Not all devices are supported

For example, you cannot create apps for 32-bit iOS devices. Flutter simply doesn’t support iOS 32-bit system. So all early iOS devices like iPhone 5 and older cannot become your target for app development.

Limited libraries

Since Flutter is a new framework and there are no many useful libraries like native languages offer. That is why developers need to build the majority of libraries themselves, and it will take more time.

Similar cross-platform UI frameworks to compare with

What about alternatives to Flutter mobile framework? Despite the fact it has a lot of benefits, there are competitive frameworks that can implement similar features. Let’s look them through.

Xamarin

This cross-platform native app framework that ranks one of the first places on the market of UI frameworks. Developers can create apps for iOS and Android platforms.

Xamarin includes a single C# codebase and it is possible to test apps on a few devices using Xamarin Cloud. A framework has strong partnership community where such large corporations like Microsoft and IBM occupy the post.

Xamarin framework

Xamarin framework

Pros

  • One technology stack for the development on all platforms;
  • The performance is close to native one;
  • Native UI;
  • Compatibility with the equipment;
  • Large community;
  • Simple maintenance;
  • Full toolkit.

Cons

  • Delays in platforms’ updates;
  • Restricted access to open-source libraries;
  • Limitations of ecosystem;
  • High-performance graphics is not supported;
  • Difficulties with integration;
  • Visual Studio is available only on paid basis for commercial development

PhoneGap

PhoneGap is an open-source framework for cross-platform development which can be used for free. Also, PhoneGap doesn’t require additional equipment or SDKs for the development of mobile apps. Today it helps create various solutions using CSS3, HTML5, JavaScript. It provides developers with a bunch of ready-made plugins.

PhoneGap framework

PhoneGap framework

Pros

  • Single codebase for all platforms;
  • Simple API - the development process can be initiated quickly;
  • Any JS libraries can be used;
  • All mobile platforms are supported;

Cons

  • Performance is not the best (forget about game development using PhoneGap);
  • UI is visualized with the help of built-in browser;
  • Some existing plugins can be outdated.

React Native

This framework is originated from React.js that was created by Facebook. Interface building using JavaScript and adaptive approach to design became very successful, and Facebook decided to create React Native for mobile platforms.

Due to JS engine, there is a high performance comparable to native one. React Native uses only JavaScript API - no browsers or WebView. Сheck this detailed article where Flutter is compared to React Native.

React Native framework

React Native framework from Facebook

Pros

  • Quick feedback;
  • Recurrent use of code;
  • All platforms are supported;
  • Integrable native components;
  • Mutual toolkit for mobile and web;
  • Declarative UI development.

Cons

  • Limited API;
  • Real devices should always be used;
  • The difference in platforms slows down the development;

These are three leading frameworks that can compete with Flutter user interface framework for today. Everything depends on your specific needs and you can make your choice, but our developers can use all of the listed frameworks in different cases. Each software requires its own approach.

Opinion from Cleveroad

On the whole, new Google mobile framework is rather a good option if you need to create a cross-platform app, but as our practice shows, native app development for each platform separately can be more advantageous for your business in some cases. But it depends on features you need and goals you want to reach out.

Native apps may work faster, they are more responsive and they can provide with a greater user experience. Pay your attention to 7 main reasons why you need to go native. If you still have any doubts and you are at a crossroads, Cleveroad is at your disposal - our specialists will help you choose the right app type.

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