Android and Flutter have always been the two primary preferences of entrepreneurs to build a business application. However, Android apps developed using Flutter are proven to be much better. In the current times, organizations are looking for options to build apps within a short time and limited budget. The challenge here is that native apps development for Android and iOS requires two different technology stacks and two different teams – ultimately resulting in a higher cost. This was why enterprises started looking for cross-platform solutions and why Flutter apps recently gained attention.
A Little About Flutter
Flutter was launched back in 2017. Its first stable version, 1.7, came out in May 2019. The new, upgraded Flutter 1.20 was released in August 2020 with several revisions and enhancements.
It’s an open-source, cross-platform toolkit in which apps are written in the Dart programming language. It has its own graphics engine (Skia) and supports three platforms officially: iOS, Android, and the web (in beta).
What’s unique about Flutter?
Flutter is the best of both worlds. The quality of native apps, along with the flexibility of cross-platform development, helps entrepreneurs solve a significant chunk of their challenges. Several cross-platform tools let you write the code once and use it on both iOS and Android. Yet, not all can provide the same look as a native app.
Flutter comes into the picture: instead of being a wrapper on top of native UI components, Flutter apps draw the UI from scratch. It maintains the native experience and feel of the app, and you don’t have to worry about its performance on any platform. Moreover, since Flutter’s an open-source framework, any developer can make changes to GitHub and thereby send merge requests.
Why did Flutter apps gain so much popularity?
With around 90.4K GitHub starts, 12k forks, and 18,445 commits, we get that developers love Flutter, especially since last year. The main reasons for this accelerating popularity of Google
Flutter is that it enables you to develop cross-platform applications:
- With a single codebase
- In a short period, and
- In a limited budget
Flutter Apps Vs. Native Android Development
Native Android apps with Android Studio are pretty decent when it comes to features. However, initially, apps developed with cross-platform solutions could be easily recognized, and it always felt that certain platform-specific features were missing.
1. Technical Architecture
The technical architecture and aspects of Flutter and Android are entirely different, although they are developed at Google. Flutter apps make use of Dart as a programming language, and native Android development uses Java or Kotlin.
Flutter has the complete package required for native app development in the engine itself. When it comes to the IDE, Android Studio and Flutter can be used for native Android development. However, Flutter code can also be written in lightweight editors such as Sublime Text, Atom, or VIM or an IDE like IntelliJ Idea.
2. Productivity of Developers
When you develop native apps, you have to use Android Studio and the native build and platform tools. The Android Studio has all the SDK tools embedded within the IDE. These tools also require Android Virtual devices to run apps. Every time a developer makes changes, he or she has to rebuild the app entirely.
On the contrary, Flutter has a hot reload option wherein the developer instantly reflects in the emulator or devices if the developer changes. If the app grows is complex, the developers need to adopt new techniques to use this feature effectively. Thus, developer’s productivity is increased tenfold if they opt for Flutter app development for Android applications. Studies suggest that developers have increased their productivity & decreased time consumption by almost 30%.
3. UI Components
Next comes UI, which front-end developers spend most of their time on. The native UI components by Google to build UI is powerful and well-documented. Interface builder in Android studio also helps to create the proper UI- making it quicker and smoother. In this case, the Flutter UI engine is different. The Flutter apps run on their rendering engine and framework. Moreover, Flutter also puts widgets to build complex UIs.
4. Testing Support
The native Android tools have great support for testing. It is usually done through Android Studio or the command line through Gradle.
Flutter provides developers with a solid testing framework that enables them to write tests at the unit, functional, and UI levels. The integration tests in Flutter run in a separate process and can be run on real devices.
Flutter can also be integrated into your existing Android apps as a library or module. These modules can then be imported into your Android app to be a part of your apps’ UI in Flutter. The latest version supports add-to-app for the basic scenario of integrating one full-screen Flutter instance at a time per app.
Continuous Integration (CI)/ continuous delivery (CD) helps developers make code changes fast, enabling them to deliver their app quickly. Both Flutter and native Android have great CI/CD support available.
Some of the well-known CI/CD solutions for native Android are Nevercode, Jenkins, Travis CI, CircleCI, Bitrise. They provide a reliable CI/CD solution with good tooling, customer support, and documentation. It was introduced as the first dedicated CI/CD solution only for Flutter. But now, it has support for non-Flutter apps. It can build, test, and deliver native Android apps with Flutter modules added to it.
The Future of Android and Flutter
Flutter has some fantastic benefits, such as a cross-platform advantage over that of native app development. However, it is not perfect yet. You still can’t find many crucial features in Flutter, including OpenGL, accessibility support, video support, and Maps. This framework also lacks some packages that are needed for app development.
If you want to edit the layout with an interface builder, you’ll not get any support. As Flutter is new and evolving, its community is relatively tiny compared to that of native Android app development.
Despite these drawbacks, Flutter has already made a significant presence in mobile app development, becoming extremely popular in a brief period.
Whether Flutter will dominate native Android development in the Flutter v/s Native war; is still unclear. However, it can be said that Google Flutter has the potential of crossing all boundaries. Therefore, app developers should start focusing on Flutter in 2021 and the coming future. Schedule a call with our Flutter experts and know more about Flutter app development today!