29Aug 2019

Is Flutter the Best Platform to Make Hybrid Mobile Apps?

The mobile application community is growing at a rapid pace. The number of applications on google play store surpassed 1 million in 2013, and by July 2019 it was estimated that there are more than 2.7 million applications on Google play store. Similarly, Apple’s app store has more than 1.9 million applications. There are different types of applications with different functionalities, but most of the applications, whether large or small have the same behaviour on Android and IOS platform. For a developer, this is a problem. Any company that needs a mobile application, wants it working on two most widely used mobile platforms – Android and IOS. There are different procedures for developing android and IOS applications. Android application is developed using Java in android studio, while IOS applications use Swift and Xcode. Different applications with similar working and behaviour built for different platforms using different programming languages, environment, and behaviour, how does this sounds? For this problem, the idea for developing cross-platform applications came out. So basically, a mobile application that works on multiple platforms is called a cross-platform mobile application.

Of course, there are benefits of building cross-platform apps that work on both android and IOS. It certainly reduces the development time and cost. A developer does not need to develop applications twice. There are many frameworks that are used to build cross-platform mobile applications such as React Native, Ionic, and Flutter. One of these, Flutter is a framework that is becoming popular at a rapid pace.

What is Flutter?

Flutter is Google’s project. Google is heavily promoting flutter since I/O 2017. Compared to other frameworks such as React Native and Ionic, Flutter is quite young but its popularity is increasing. Flutter has few impressive features but at the same time, there are few cons of it also. In this article, we will discuss more on Flutter in detail.

Features of Flutter

Features of Flutter

Hot Reload

his is one top feature of flutter. The hot reload option provides an instant view of changes made by the developer in the app. Anyone who had worked on mobile app development would know how handy this feature is. The developer does not need to run the app for every change made. Instead, the hot reload provides it within seconds. Fixing bugs and errors become so easy with hot reload.

Architecture

Flutter is built on Dart framework which in turn uses Skia C++ engine. Its bigger in size and contains most of the components. Unlike react native, it does not often require a javascript bridge to communicate with native components. Frameworks like Material Design and Cupertino are bundled inside it. Everything we need is a present inside flutter. This greatly increases its performance.

Widgets

In flutter, the user interface is created using widgets. Widgets are used to create graphics including text, shapes, and animations in web design. We do not need to use any third-party library because everything is provided by flutter itself.

Testing

One of the most important parts of developing any kind of application is testing. Flutter provides a rich set of tools for testing applications at unit, integration, and widget levels.

Dart

Dart

Now, this is where Flutter is different for developers. The programming language used in flutter is Dart. Dart was launched by google in 2011. It is not popular and it is not widely used as well. But that does not mean that it is a useless language. Let’s see some features of the Dart programming language.

  • Compiling Dart code is fast that makes flutter app even faster.
  • Smooth animations and transitions can be created in Dart
  • Separate declarative layout language like JSX or XML are not needed in Dart.
  • Dart has features similar to both static and dynamic languages that make it easy to learn.
  • Static types in Dart are optional.
  • Dart tries to minimize the compilation error until it can. The warnings appear in dart but that does not interrupt the execution of the program.
  • Unlike java, functions can be put at top-level, outside of any class in Dart.
  • Classes in Dart have implicit interfaces. No explicit interface simplifies the language.

Usage of Dart is good and bad at the same time. Dart has some impressive features and according to developers, it is fairly easy to learn dart. But as it is a new programming language, not popular, developers are not much influenced by it. Other cross-platform mobile application frameworks such as React Native and Ionic use Javascript which is immensely popular when compared to Dart.

Hello World Application in Dart

Let’s understand a basic Hello World application in Dart.

import 'package:flutter/material.dart';
void main() => runApp(new HelloWorld());
class HelloWorld extends StatelessWidget {
  @override
  Widget build(BuildContext context) {
    return new MaterialApp(
      home: new Material(
        child: new Center(
          child: new Text("Hello world!"),
        ),
      ),
    );
  }
}

So what is happening here? This will display a “Hello World!” message on the screen, yes, on both Android and IOS. Let’s understand this code step by step.

import 'package:flutter/material.dart';

Widgets are the building blocks of flutter applications. Flutter provides a large variety of widgets such as Buttons, lists, input fields, tables, dialogs, card views, tab bars, and many more. Here we are importing material.dart library that contains an impressive set of material widgets.

void main() => runApp(new HelloWorld());

The entry point of a flutter app is the main function. The runApp method is called by the main which displays the widget passed in it.

class HelloWorld extends StatelessWidget {
    @override
    Widget build(BuildContext context) {
        ...
    }
}

HelloWorld is a widget that extends to StatelessWidget class. There are two types of widgets in Flutter – Stateful and Stateless.

The stateful widget has a mutable state describing it. These widgets are implemented by using the createState() method.

The stateless widgets are those widgets that do not have any internal state. These widgets are implemented by using the build() method.

new MaterialApp(
      home: new Material(
        child: new Center(
          child: new Text("Hello world!"),

MaterialApp, Material, Center and Text, all of these are widgets provided by Flutter. Each of them has a set of attributes describing composition.

Flutter and Other Frameworks

Flutter and Other Frameworks

Flutter is not the only framework popular around for cross-platform mobile application development. Obviously, there are other frameworks, even more, popular than Flutter such as React Native, Ionic, and NativeScript. Flutter is quite young when compared to these frameworks. There are many advantages and disadvantages of Flutter over these frameworks. Let’s compare them briefly.

Code reusability is the main reason why these frameworks are popular. It is so because the developers want to reuse code for both Android and IOS as much as they can. Ionic is excellent when it comes to the code reusability. It uses the “wrapped web app” concept. In the end, we are building a wrapped web app in ionic. Flutter too is excellent for code reusability. Although there can be complications where using widgets for the underlying platform, there is a material design that works fine everywhere. React Native and NativeScript can have some issues for code reusability when compared to Flutter. React Native does not provide enough set of components to start with. We have to style our own components and that could be much work though. It needs to be handled on both platforms carefully.

When it comes to the programming language, Flutter uses Dart and other three use Javascript. Now, this is where other three can influence a developer over Flutter. Javascript is one of the most popular languages while Dart is not that popular. To start with Flutter, a developer needs to learn Dart while a person with a web background always knows how to code in javascript.

Flutter and Ionic have a rich set of in-built components. The built-in widgets use material design which is excellent. Moreover, there are some Cupertino-style widgets too in Flutter. On the other hand, React Native and NativeScript provide only a basic set of components. We have to design our own components that require time and experience.

React Native is the most popular among these four options. There are many reasons for its popularity. The usage of javascript, JSX, similarities to React, freedom of using third-party libraries, strong community. Ionic is also quite popular. As mentioned earlier, Flutter is young but google is promoting it heavily. Its popularity is increasing rapidly. NativeScript is the least popular here.

Limitations of Flutter

Limitations of Flutter
  • There are limited dart developers.
  • Flutter applications are not supported by web browsers.
  • Flutter does not support embedding native UI elements such as maps and web views.
  • Flutter is growing but its community is still not that strong.
  • Flutter apps do not support CarPlay, tvOS, watchOS, or Android Auto.

Conclusion

Flutter is a new mobile application development framework. No doubt it has some impressive features and google is promoting it regularly. Yes, there are few limitations but which technology does not limitations? It is growing and in the future, we might see Flutter as a giant in the cross-platform mobile appl development trends in the world.

Acodez is a renowned website design and mobile app development company India. We offer all kinds of web design and web development services to our clients using the latest technologies. We are also a leading digital marketing company providing SEO, SMM, SEM, Inbound marketing services, etc at affordable prices. For further information, please contact us.

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Jamsheer K

Jamsheer K

Jamsheer K, is the Tech Lead at Acodez. With his rich and hands-on experience in various technologies, his writing normally comes from his research and experience in mobile & web application development niche.

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