Cross-Platform App Development – Yes To Flutter or Not?

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Developing an app in a cross-platform method is one of the most in-demand at the moment. Cross-platform development is adopted by the majority of businesses worldwide. There are a lot of these frameworks that serve the same purpose. While there are many popular cross-platform frameworks, not every tool possesses the same efficiency. 

A lot of these tools have vanished into thin air. Flutter however still holds a robust position today. The Flutter platform and Flutter development are reliable and most trustworthy. This is because it’s backed by the tech leader, Google.

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Flutter is an amazing cross-platform tool, which could be utilized in creating applications for desktops, mobiles and web platforms. Released in December 2018, it became extremely popular in less than a year. Flutter app development came in leaps and bounds and the demand continues to grow at present. 

Before delving further into what Flutter can do and whether to say yes to it or otherwise, it’s necessary to understand what cross-platform development is. 

Understanding Cross-Platform Development

The practice of crafting software products or services for different platforms is called cross-platform development. Developers and engineers make use of the different methods to accommodate varying environments and operating systems for a product or an app. Earlier, when there were no frameworks for cross-platform, developers wrote code for each platform, such as iOS, Windows and Android for instance for the same app. 

Consequently, this used to be expensive, lengthy and time-consuming not just for developers, but for business organizations as well. Cross-platform makes it possible to use only one code for every platform in less cost and less time. Furthermore, Flutter’s development made it possible to lessen the overall time of developing an app

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Cross-platform development with Flutter

Picture 1. Cross-platform development with Flutter

Flutter Benefits

Without comparing it to other platforms, check out a list of some of the qualities and features of the framework. 

1. Exceptional Performance

Dart compiles to native code, thus there’s no need to access OEM widgets since the framework has its own. Meaning that there’s less mediated communication between the app and the platform. Flutter is the sole mobile software development kit that offers reactive views that do not require a JavaScript bridge. 

2. Compatibility

Because widgets are a part of the application and not the platform, it’s likely that you experience less or even no compatibility problems on various operations systems versions. In turn, this means you need to spend less time on testing. 

3. High Productivity

Being a cross-platform framework, you could use the same code base for the Android and iOS apps. Definitely, this saves time and resources.

4. Simple and Fast Development

One of the most lauded features is the hot reload, which enables viewing changes made on the simulators, hardware, and emulators immediately. The code change reloads in less than a second while the application runs without the need to restart. This is wonderful not only for creating UIs or adding features, but for fixing bugs as well. 

5. Open-Source 

Flutter and Dart are open source and thus free to use. Furthermore, community support and comprehensive documentation help out with any concerns that may be encountered. 

The Holdbacks of Flutter

1. Issues With iOS

Since Flutter was created by Google, developers are apprehensive about implementation on iOS. Because Google has a direct interest in the rapid fixing of bugs, creating Android apps for the framework is fast and enjoyable. A pixel-perfect iOS look is the latest update to the tool. 

Settings for iPhone were made on the framework to enable Cupertino widgets possibilities. These and all other design features however were later updated and based on the iOS 10 features, even if iOS 11 has been released for some time already. Thus, it’s not clear if iOS update release will keep the pace of those of the Android version. 

2. Dart

It is used for the development of Flutter and both have benefits and drawbacks.

It’s also a fast object-oriented programming language. Nevertheless, it isn’t as good as other languages. Not a lot of new developers come across Dart and it could be a challenge to get new developers for a team. 

3. Gigantic File Size

Developers undergo great lengths to lessen the size of an app. Users have restricted storage on phone and prefer to release an app that repents deleting it in favor of their favorite images or songs. To lessen the code size, normally programmers compress images, reduce the number of libraries and packages and steer clear of animations. 

4. Absence of Third-Party Libraries

Third-party packages and libraries have a significant role in automating software development for developers as well as removing the need to program everything from the start. Normally, the libraries are pre-tested, open-source and available easily. For older and most popular technologies, getting the package required is easy. 

Nonetheless, since Flutter is new for mobile development, it’s difficult to find free libraries and packages. The official free packages resource is still undergoing enhancement and the tool list still is growing. You may have to wait before opting to use it for long-term development. 

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Flutter runs natively on each platform

Picture 2. Flutter runs natively on each platform

Flutter Features, What’s Changed and What’s New

The first major feature update for Flutter and Dart is Flutter 1.2, which focused on several major areas, such as:

  • Enhanced performance, stability and core framework quality
  • New tooling to develop apps
  • Work to polish visual finish as well as existing widgets’ functionality

Dart 2.2

Dart use is the major game-changer for Flutter. This is specifically focused on improving AOT-compiled code performance, boosting the performance of AOT for the 1.2 version of Flutter. The Dart Core Library has numerous collection classes for modeling Sets of objects, Maps, and Lists. 

  • Lists are ordered values sequences, wherein you can access every value by an index and this can happen more than once.
  • Maps are key-value pairs’ collections.
  • Sets are unordered values’ collections in which every value can happen just once and where you can check if a value is in the set efficiently. 
  • Building new language features.
  • Updated Dart language specs to match changes.

Android Application Bundles

An App Bundle provides all the compiled resources and code of an app but defers generation of APK as well as signing to Google Play. 

  • Dynamic delivery. The new app serving model uses the app’s bundle to generate and to server optimized APKs for every device configuration, thus they only download code and resources they need to run the app. 
  • Dynamic feature module. There are assets and features in the modules that you could choose to not include when users first download and install the app. The Play Core Library, however, could let you download the modules as a dynamic APK feature.
  • No need to manage multiple APKs manually. There’s no need to create, sign and manage several APKs to support various devices. Furthermore, users get more optimized, smaller downloads. 
  • Minimized APK size. App Bundles of Android utilizes the Split APK mechanism, which helps reduce app size as well as enables new features, like dynamic Android apps delivery. Apps published are reduced to 20 percent in size. 

New Developer Tools

Flutter supports various tools, which include Visual Studio Code and Android Studio support. Furthermore, it also supports building applications from the Dart DevTools from the command line, a new debugging tool to determine the need for flexibility in exposing runtime inspection and debugging tools. Moreover, it lets developers see debug apps, logs and inspect widgets for app development. 

  • Timeline view. Helps monitor the app at a frame-by-frame level, recognizing computational and rendering work. 
  • Widget inspector. Enables visualizing and exploring the tree hierarchy, which Flutter uses for rendering.
  • Logging view. Displays activity logged from the app and also the framework, network, and garbage collection events. 
  • Source-level debugger. Allows stepping through code, investigating the call stack and setting breakpoints. 

In-App Purchase

The transaction continues on the application when a user initiates in-app purchases in the App Store. The product is then added to a list, which you can access via the getAppStoreInitiatedProducts. Google Play and App Store need the configuration of an app with in-app items to purchase to call in-app-purchase APIs.

Top Apps Made With Flutter

Check out the renowned brands and startups that used Flutter for their cross-platform development. 

  1. Google Ads. The ultimate app for paid marketing, made with Flutter to look out for the company’s campaign. Additionally, it enables Google experts to add, edit, remove keywords and boost campaigns. 
  2. Alibaba. This eCommerce giant trusted Flutter for powering the parts of their application. The app allows buyers to directly purchase products from manufacturers. 
  3. Tencent. A Chinese technology giant that relies on Flutter for instant messaging software services, including games such as Pub G, music, eCommerce and others.  
  4. Watermaniac. The field of healthcare also has inclined towards the development of the cross-platform app. The health and fitness firm decided to build its application in Flutter, allowing users to track their water consumption. 
  5. Birch Finance. It’s a credit card rewards application. It helps users in managing and optimizing existing cards. Additionally, it allows a user to determine spending across accounts and provide a different manner to earn and redeem rewards.

Wrap Up

Flutter and Flutter app development has improved significantly and added a lot of features and enhancements for developers with the latest 1.2 version. Flutter teams have huge plans for the future. Moreover they plan to grow the framework beyond mobile platforms.

Olivia Diaz is working at eTatvaSoft, an Enterprise level Mobile Application Development Company. Being a tech geek, she keeps a close watch over the industry focusing on the latest technology news and gadgets. Follow her on Twitter.

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Cross-Platform App Development – Yes To Flutter or Not? was last modified: July 6th, 2020 by Martina Pranjic
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