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Flutter Cross-platform Framework for Business: Benefits and Guide

Jun 13, 2022 - 13 Minutes read
Flutter Cross-platform Framework for Business: Benefits and Guide

What is Flutter?

There is a relatively new framework that is being talked about in the app development industry lately, and it's called Flutter. You may have heard of it somewhere on the fly or caught a fleeting glance on some website.

Well, I'm here to tell you that this app development platform has something for everyone, especially businesses looking at releasing a product at the earliest to cash in on its soaring demand or entrepreneurs who want complete control over design/development operations without having 12 different teams working simultaneously (yikes!).

The rise of Flutter, a cross-platform framework developed by Google for building mobile applications, which can work across multiple operating systems, including Android, iOS, MacOS, Linux, Windows and Google Fuchsia has made it an attractive option to develop native apps with ease.

Released as an Alpha version in 2017, Flutter makes it possible for developers to be able to work on any of these platforms from a single codebase. This in turn cuts down development time significantly, allowing stakeholders like CTOs and business owners to save a good deal of money.

Flutter is a cross-platform app & web development frameworkSource: cleveroad.com

It wasn’t, however, this versatile tool that we know of today. In fact, Flutter was first launched in 2015 by the name Sky, which could be run only on an Android system. Over the years, a series of consecutive versions were released, each one improvising over the preceding one, until the most recent release of Fluter 3.0 on May 11, 2022.

The architecture of the Fluter framework typically looks something like this:

  • Dart language: Dart (also developed by Google) is the language in which applications developed on Flutter are written. One of the advantages that Dart offers is the possibility to inject updated source code into the running Dart Virtual Machine through a feature called Hot Reload, a stateful system that makes compilations faster by ditching the requirement of a restart.

  • Flutter engine: The Flutter engine, written in C++, is the central component of the framework and supports primitives necessary to create any kind of application using Google’s core API, which includes Skia Graphics Engine, Dart runtime and Dart compile.

  • Flutter foundation library: The foundation library is a low-level toolkit that provides basic classes and functions for building applications with Flutter, such as APIs, to communicate via messaging system within the engine. Core framework primitives like this one make up most of what you need at the core of your application, handling all those pesky little tasks we often don't want or have time for.

  • Widgets layer: In the widgets layer you can easily create reusable components that can be mixed and matched in any number of ways. The widgets layer provides you with the classes required for reactive programming, which is why it is one of the most popular libraries.

  • Rendering layer: With the rendering layer you can set up branches of RenderObjects built into one tree structure that you can control to update a layout spontaneously every time you make a change to any of the objects.

  • Material & Cupertino: The Flutter framework is a collection of beautiful, high-quality templates that implement two different design languages. The Material widgets follow Google's philosophy on how things should look and feel in order to be reminiscent of their original material designs while Cupertino applets show off Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines, which are based around human interface capabilities with minimalist graphics at default settings.

Architectural Layers of Flutter FrameworkSource: flutter.dev

Benefits of Flutter

Cross-platform development is the ultimate way to make your product accessible on any device. Developing native apps for different operating systems can be a costly exercise, not to mention the added challenge and expense in maintaining them.

With so many cross-platform tools available today, it's hard to know which one is right for your product. Flutter has been steadily gaining in popularity because of its unique features and abilities – and that should make sense.

Flutter brings with it certain advantages that give it an edge over other similar platforms. But, is it good enough to pick over popular platforms like React Native, Ionic, Node.JS, Xamarin and Adobe PhoneGap? Let’s explore its benefits to find out.

1. Universal UI to adjust with all platforms

With Flutter, you can comfortably build highly specialized and intricate apps that are eye-catching. The integrated Flare tool makes the task of creating intricate UI elements really fast and easy, cutting down development time considerably.

Flutter offers a way to share not just the UI code between different platforms, but the UI in itself as well. Currently, there are no application frameworks that can provide you with this ability. With its ability to share not only codebase between platforms but also UIs themselves, it makes developing an application with native looking output simple and easy.

To make an application that looks good on every platform, you need to rely not just on shared code, but also property mapping and data syncing. Flutter provides both UI component rendering as well as the underlying widget logic so your app can have a native feel no matter what device or browser it runs through.

Flutter has a unique way of rendering its UI, which saves time and efforts of the developers. The framework does not require any UI components specific to any platform to show the application's frontend because it goes right down as simple drawings on paper or screens.

This also ensures consistency across different devices. You'll be able make your app look great no matter what device users are using it on.

2. Shorter development time

The time it takes to build an app can feel like a penalty for every mistake you make. And the process becomes even more challenging when trying out new features or customization because many times, your changes won't show up until after launching on device - sometimes they just don’t show at all.

The pain point here is how long we wait between making updates; everything from fixing bugs in code to downloading resources such as images and sound files onto our phone takes ages. But worst off all, there’s no central place where these tasks are organized efficiently.

If you are an Android developer, for example, then it would be safe to say that one of the most time-consuming tasks in developing for this platform would be trying to locate and fix layout issues on devices. And we're not talking about simple tweaks here - sometimes developers need help making more major changes, which could take a lot of time if they aren't careful with what exactly needs changing when implementing new features into older apps.

With Flutter’s Hot Reload feature, you can make changes to your application without having to compile source code again or relaunch the app. This feature provides instantaneous visual feedback of changed code, and thus faster development time with its ability to speed up the process.

How Flutter’s Hot Relead worksSource: flutter.dev

3. Native experience

Flutter is designed to give you the same experience as native apps, but with more power and flexibility. Thanks to the advanced features of Dart language and its support for both Ahead of Time (AOT) and Just In Time (JIT) compilations, Flutter widgets have all of your bases covered when it comes to creating beautiful UIs and providing faster performance on any device.

This means that Flutter is able to avoid many of the compatibility issues encountered when dealing with other cross-platform tools. Since Flutter uses the Dart virtual machine code, which enables stateful hot reload to allow changes to running code without recompilation, there are no separate code interpretations needed for your app logic.

4. Strong & bustling community

With Google's support, the Flutter framework has steadily developed into an emerging technology that many people - business owners and developers alike - are taking notice of. Since introducing the latest, stable version of the framework, Google has gone above and beyond to empower those that use it or are thinking of using it.

The Flutter Meetup Network (FMN) is the result of a progressive effort by Google to bring together Flutter developers around the world for meetup events where anyone can learn about the framework and get their issues solved.

With more than 100 community groups and over 60,000 developers across 68 countries (as of now), it is a repository of rich resource for anyone looking for a local group that can be of help in their Flutter app development projects. Even those simply seeking to learn how to use the framework can benefit from these meetups, that are also organized remotely for lack of any in a region.

Flutter Global Community MeetupsSource: developers.googleblog.com

5. Beyond mobile

Google has introduced a new version of Flutter that enables developers to create web applications without making any source code changes. The ability for an app to be launched on a website using the code written specifically for mobile devices is one major advantage that Flutter has over other frameworks.

With this move, Google has taken a big step toward the future of app development and made it possible for seamless conversion of standard iOS or Android apps to powerful browser-based ones with one easy conversion step. Now, if that’s not a cross-platform development framework at its finest, I don’t know what is.

6. Great for quick launch products

Flutter can prove to be really beneficial for entrepreneurs and marketers who are looking at launching a product in the shortest time possible, especially when they want to test the waters first with a minimum viable product (MVP). As an app development framework, Flutter offers developers the opportunity to create apps for both iOS and Android with just one codebase.

This gives business owners the time to focus on other aspects of running an enterprise while it's being developed, such as marketing or logistics. And, as I’ve said before, the UI code as well as the UI itself need not change even with different platforms, which makes it really easy for businesses to develop an app swiftly and en masse.

Disadvantages of Flutter

Of course, where there are positives, there are bound to be some negatives as well, even with a brilliant framework like Flutter. Here are some of the cons that Flutter suffers from.

1. Large app file size

One of the killjoys of any mobile app is definitely the size of the app and its files. The larger the file size, the lesser the takers because it’s simply too difficult a choice between an app and pictures/videos to pick from. And if the phone has a fixed storage capacity, the choice doesn’t hold a great promise for the app.

As it happens, one of the most common complaints about Flutter framework is its large file size. This can particularly be an issue for some people who are using older devices that don't have enough memory storage space on their phones.

On the hindsight, however, it’s important to know that apps with bigger sized files also bring with them considerable improvements in runtime performance. So, if a user chooses to go for an app that’s small in size but frowns when it doesn’t perform up to their expectations, as the app owner you know you’re not losing important customers.

2. Issues for iOS users

Since Flutter is a Google product, there are concerns in the Apple camp that Android would take precedence over iOS development. For instance, bug fixes and performance updates would be deployed sooner for Android devices than for iOS devices.

3. Limited or non-existent third-party libraries

It is always difficult to find third-party libraries and packages for new mobile app development tools. This is because they are free, open-source (usually), so you can try out different features before committing them into your project's codebase.

Flutter has not been around for long and that’s the reason it comes with a price - there isn't any readily available (yet, though we're hopeful this will change soon given how many people rely on Flutter) third-party tools to implement on Flutter. I personally believe the wait will likely be worth it, as this technology continues developing new capabilities with each update.

What kind of apps can be developed on Flutter?

The quick answer is - any kind of app you want to develop. Flutter is best suited for medium and large sized businesses that are well-funded and can approach a development project without deliberating much on the cost factor.

Looking at the development trends though, I have to say that Flutter has proved most useful for retail businesses (eCommerce stores), fintech companies, financial institutions, franchisees, suppliers and enterprises. Also, it would be useful to remember that Flutter can be particularly beneficial if you’re looking at launching a prototype in the form of an MVP that can catch the attention of investors.

Some of the most prominent apps developed using Flutter include the following:

Google Pay

Google Pay, the app that allows you to send money wirelessly and pay for things with just your phone number or email address has swept across markets all over the world. And as it penetrated newer markets, the app traversed beyond the Android platform to the iOS platform as well.

This resulted in the app’s developers running into the challenge of maintaining two code bases, which was an expensive affair developing updates and new features for two different platforms. Using Flutter’s shared codebase technology was their way out with only one set of source code being worked on irrespective of what device someone uses.

 Google Pay app redeveloped using Flutter Source: theverge.com

AliBaba’s Xianyu App

Xianyu, one of the retail platforms of Alibaba Group, was developed using Flutter to leverage on the framework’s advantage of a single codebase that makes rapid development possible for big such big firms.

As a result, Xianyu went on to be downloaded over 50 million times and boasts of more than 10 million daily users.

Xianyu app developed using FlutterSouce: pandaily.com

My BMW App

By using Flutter, the team at BMW was able to create the My BMW App, which is not only user-friendly but also reliable. The new platform provides consistent functionality across all brands, and based on feedback from customers about their user behavior, makes it a highly competitive alternative for other companies looking into developing similar products.

It's worth noting here how important consistency can be when designing apps or platforms. After all, if everything changed every time somebody opened up an app, then there would never be any stability.

Here is a list of other apps built on Flutter, which includes well-known names like eBay, Toyota, Reflectly, ByteDance, Abbey Road Studios and Hamilton.

My BMW App developed using FlutterSource: bmw.com

How many developers use Flutter?

Interestingly the bite-size of developers getting into Flutter has been getting bigger and bigger every year in the recent years. According to a 2021 developer survey by Statista, Flutter users grew from 30% in 2019 to 42% in 2021, considering one-third of all the developers in the world prefer to work with cross-platform frameworks than native frameworks.

Cross-platform framework users worldwide (2019-2021)Source: statista.com

As you can see, the user base of Flutter framework is rising steadily and significantly compared to ther frameworks, including React Native, which is a pretty popular tool in its own right.

Conclusion

Consider Flutter if you want your app to reach as many people and become popular quickly. Businesses rely on its user-friendliness and cost-efficiency, which make them choose this framework over other alternatives like React Native or Ionic Framework.

If you have any questions regarding what mobile app development framework that be best suited for your product, reach out to 0707’s developers for a transparent and reliable hand-held guide for the best solutions for your business.

author

Manab J Kharkatary

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