Pros and Cons of Flutter Development
Flutter is Google’s cross-platform mobile development toolkit aimed at improving the efficiency, productivity, and reach of app developers. Yet, today’s developers have abundant choices in the platforms and tools they use to reach their audience. Teams of developers, designers, and project managers need to ask a key question before adopting the technology into their workflows: is Flutter good for app development?
To answer this question, we need to take a look at the applications that modern Flutter enables, the teams that are using it to their advantage, and the direction the technology is taking into the near future. Why is it that teams are choosing Flutter to implement their applications today? How can Flutter be used to create your apps in the future?
With the release of Flutter 3.0 this year the platform is now capable of targetting desktop platforms with stable apps and tools while improving the development experience for its engineers. In addition to a host of related platform and tooling improvements being made available to developers, the latest version of Flutter is accelerating the use of the platform amongst teams.
Here, we take a look at what Flutter is and where it’s being used before diving into the advantages and drawbacks of the platform for use in your teams. Here, we should be able to give you an outline of the technology and show what makes it stand out amongst related frameworks for modern app development.
If, after reading this article, you find Flutter a good fit for your project we can help with selecting the right company, tell us what you need. We can do the work for you and connect you with up to 5 companies within 72h that match your need- all for free.
What is Flutter?
The first thing to know about Flutter is that although it’s often talked about as a framework, it is much much more. In technical terms, Flutter is an SDK—meaning that it provides everything from a UI library to a rendering engine and tooling to build complete applications. In summary, Flutter doesn’t rely on other build tools to build its apps.
Flutter is referred to as a framework because that’s the area of development application engineers target when building its apps. For a deep dive on the Flutter framework and the dart language supporting its use take a look at our ultimate guide to Flutter development that contains everything you need to know about the technology.
Who is Using Flutter?
Flutter apps are used extensively throughout Google for some of the company’s biggest mobile apps. Google Pay, an app with some 100 million users worldwide, uses Flutter to allow users to manage payments and accounts on their mobile devices.
In adopting Flutter for use across both iOS and Android devices, development teams initially looked at the ability to add Flutter as an extension to an existing application but instead took the opportunity to rebuild their app from the ground up. This investment in engineering resources and time would pay off, however, as teams managed to produce a codebase 35% smaller and save 60-70% on engineering time.
Internally, the company has had similar results in producing Google Assistant, Stadia. and Google ads management apps. Externally, carmakers BMW and Toyota have both seen remarkable results in producing attractive and performant mobile applications for their luxury car brands.
Similarly, Crowdsource, the New York Times, and Alibaba have all leaned on the platform to create mobile applications of their own. For organizations interested in high-quality user-facing applications Flutter is a technology proving difficult to ignore.
In answering the question ‘is flutter good for app development?’ we need to dive into the advantages and drawbacks of the platform for developers, teams, and businesses.
Advantages of Flutter Development
First, the pros of Flutter development. These are aspects of app development that Flutter does better than the closest competing framework and things developers value highly as an internal asset.
1. Fast Application Development
One of the key reasons to choose Flutter over alternate approaches is that the platform offers the opportunity to reduce time-to-market, lower engineering resources, and cut costs dramatically on app development projects. Common to most application frameworks, Flutter provides a platform that enables a single codebase to target both Android and iOS app builds.
In its latest release, Flutter has moved support for developing Windows, macOS, Linux, and the web into stable channels. By extending its cross-platform support, Flutter is creating even wider opportunities for cross-platform consistency and savings.
2. Improved Development Support
Over many years of Flutter’s in-house development, the tools created to support developers have been extensively improved. One such feature, “hot reload”, makes it possible to see the effects of small changes in code with near-instant “just in time” compilation.
Hot reload improves developers’ lives by making detailed investigation, experimentation, and bug fixes a quicker and easier process. It’s one of several developer tools which are reflected in the quality and reliability of the final production application.
Similar improvements have also been seen in the documentation created to support developers. Flutter’s learning resources and platform documentation competes with some of the best out there to help developers new to the platform get up and running with little delay.
3. Complete Customisation
Knowing that application design is critical to marketplace success, Google has made customization and style a central component of the Flutter platform. Design credentials that are readily on display in many of Flutter’s showcase apps.
Built using widgets tailored to the ecosystem they’re being deployed in, Flutter allows for complete control of the look and feel of its deployed applications. Its title claim is to provide “control over every pixel of the screen” and it appears to be true in the extensively customized Flutter applications available and their wide variety.
Somewhat unique to Flutter is the platform’s rendering engine for its widgets. While conventional frameworks typically render UI components to native code, Flutter renders its own UI widgets for the platform, making its UI code both more reliable and faster than most competing application frameworks.
The advantages of Flutter’s approach to UI really come into its own when targeting multiple platforms, screen sizes, and devices with a single codebase. In many cases, the platform is capable of things that most frameworks can’t yet compete with.
4. Future-Proof Your Apps
Enabling support on a diverse array of platforms and ecosystems allows you to prepare your firm for whatever direction you want to take it in the future. Flutter allows you to take your code to a new mobile platform, desktop environment, or deploy it to the web to reach new users.
Built by Google, Flutter even includes support for the company’s new Fuchsia operating system—something which is still in the early stages of deployment. Whether Fuchsia turns out to be the Android killer it’s speculated as or makes little impact at all in the mobile app world; Flutter allows you to be proactive against the ever-changing face of application development.
If you would like to know more about Flutter’s projected potential, make sure to read our article on the future of flutter development.
Disadvantages of Flutter Development
1. A new and (comparatively) Untested Platform
The single largest drawback to developing with Flutter is that it’s still a relatively immature technology. Even in mobile development terms, Flutter hasn’t been around for a very long time.
Developers haven’t yet had time to build many years of experience and produce dozens of production applications in the way they have in many other frameworks. Many of Flutter’s supporting libraries and tools are still in an earlier stage of development than would be ideal for critically important projects.
While Flutter is being developed and improved with remarkable pace and skill, it may still be a year or two before it has a comparably sized pool of Flutter developers and engineers to draw on.
2. Two Shifting Targets
You can’t separate Flutter from Dart, and just as both have advantages that your apps will inherit, both have disadvantages too.
Just like Flutter itself, Dart is a comparatively immature technology. While the language is ten years old now, it’s still evolving and changing at a rapid pace to meet the demands of Flutter, Fuschia, and other use cases Google has for it. Stability, while valued, is not at the core of the technology yet.
Rapid changes and a sense of instability in the language can make long-term maintenance a more significant challenge. It’s worth questioning if the user base of the project is comparatively small, to consider whether it will likely be around in many years to come.
3. A Style departure
While Flutter’s ability to render its own components does result in some of its greatest strengths, it does also cause Flutter apps to depart from the expected look and feel, particularly on mobile platforms.
Flutter implements Google’s Material Design on Android apps and Cupertino design on iOS platforms. These provide components that are consistent with the platform they run on, but different enough to be noticeable when compared to non-Flutter apps. If strict consistency, between Flutter and non-flutter apps, is valued then this could pose a significant problem.
Depending on your use case, this ability to stand out from the crowd can be either a strength or a weakness.
4. System Specific Feature Sets
As operating systems implement changes over time, there’s a necessary delay before they can reach the Flutter SDK. While few apps support groundbreaking new features from day 1, it’s worth considering the extra time they will take to reach Flutter before users can see them in your apps.
If day-1 features are critically important to your apps, only native development can truly suffice.
When to Use Flutter?
Flutter is ideally suited to creating a minimum viable product(MVP). The rapid time to market, opportunities for strong customization and branding, and impeccable design credentials make it ideally suited for projects that need to get out there and make an impact on the World fast.
Choose Flutter application development when:
- Minimal time to market is a top priority
- If you plan to scale the app across multiple platforms
- Strong customization and design are high on your wish list
- Skills and experience in the fledgling platform may prove useful in the future
If these sound like the objectives for your project, and you are going to need help selecting the right company, tell us what you need. We can do the work for you and connect you with up to 5 companies within 72h that match your need- all for free.
Is Flutter Good for App Development in your teams?
Flutter development has long been an exceptionally rewarding and exceptionally powerful tool for application development. With the release of Flutter 3.0, these capabilities are growing even greater still. Before taking up this technology to build your own apps, however, carefully consider the advantages and drawbacks in relation to your own apps, technologies, and developers and make a decision based on your own specific workflows.
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