Software developers are never bloodthirsty, but oftentimes they consider killing two birds with one stone. The hunting spirit awakes in them especially when a need to build apps for different platforms arises. The present competition on the app market makes them think about how to gain more with less. Cross-platform frameworks come to the rescue. Why not try Flutter?
Flutter seems to be another toolkit that facilitates entering the cross-platform paradigm in mobile app development. The main objective of all rival frameworks such as React Native and Xamarin, for instance, is reducing time-to-market without compromising the UX in both worlds (Android and iOS). Mobile app development can cost different money: paying once is more feasible than paying twice. Business owners should have an understanding of both the idea of cross-platform development and the tools that can cope with it. Is Flutter really good at the issue? What silver bullets does this relatively fresh framework save for your pockets?
This post addresses the unique capabilities of Flutter to explain how your business can benefit from this advanced mobile app development tool.
What Flutter Is In Essence
Google released Flutter in 2017 enabling developers to create native mobile apps with one codebase only. This is an open-source mobile UI framework that allows using one programming language to build apps for different platforms. In fact, Flutter is more than just a widget-based UI library. The hybrid nature of Flutter includes an SDK as a toolkit that allows compiling your code into a machine code for both Android and iOS.
Flutter is created as a solution for the main problem of cross-platform development - a single common UI. Despite possible arguments for other available tools capable of representing a common user interface for different platforms (Xamarin, React Native, etc), they rather camouflage the real issue than solve it. In contrast, Flutter meets the famous motto of cross-platform development: write once, run everywhere. The motto is hardly applicable to all sorts of software, but it goes perfectly with UI. The issue had no straightforward solutions before Flutter for various reasons. And the reasons are worth diving deeper into the details because they can determine your business decision: is development with Flutter worth being invested in?
Flutter and Frontend: Backstory
Native mobile developers can not afford to do what web developers can. Web developers can use HTML and CSS to create a website that afterward will be displayed equally well in both Safari and Chrome. Some may argue that there are mobile developers who have been writing a high-performance UI with a common codebase for a long while. They are game devs. Entrepreneurs start hearing bells here: mobile games are lucrative things. A relevant game-dev experience can give you potential clues on how to save money.
Angry Birds is made with Cocos2d-x, Fortnite is created with Unreal Engine. Why not use those engines to solve the issue? If they can display mind-blowing action scenes on a smartphone, they can definitely provide buttons and lists with smooth animation. The answer is trivial: the engines are designed for a different purpose.
When we play a mobile game, it does not matter how native UI looks. When playing games we almost never interact with geolocation, cameras, and push notifications. A game resides in its separate small world, and this is why game engines have quite a poor integration with operating systems. Keeping Flutter in mind, we should, therefore, ask the question:
What should an ideal cross-platform framework provide?
The following capabilities seem to be compulsory:
- Native displaying of UI
- Native performance of UI
- Working on any OS as if it is a native app
- Frontend-centric runtime
- Easy-to-learn programming language
The last feature is present for a reason. The thing is that a universal cross-platform framework that meets almost all our requirements exists apart from Flutter. This is Qt. But Qt runs with C++. Of course, C++ is a swiss-army knife on steroids, you can write literally anything in C++. But mobile front-end developers do not need such omnipotence in our context. They need a simple language interacting with the UI.
A potential business customer might ask us: what do all those great features do for my project? I pay for a finished application with no reference to programming languages, APIs, and other possible development nuances. That’s true, but we can ask the customer in response: how much are you ready to overpay if little to no cross-platform approaches are applied to your product? A decent cross-platform framework matters if redundant expenses are beyond your budget planning.
Now, we can come closer to Flutter as such to see how this framework solves the issues of cross-platform mobile development. And yes, we will give you relevant tips on how your business can benefit from all those things.
Flutter & Native-looking UI
The cross-platform objectives of frontend developers are simple: creating interfaces indistinguishable from native UI while providing natively fast performance. Flutter meets the objectives completely. Anticipating possible complaints that the topic is not relevant to business aspects, we can tell you one thing: a native looking UI is what makes your future customers get immersed in your app. This relates to your future profits directly once it helps improve the retention rate.
The creators of Flutter have spent enough resources to make UI elements look native in the very framework. All Flutter widgets are grouped into the following three categories: Cupertino widgets, Material Design ones, and all the rest.
Widgets from the Cupertino section look absolutely identical to the native iOS ones. For example, you can use CupertinoDate Picker to feel the same smooth scrolling on your iPhone as if it is a native element of a native application that provides you with the same feedback from the Taptic/Haptic engine.
Flutter allows not just using native-looking elements for both platforms but creating your own ones. This is how the “everything is widget” paradigm works. You can create very complicated UI elements in short order. Since everything works with the same graphic engine that directly renders all the stuff for both platforms, you can rest assured that all UI elements will be displayed exactly how you expect them to be.
Customization is a modern mantra for any business, isn’t it? You can impress your future customers with custom widgets that look and feel like the ones created by guys from Cupertino. However small your business might be, you could stay on an equal footing with Apple in design! We’d say that can count for something.
From the perspective of rendering, Flutter does not care what API is available for a particular platform. It means you can create UI elements from the latest Android version for a 5-year-old smartphone. Of course, the performance issue of old hardware arises in such a case, but this is another topic.
Millions and millions of users throughout the world still own gadgets older than the latest Samsung and iPhone. And they should not be disregarded. Flutter can help your app cover the widest possible audience without jeopardizing the app’s functionality. Do not ignore the “every little bit helps” principle - this is about your income.
Also remember that the first impression matters. Especially when it comes to apps. Impress your customers with beautiful widgets and make them feel good with a native-looking UI. People’s appreciation will monetize your project at the end of the day.
Flutter & Native Performance
Skia Graphic Library is the only engine to render UI for both platforms in Flutter. Google purchased Skia as a product in 2005 to turn it into an open-source project. Hence, the engine is mature enough. Even though official comparative tests on performance are not available, some private research shows Skia going faster by 50% versus similar libraries (Cairo and the like).
Performance matters for any software product. Saying that the majority of users will leave your app if it works slowly is not an exaggeration, it is the grim reality. It never hurts to know by which means Flatter can provide your app with outstanding performance.
That’s why we are talking about Skia that can interact with various GPU backends: Metal for iOS, Vulkan and OpenGL for Android. Significant productivity gains become possible for your app at different hardware platforms, therefore.
There are some interesting facts that implicitly demonstrate the right approach of Flutter betting on Skia in the quest for native performance: many C# programmers use the SkiaSharp wrapper for Mono/.Net x. Besides, the library is very popular among developers from the Xamarin community who use Skia for making custom UI elements.
Another feature that makes Flutter developers happily smile is Hot Reload. It provides instant changes in code without interrupting the process. This is about the development speed and your cost-savings after all: the ability to see the real-time impact resulting from changing of code eliminates redundant recompilation and boosts the process.
What is in it for your business? Flutter cares about your app’s performance, and a better performance means a better retention rate. Holding your audience’s attention always brings profit. Another aspect is the time you spend on developing your app: to put in simply, the shorter, the cheaper. Flutter allows you to reduce the time-to-market and, therefore, to leave your competitors behind.
Flutter & Dart
It would be too presumptuous to call Dart the best programming language ever. No rigorous system of types, no functional “cakes” such as Pattern Matching, no immutability. You cannot create an operating system with Dart. It is not optimized for processing big data. The use of Dart is quite specific. It is like a fishing rod: nobody is catching whales with a fishing rod, right?
But Dart is a very easy-to-learn language instead. From the syntax perspective, this is something in between Java and JS. Like JS, Dart forgives a lot to developers. Both Dart and a relevant VM were originally designed as a replacement for Java. That’s why Flutter’s language is frontend-centric by default.
The language issue is directly linked to your project’s time-to-market, no matter how odd it might sound. The easier the language, the simpler it is to find appropriate developers. Another time-related aspect (and time is money, as we know) is the additional compilation procedure that developers have to practice unless the applied language allows otherwise.
Code in Dart can be compiled directly to machine code. That’s why its performance is comparable with the ones inherent in Swift, Kotlin, and Objective-C. Another advantage of Dart is the ease with which software development companies can find appropriate programmers. Developers familiar with Java and JS can grasp Dart in a matter of days. Besides, the Flutter community keeps growing over the world, and the trend does not seem to go down. Moreover, due to its infancy, the community is one of the most welcoming developer societies on the market.
How can it be applied to your business? Business for profit is usually far from exotic approaches. The easier the search for developers is, the less constraints your project faces. Both Flutter and Dart are no longer exotic for cross-platform development. They are simple, viable, and promising: exactly what your business needs to be successful in app creation.
How Flutter Reduces Risks For Your Business
Certain problems and shortcomings of a platform (or technology) induce risks resulting in financial loss suffered by your company. What aspects do we mean here in terms of cross-platform mobile development? The stability and performance of a platform, available labor resources (devs and admins), further upgrade & development perspectives for your product, etc. In this context, Flutter helps mitigate the risks through the following:
- There are no hurdles in development since a digital behemoth such as Google stays behind Flutter. Even the upcoming OS Fuchsia works well with Flutter not to mention Android;
- Using Flutter does not cause problems with the relevant staff: more and more Android devs are becoming ardent advocates of the framework;
- Both the uncompromising quality and ease of integration allow Flutter to be used by many business giants such as Alibaba, Google, eBay, BMW, Philips. Their successful experience with Flutter can help you put your doubts aside.
These and many other aspects make Flutter a decent solution for any business that wants to adopt new technologies and integrate the tool into your system. In comparison with the available cross-platform alternatives, Flutter bears minimum possible risks to your business.
Why Flutter Is Worth Trying: Summary
The following properties of Flutter seem to be convincing enough to stop hesitating whether the framework is worth trying for cross-platform mobile development:
- Both the UI and app logic remain the same for any mobile platform;
- The widest possible array of UI settings does not limit your creativity;
- Faster coding boosts time-to-market (perfect for MVP);
- The unique rendering engine provides the app performance close to a native one;
- The variety of native-looking widgets makes your product indistinguishable from native apps;
- Both the design and performance of UI components do not depend on a particular platform;
- The growing community of Flutter developers means you won’t face problems with the technical support for your future product and with employment of devs and admins;
- Flutter’s language Dart is so easy to learn that nurturing your in-house Flutter devs seem to be neither time-consuming nor expensive;
- The majority of business risks inherent in cross-platform mobile development are minimized with Flutter in comparison with the available rival frameworks.
To put it briefly, Flutter represents the fastest possible way to create a well-working cross-platform mobile application that, in addition, feels and looks like a native one.
Obviously, it’s just a matter of time before Flutter becomes the conventional and even prevalent solution for cross-platform UI development. A modern business has no time to get sentimental - competition in the app market remains fierce. Only the toolkit that is capable of meeting the zeitgeist in cross-platform app development deserves to satisfy the needs of today’s digital entrepreneurship.
Contact our Flutter experts to boost your business with the most promising cross-platform framework on the modern market. We are taking care of your cost-savings: killing two birds with one stone is possible.