Cross-platform development is becoming more and more popular as the demand to release mobile and web apps for all platforms simultaneously grows. To answer this demand various development tools have been created to allow efficient and effective cross-platform app development, without having to code a different version of your app for each and every platform. Flutter is often thought to be ahead of the game, with its ability to create a single codebase for Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, and Mac apps.
Flutter is owned by Google and is open source, meaning the answer to “Is Flutter free?” will always be yes. It has received major updates over the years, the most recent being in May 2022, when Flutter 3 was announced, bringing with it support for Mac and Linux, helping make it not only cross-mobile but cross-mobile and desktop.
So let’s see what makes Flutter special and what some of its advantages and drawbacks are.
What is Flutter Framework?
While many people, including Google, refer to Flutter as a framework, it’s actually much more than that based on many people’s understanding of a framework.
In many definitions, a framework is just that, a structure for building software where you fill in the gaps with code. With a framework, you may need to use other libraries and mix and match tools. On the other hand, when answering the question “what is flutter app development?”, we can see that Flutter gives you everything you need to build cross-platform applications, starting with a framework, as well as APIs, libraries, and documentation. It allows you to not only build but also test and deploy your apps using a single codebase for all platforms.
What Language Does Flutter Use?
Why Use Flutter for App Development?
There are many reasons for using Flutter but when we asked the Manao Software team “is Flutter good?” their resounding answer was yes, and here are their top reasons why.
Our developers love the fact that Flutter creates very fast, high-performance apps. The main reason for this is that the Flutter coding language, Dart, uses direct code compilation. Without direct compilation, a bridge is needed which can slow things down when compiling. Without the need for a bridge, apps made with Dart run consistently fast.
Using Dart leads to very efficient coding, so our developers don’t need to write as much to create the features and functionality they want. Less code also leaves room for fewer errors and bugs which makes the development process more streamlined and effective.
Hot Reloads and Restarts
With hot reloads our developers can see a change take place in the app as soon as they’ve coded it to Flutter. This is great for experimenting with new features and really helps with debugging. Hot reload works for mobile app development while hot restart is for desktop.
A Single Codebase
With the release of Flutter 3 our developers now only need to create a single codebase to develop an app for a multitude of platforms, namely Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, and Mac. This makes their jobs much more straightforward, saving a lot of time, and allowing the release of apps for all these platforms simultaneously, which also makes our customers very happy.
The Advantages & Drawbacks of Using Flutter
As you can see there are many reasons why our developers like working with Flutter. Here are a few more Flutter pros and cons.
Flutter App Development Pros
In addition to the advantages mentioned above there are other benefits of Flutter:
- UI Design: Flutter allows you to create beautiful apps, with control over all visual elements. You can either use their customizable UI elements or create your own design from scratch.
- Fast Rendering: Flutter has a very fast rendering engine so you can create beautiful and seamless effects and animations for your app.
- Community and Google Support: Flutter is extremely well represented on both GitHub and Stackoverflow, with their lively and helpful communities. As it is owned and used by Google that also gives assurance of the longevity and ongoing support from Google.
- Quick and Easy to use: Other than having to learn Dart (if you don’t already know it), Flutter is very quick and easy to start using. People with very limited programming knowledge have been able to build apps, supported by the great documentation provided for Flutter.
- Accessibility and Internationalization: With Google having a strong focus in both these areas there are widgets to make the internationalization of apps easy, including not only language but also currency, date formats, etc. Flutter also supports accessibility including contrast, larger fonts, and screen reader support.
- Works with Existing Apps: Flutter does not just have to be used to create an app from scratch but it can also be used to add new elements to existing apps.
Flutter App Development Cons
There are relatively few disadvantages to using Flutter:
- New Language: If you don’t know Dart you will need to learn a new programming language to use Flutter.
- Large Apps: Flutter does tend to create larger file sizes for apps which can be a concern for some end users if their device has limited space. Although as device storage increases this becomes much less of an issue.
- Fewer Third-Party Libraries: Compared to some other cross-platform development tools Flutter may still have comparatively few third-party libraries, but this number is constantly increasing.
- System Updates: System updates for specific platforms such as Android or iOS will probably come to Flutter a bit later than for their native SDKs, although with Google owning both Android and Flutter this is more likely to be an issue with iOS.
Example of Current Apps Made Using Flutter
Flutter has now been used to make over half a million apps. Here are a couple of examples of Flutter projects in the wild.
Alibaba’s Xianyu App
Alibaba has been using Flutter to develop and improve upon its Xianyu second-hand goods marketplace app. They have incorporated new features into their existing app using Flutter.
BMW’s My BMW App
Prior to using Flutter BMW had a much stronger iOS focus, leaving many of their Android-using customers behind. They decided they needed a more uniform offering so they chose Flutter to develop their My BMW app. This app gives both their Android and iOS users the same experience when communicating with their vehicle and their BMW dealer.
Should We Use Flutter?
If you’re planning to develop a cross-platform app, Flutter is an excellent tool to use, and it is likely to be even more ubiquitous in the future. Google is currently working on updates that will allow Flutter to work with smart TVs, watches, cars, as well as other smart home appliances, making it truly cross-platform.
To find out more about the steps to developing a cross-platform app contact the development team at Manao Software who have years of experience in developing both web apps and mobile apps, with Flutter as well as other tools. To date, our team has created content management apps, wallet apps, and e-commerce apps using Flutter.