What is Flutter and Why Use Flutter for App Developmentblog
In 2015 there was no Flutter, but there was a so-called browser war. Developers of Chrome were thinking about how to optimize their browser. This led to the team deciding to cut CSS out of the browser engine — which showed a very big increase in performance.
Realizing that it must be somehow used grew into what we call Flutter now. In our article we will cover topics such as what Flutter is and when and how to use it for building beautiful applications in a short time.
Check the article plan below:
- What is Flutter?
- Benefits of Flutter
- Why Choose Flutter on Your Next Project
- Flutter’s Downsides
- Apps Built with Flutter
- Flutter’s Popularity and Perspective
- Flutter’s 2020 Major Updates
What is Flutter?
Flutter was introduced by Google as an open-source technology for coding and creating native apps for Android and iOS. Flutter is relatively new as it was officially presented in December 2018 as the first stable version 1.0 at the Flutter Live event.
Google uses Flutter for various Google Assistant modules and the Google Home Hub user interface. Moreover, there are already 50,000 Flutter apps available in the Google Play Store, and this number is increasing at a high rate. Alibaba Group, eBay, Groupon, and other popular e-commerce providers use Flutter as well to give their web and mobile applications uniform looks.
Tim Sneath, Group Product Manager at Google, says, “Our vision for Flutter is something that many of us have been dreaming of for years — a powerful, general-purpose, open UI toolkit for building stunning experiences on any device-embedded, mobile, desktop or beyond”.
How Flutter Works: Widget Strategy and Dart Programming Language
The framework of Flutter, written in the Dart programming language, has the Flutter engine, Foundation library, and widgets. The approach to development in Flutter differs from others by its declarative UI writing. Here, there is a need to start from the end, meaning before starting the development of some element, the user needs to have in mind a complete picture of what kind of UI it will be. Many developers distinguish this UI writing as a more clear one, but it also causes certain difficulties for developers at first.
The main idea of Flutter is that developers can build the entire user interface by simply combining different widgets. The application interface consists of various nested widgets, which can be any object. This applies to anything from buttons to padding, and by combining widgets, the developer can customize the application radically. Widgets can influence each other and use built-in functions to respond to external changes in the state. Widgets are important elements of the user interface and comply with the design specifications of Android, iOS and conventional web applications.
With Flutter, developers can create custom widgets, which can be easily combined with existing ones. Note that there are no OEM widgets, but Flutter Gallery provides developers with their own ready-made widgets — a set of application examples that show how to use standard widgets — which look like native Android and iOS design languages (Material and Cupertino).
Benefits of Flutter
When it comes to developing applications, developers are not restricted to a single cross-platform mobile framework. In fact, statistics show that while the majority of developers use React Native (42%), Flutter usage in 2020 (39%) has highly grown in comparison with Flutter usage in 2019 (30%).
Let’s take a closer look at explaining why Flutter application development can be a better choice.
1. Quick code development
Flutter creators wanted to invent a technology with the quickest opportunity to deliver a great-performing, cross-platform mobile application. The following features allow this:
- Hot reload. Flutter’s hot reloading helps save time while developing by letting the developer see the applied changes in real-time. This capability helps developers be significantly more efficient and productive. Flutter’s hot reload works better than competitors’ similar features. It allows the developer to pause code execution, make changes to the code, and continue the code from the same place. This greatly speeds up development and allows more experimenting.
- Widgets. One of the most significant benefits of Flutter is how it uses ready-made widgets. This ensures that Flutter offers a consistent model for development and design. Widgets are Google-based, so they are high code quality and perform better than other open-source frameworks. As most of them are extremely customizable, they save developers’ time like no other framework. In addition to the major layout widgets, Flutter widgets follow both the Material and Cupertino looks, which is a huge advantage.
- Minimal code and access to native features. Flutter lets developers use Dart, which is compiled directly into the ARM code of mobile devices and helps not only to speed up applications, it allows them to launch quicker also.
Flutter helps make developers’ lives easier through its third-party integrations and native codebase. With Flutter, developers can access native features.
That’s what makes quick code development possible, thus the whole process faster, easier and less disturbing.
2. Great UI
Will Larche, Software Engineer at Google, says, “Flutter’s architecture is designed for building beautiful, custom UI. Flutter’s main goal is to make building polished, custom app interfaces a faster, more delightful experience for designers and developers. Flutter is powerful enough to draw anything designers dream up.”
- Beautiful, custom design. The powerful thing of Flutter is Skia, the open-source, high-performance graphics engine used by Adobe, Chrome, and Amazon Kindle. Flutter allows users to develop applications with custom designs, which will look equally good on iOS and Android devices. Applications developed on Flutter — unlike its competitors — have no risk that there will UI failures when updating the software.
- Same business logic and UI. Possible for Flutter sharing the UI and business logic on Android and Apple devices allow developers to achieve a seamless experience regardless of the OS. This is primarily important for brands with a unique and outstanding corporate style.
Flutter doesn’t need any platform-specific UI components to render its UI. The one and only thing Flutter needs to show the application UI is a canvas to draw on. It can be illustrated the following way:
- UI customization potential. A huge advantage of Flutter is the ability to customize everything you see on screen, regardless of the complexity of the element. The amount of effort required is fundamentally lower from that required on native platforms’ development software.
Why Choose Flutter on Your Next Project
There are things that are of great value to the business — platform stability, its performance, a guarantee of successful support, and improvement of technologies and products. Any problems and shortcomings in any of these aspects may lead to risks, including direct and indirect financial losses.
With this in mind, Flutter lowers risks for your business due to the following points:
- The best in class (cross-platform) performance and resource consumption due to the compilation of native code and high-performance rendering engine. The first provides an easy way of establishing communication between platform-native code and Dart through platform channels. Thus, developers can implement into a Flutter app anything that a native app can do, just with a little more effort on the native side. Because of the engine (Flutter uses Skia for rendering itself), a UI built in Flutter can be launched on virtually any platform, assuming this platform supports Flutter. Putting it differently, developers no longer have to adjust the UI to transfer it to a platform, which simplifies the development process vastly.
A good UX is incredibly dependent on the performance of the application. Flutter application performance in most cases will be indistinguishable from the native application. This is because Flutter doesn’t rely on intermediate code representations or interpretation. Application on Flutter is compiled directly into machine code, eliminating any performance errors in the interpretation process. This provides it with the highest performance and makes it the most resource saving software among cross-platform technologies.
- Better developer productivity is achieved due to Flutter being primarily designed for quicker code writing. It consists of ready-to-use widgets, its syntax requires less code to be written, and hot reload speeds increase the searching for and correction of bugs. All this results in fewer man-hours for developers.
Also, finding Flutter engineers in 2020 is not a problem — the community of fans is growing, especially among Android developers. According to Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2020, 68.8% of developers — which is among the top 3 — love to use Flutter and have expressed interest in continuing to develop with it.
- Quicker time to market. Due to the greater productivity of Flutter developers, it takes less time to create an application, which means that compared to other programming languages and frameworks, applications in Flutter are written quicker and enter the market earlier with equal effort. Thus, the less coding and support effort needed, the quicker the time to market.
- Low-cost app development. Flutter provides more efficient development work and, accordingly, to develop an application requires less man-hours. At the same time, the cost of an hour is at the average market (and sometimes even lower) level. As a result, the cost of the application on Flutter is lower than when using other cross-platform languages or native development.
“Getting started with Flutter was truly awesome. The huge power and productivity you get with instant stateful Hot Reload was mind-blowing,” says Jacob Kristensen, Co-Founder of Reflectly.
While Flutter has a lot of benefits that businesses can take advantage of, there are some areas in which it still needs work.
- Lack of third-party libraries. Flutter is a newer technology. As such, the volume of third-party libraries currently available for Flutter is limited. Third-party libraries help speed up development time significantly, so this is a definite downside to developing in Flutter.
- Large file size. Many, if not most, of the apps developed through Flutter are destined for mobile devices only. Although current mobile devices have large storage capacities, file size is still important. For example, the creation of a hello world app in Flutter could account for 4.7MB to 6.7MB. The same app created in native Java is closer to 500KB.
- New skills required. While Flutter is easy to use and can be learned by non-programmers, it does require developers to learn Dart first. This adds an additional phase of learning, which can increase the time and money for any project. That being said,if a developer knows Java/C#, he or she can easily upskill to Dart. Moreover, Flutter’s Dart programming language is pretty easy to learn for those with little programming experience.
If you define Flutter as your solution after reading the material above, check through the points when Flutter perhaps should not be your choice if you are:
- creating an app with rare native libraries;
- developing progressive web and instant apps (small-size apps);
- having a lot of point interaction with the device hardware, most likely there is no plugin for this;
- developing AR/VR apps.
Apps Built with Flutter
Although Flutter is young enough, it is already used by such global services as Google Ads, Alibaba, AppTree, Reflectly and many others.
“Flutter significantly reduced the time we need to develop new features from 1 month down to 2 weeks.” says Bruce Chen, Senior Development Engineer, Alibaba.
Flutter has also been picked as the solution for Nubank for all app development. Nubank is the largest digital bank in the world outside of Asia. With over 20 million customers, they could easily see the benefits of unified app development.
As for the question, “What apps can be made with Flutter?”, the answer is quick and simple — any. You can develop applications for any purpose — from small business (online stores, banks) to large ones (contact centers, courier control, organization of internal processes). However, Flutter is the best option for start-ups and R&D projects, primarily because of the ability to quickly prototype and check business ideas.
The NIX team also has experienced cases on Flutter, so let us showcase one case of NIX’s expertise in Flutter development — Meeting Room Booking App:
The client — a large enterprise with about 2,000 employees offering insurance services — had a web version that required an update and approached NIX to create a co-working space management app for iOS and Android with minimal cost expenses. We proposed a cross-platform solution that will cover both the client’s and users’ needs.
After two months, the client received multifunctional booking and scheduling software for co-working spaces.
At NIX, we have experience developing mobile software applications, and our team of developers can work with you to ensure that your project achieves your objectives. We understand not just the technology but can help you design the right product based on what you are trying to accomplish. Regardless of the complexity of your project, we have a team of experts capable of building you a suitable Flutter solution, whether it is apps built with Flutter or any other solutions.
Flutter’s Popularity and Perspective
Flutter’s popularity is easy to understand, and while half a million developers use Flutter monthly, the top five territories for Flutter developers are the US, China, India, Brazil, and the EU.
“You see today, how Flutter is already enabling developers all over the world to deliver beautiful apps to hundreds of millions of people throughout the globe. But this is also just the beginning.“ says Eric Seidel, Engineering Manager at Google. “Flutter is highly portable and already works on many form factors beyond phones… So if I look forward a few years, I see Flutter running in a ton more places.”
A technical preview of Flutter Web was introduced by Google, which allows developers to run Flutter applications in a browser in a clean form without changing the source code. It means that with Flutter, developers can 100% go further beyond app development on mobile. Moreover, this marks Flutter’s transition from a cross-platform mobile application framework to a full-blown cross-platform development tool. However, for now, NIX experts see in Flutter web development more difficulties, since it takes a lot of time to get the correct display of elements and the operation of the application from a single base. We are looking forward to new web updates.
Despite the fact that everything, except the mobile part of the framework, is not yet considered ready for production, an experienced Flutter developer can make a pure flutter application, running today on any major platform — including Android, iOS, Web browser, Windows, macOS, Linux and even embedded devices — and the application will function properly without changing and customizing the code for each platform separately.
Flutter 2020 Major Updates
While Flutter is new, its creators are not resting on their laurels. They are continually innovating and improving Flutter to make it a more useful and powerful tool for developers. Some key improvements that are worth calling out in 2020 are as follows:
- Branching model – Flutter will be changing the way they release versions. From April onwards, they will create a new branch at the beginning of each month as a beta release. During that month and the months following, they will work to stabilize this release and will promote it to the newest version quarterly.
- Alignment with Dart – In a similar fashion, the Dart release process has also been changed. Now Dart offers a beta channel too, and the release discrepancy between Flutter and Dart will be aligned.
- Adobe XD support for Flutter — Adobe XD to Flutter plugin is now available for public testing with early access. “The ability to export designs to Flutter further reduces the latency between creative ideas and product development, as an XD-prototype can now become working Flutter code within minutes. Adobe XD supports design on Windows or macOS, and includes a free starter plan to get you up and running,” announced Tim Sneath.
- Flutter Windows Alpha — Adding Windows to Flutter, with support for Windows 7 and above, gives adventurous developers something to get started with. This alpha release offers a solid foundation that must be stabilized over the coming months.
- Sound null safety — When a developer chooses null safety, the types in code cannot be null by default, which means that values cannot be null unless the developer says they can be null. With this update, the runtime null-dereference errors become edit-time analysis errors.
- Mobile Autofill Support — Text autofill support in Flutter apps. With Flutter 1.20, Flutter has added the basic autofill functionality so there is no need to re-enter data already gathered by OS.
As you can see, Flutter is one of the most innovative mobile technologies on the market right now. For businesses looking to create applications on both iOS and Android, Flutter is a great option. If you are seeking apps with amazing UI and high performance — Flutter is the best option as well.
Flutter is not a universal remedy for everything, but it is a 100% promising framework, considering the breadth of coverage and speed of implementation. If you are looking for a team of Flutter experts, hesitating whether or not Flutter is the best option for you right now, or have any questions left after reading the article — our specialists are ready to consult with you on all these topics.