Android and Flutter both are managed by Google. Native and cross-platform applications, both are making the android devices more reliable and flexible for users. Android development was started at Android Inc and Google bought it in 2015. Later the Flutter project began also began at Google and in 2017, the first Flutter SDK was released. Flutter changed the scenario of native app development and with the rise of Fuchsia, the future of Android will be completely different.
Every company wants to develop an app in less time and low cost. The main reason behind the fact that companies are looking for cross-platform is that native app development requires two different tech stack. This is resulting in the need for two different teams for development and higher cost. React-Native is the best example of this fact.
Flutter is the latest booming technology in the market for cross-platform app development. This post will help you to realize the effect of Flutter on native app development and why developers should use Flutter for the android and iOS app development.
What is Flutter?
Flutter is a free, open-source mobile SDK that can be used to develop Android and iOS applications with the same code. Being released in beta version, on 4th September 2018 Google I/O released official Flutter 1.0 with loads of new functions and features. Most of the big MNC's and Enterprise use Flutter for app development.
Flutter can be compared with React-Native but it has more features and functions when compared. You can also think Flutter as React Native with full native features.
The Gist of Flutter
Flutter has been around in the market since 2015 when Google introduced it, but later it became famous when the beta version was released officially. Flutter apps are developed using Dart, a simple OOP programming language.
The basic idea of Flutter is related to widget development. The entire UI is a collection of various which defines a particular element like a menu or a button, a font or a color scheme, a layout and so on. Flutter doesn't support OEM widgets but it provides its ready-made widgets for Android and iOS platforms. Custom widgets can also be created using Flutter.
How is Flutter Different for App Development
Flutter vs Native App Development
There is no confusion that the native apps developed that are developed by the Android Studio are rich in features and more flexible. On the other hand, apps developed using cross-platform solutions are not as feature-rich and flexible as native apps. But with the release of Flutter in the market, the way of app development has been changed. What features of the Flutter makes the app more or less native and flexible?
Recently, Google has announced Kotlin as an official development language over Java. On the other hand, Google is also working on developing another OS for mobile and Chrome which is Fuchsia.
Various developers have given their opinions about Flutter. There are discussions on Quora also about Flutter. Soon Flutter is going to replace Java and Native app development. All these opinions and discussions prove that developers must pay attention to Flutter.
There are some basic principles which will help in comparing Flutter with Native App Development:-
Let us understand how these factors can help in comparing Flutter with Native App Development.
- Technological Architecture
The programming languages, frameworks, and tools used in native app development are completely different from Flutter. Although both Flutter and Android are managed by Google, the architecture of both technologies is completely different. Dart is used by Flutter for development while Java and Kotlin are used by Android development.
Native apps developed with Java or Kotlin are more flexible and fast due to the native development of all the components. Flutter does not need any link for communicating with the components and it uses Dart framework for development. The complete architecture of Flutter is explained by GitHub Wiki.
Although Android Studio can be used for the development of both Flutter and Native apps, but Flutter apps can also be developed using light editors like Sublime, VIM or an IDE like IntelliJ Idea.
In other words, Flutter has everything required for developing a native app within the Flutter engine itself.
All the SDK tools are already installed within the Android Studio IDE. But to run these apps you need emulators or AVD (Android Virtual Devices). For developing native apps, developers have to use Android Studio and the platform-tools provided by it. Every time changes are made in the app by the developers, they have to again rebuild the app to see the changes in the emulator. The Gradle build is a slow process for app development.
In Flutter, there is a reload option for developers. Whenever changes are made in the app, they appear in the emulator or devices instantly. But as the size of the apps grows over time, developers have to follow new technologies to use this feature more effectively.
Various Java and Kotlin packages are available in the market which is effectively and easily handled by Gradle in the Android ecosystem. The dependency management system of the native Android app is also handled by Gradle. But in the case of Flutter, the situation is different. It has its dependency management system, Pub. Flutter apps have a Pub Package manager installed inbuilt, so getting new dependencies according to the development is quite easy.
As Dart is not a common programming language, it is not supported by many IDE and text editors. Java and Kotlin feel much more friendly languages for development in Android Studio. But due to the emergence of Dart language, it can help developers to learn new programming languages. There is various community support for the native language also.
UI is one of the most critical parts of the app and Front-End Developers spend most of their time in developing an interactive UI. Google provides powerful and well documented native UI components to build UI. Android Studio supports interface builder for developing interactive UI.
Flutter apps run on rendering engines and their framework so Flutter UI is different. Flutter contains widgets that are used to develop complex UI. In other words, Flutter is a collection of stateful and stateless widgets. There are multiple widgets in the Flutter which can be used to build complex UI that supports both Android and iOS Material Components.
There are various tools for testing native apps. You can easily test native apps through the command line using Gradle or by Android Studio directly. Various other frameworks of Kotlin and Java are also available for low-level testing and UI testing. You can use JUnit for lower-level testing and for UI testing, Espresso is supported.
Flutter provides a dynamic framework for testing which allows users to create tests at the functional and UI level. Users can test UI as fast as unit tests due to the Widget feature provided by Flutter. Xcode UI tests and Flutter integration tests are similar as they both go through the UI for some specific operations. Flutter Driver is a separate package available to run these tests. As the Flutter integration tests run as a separate process, you can also run them on emulators or simulators.
Benefits of Flutter
For a developer, Flutter is the best mobile app development framework. Features like reduced cost app development, the boosting-up development process, and interactive UI development with animations are some advantages of Flutter which makes it a must-use framework for development.
Flutter and Dart both are free to use and open source frameworks. It also contains detailed documentation and community support if the user faces any problem.
Apps developed using Flutter are compatible with the different OS as widgets are part of the app not of the platform. This reduces the time of testing apps on various platforms.
Since Flutter supports cross-platform development. The same base code can be used for the development of both iOS and Android apps. This saves both time and resources.
Flutter develops apps that run with the same UI even on the old OS devices. For this, you don't have to pay any extra charges. Flutter supports Android jellybean, iOS, and newer OS also.
Good for MVP
Due to the fast development process and cross-platform nature, Flutter is a better option for the development of Minimum Viable Product. Many enterprises are adopting Flutter for fast app development at less cost.
Flutter is the Future of Cross-Platform App
Loaded with almost every feature, there are still some features lacking in Flutter like Video Support, Maps, and Accessibility Support. There are also some features of development which are missing in Flutter. In addition to this, the community support of Flutter is quite smaller than the native app community support.
Flutter is completely different and advanced from other cross-platform solutions. Apps developed with Flutter are also slick and smooth just like native apps.
Although the future of Flutter is still unpredictable, the developer must not ignore Flutter. Maybe Flutter is the future of cross-platform app development. There are some possible reasons for this.
Growth of Fuchsia
Google’s support of Android
Complexity in Native App Development
Growing demand for Flutter for existing apps
Prophecy of cross-platform development
Flutter is a new trend in the market. Due to its support in developing cross-platform apps more flexible and easily, many questions are arising in the market. Will it overtake native app development? Will Java and Kotlin be replaced by Dart?
There is no prediction we can make about Flutter. But there are chances that Flutter will replace native app development in upcoming years.
Jermaine Trotman is the co-founder of Nimble AppGenie, a company renowned for its bespoke mobile app development and web development in e-wallet app development and fintech development.