April 7, 2022

Everything You Need to Know About Flutter App Development

Nabeel Keblawi

Everything You Need to Know About Flutter App Development
Mobile apps - Flutter app development
Source: Unsplash

Do you have an idea for an app you need to set in motion? Or do you already have an app that needs a boost? Let’s talk about Flutter app development!

We wanted to provide you with an in-depth guide on how you can build your app effortlessly. Our guide is to help you meet your growth objectives using Flutter – the newest UI framework that is about to take the world by storm.

What is Flutter?

Flutter Home Page
Source: Flutter Home Page

Flutter is an open-source UI framework built by Google. It helps developers create native mobile and multi-platform apps from a single codebase. Since 2017, Flutter has helped developers streamline their processes and achieve greater efficiency. This framework allows them to build both iOS and Android apps from a single code base with one programming language.

This Google-built framework consists of these components:

Software Development Kit (SDK)

A SDK is a collection of tools that help developers build their applications. It allows them to compile their code into native machine code used on both iOS and Android.

Widget-based UI Library

This framework has various UI elements that can be reused, including sliders, buttons, and text inputs.

The programming language of Flutter is Dart, which was created by Google in 2011. Dart is a typed object programming language that focuses on front-end development, like JavaScript.

What Kind of Apps You Can Develop in Flutter?

Apps built using Flutter
Source: Flutter

Flutter is a good choice if you want to develop 2D cross-platform apps that you want to make available on both iOS and Android mobile devices. It’s also a good choice for building desktop- and web-based interactive apps. 

Generally, you can build any type of cross-platform app using Flutter. Many different companies worldwide are already using it, including Alibaba, Yandex, Airbnb, and Uber. That said, you can use Flutter to create apps for:

Retail

Many retail apps have the same set of basic functions such as product comparison, catalog, finding the nearest stores, promotions, and so on. Since the same features and look is required for both iOS and Android, it would be wasteful to build separate apps.

Fintech

Since the banking sector needs to pay special attention to security, it has to follow the most recent tech trends . Many companies from the banking sector choose Flutter for their apps, compared to native ones, since it’s much safer. Native apps can be reverse engineered to restore their original code. Apps built with Flutter cannot be reverse engineered. Flutter-based apps can use security technologies such as Touch ID, Face ID, or a fingerprint scanner. One of the biggest digital banks, Nubank, is the best case of how the banking sector can integrate Flutter into a mobile app.

Suppliers and Franchisees

Since the budget for the internal apps is lower than client apps, many companies choose to build their internal apps through Flutter. Flutter provides a ready-made environment as opposed to doing everything from scratch.

Large Businesses 

Businesses with call centers, courier control, and complex internal processes can benefit from Flutter apps due to the advantages listed below.

What Types of Apps is Flutter Not Suitable For?

When it comes to video apps, Flutter experiences significant limitations. For this reason, Flutter is not suitable for apps that need UI rendering. 

Furthermore, Flutter isn’t the best solution for apps that closely integrate with their underlying hardware. Those apps, such as mobile stock exchange apps, need deep performance optimization. 

If you are building an augmented reality (AR) app, you may want to avoid Flutter. AR requires deep integration with native platforms, so building a cross-platform app would not be useful. Some examples include auto businesses, furniture stores, or interior salons where users need to see products in 3D.

Popular Apps Built on Flutter

Here are some examples of well-known apps that have been built using Flutter.

  • Google Ads: Apps built with Flutter allow marketers to manage Google ad campaigns directly from their smartphones.
  • Alibaba: This is one of the biggest eCommerce platforms in the world that chose Flutter as their preferred cross-platform solution.
  • Google Pay: Being Google’s product, it’s no surprise that this app is built with Flutter. Given that payment apps need to be secure, responsive, and bug-free, we see this as the greatest Flutter endorsement.
  • Grab: A popular food delivery app built with Flutter that helps local businesses add menu items, manage orders, and view earnings.
  • Realtor.com: A real-estate app that helps people find their dream homes and it’s built with the help of Flutter.

Why Use Flutter to Build Your Applications?

Companies Using Flutter
Source: Flutter

Although Flutter is a new framework, many companies are still choosing it over older frameworks such as Cordova, Xamarin, or React Native.

Let’s explore what the reasons are:

Top 11 Advantages of Flutter and its Features

1. Improved Productivity

Flutter allows developers to use the same code to create both iOS and Android apps. In doing so, they save time and resources since they don’t have to build two separate apps. Flutter’s native widgets also reduce time spent on testing by ensuring compatibility with different operating systems.

2. Easy to Learn

Flutter developers can create mobile apps without using OEM widgets or a lot of code, making their process much easier and simpler.

3. Better Performance

Many users say it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between a Flutter app and a native mobile app - a big upside for developers.

4. Lower Costs

By allowing developers to build apps both for Android and iOS from the same code base, Flutter slashes the coding time by at least half. This means the costs of app development are also reduced. You basically get two apps for the cost of one.

5. Robust Documentation and Strong Community

One reason many companies choose Flutter is the robust documentation and resources that helps developers solve problems. Furthermore, Flutter has great community hubs such as Flutter Community and Flutter Awesome where developers can exchange ideas and solve problems.

6. Improved Time-to-Market Speed

Generally, Flutter development only requires up to half the time needed to build the same app separately for Android and for iOS. Developers don’t have to write any platform-specific code to achieve the desired visuals in their application. Plus, Flutter provides a declarative API for building user interfaces, helping boost performance.

7. Allows Customization

One of the main benefits of using Flutter is the ability to customize anything you see on the screen, regardless of its complexity. Although native platforms also allow customization, it’s usually much harder to achieve the same thing.

8. App Usage Beyond Mobile

Flutter allows developers to go further than mobile app development. There is also Flutter for Web and Flutter Desktop Embeddings, both of which allow developers to run Flutter applications in a browser without modifying any source code. While the non-mobile parts of the framework aren’t yet production-ready, an experienced Flutter developer can make a Flutter app run on web browsers, Windows, macOS, and Linux. 

9. Flutter Has its Own Rendering Engine

Companies using Material Design for Android and Human Interface for iOS can benefit from Flutter. The Flutter framework provides packages that contain custom widgets used for both iOS and Android.

10. Hot Reload Feature

Flutter’s hot reload is a great feature that allows developers to save hours’ worth of time. Hot reload lets developers make changes to the code and watch them take effect in real-time while avoiding rebooting the entire app. 

11. Pixel Rendering Feature

Flutter manages every pixel of the screen. This ensures that widgets look the same on every mobile device, removing potential device support woes. This enables developers to create user interfaces that look exactly the same on both Android and iOS using a single codebase.

Drawbacks of Using Flutter

Now that we’ve seen the benefits of Flutter app development, let’s go over some of its drawbacks:

1. Finding Flutter Developers Remains Challenging

While Flutter may be seamless, difficulty arises from finding developers experienced with Flutter. The labor market for this technology is just starting to grow, and for now, most developers seeking jobs are still new to Flutter.

2. Large File Sizes

One of the main tasks of app developers is to create an app that doesn’t consume too much space on the user’s phone. To do so, developers avoid using animations, reduce image sizes, or use a minimum of packages and libraries. Flutter here shows poor results, and their apps generally tend to take too much space.

3. Insufficient iOS Support

Since Flutter is Google’s product, the support for iOS is much worse compared to one for Android. That said, it can happen that most of the SDK functions that work properly on Android show problems with iOS.

4. Lacks Password Management Support

If you want to use your own features instead of native widgets, you’ll likely experience some problems. For instance, Flutter applications sometimes struggle with autocomplete input fields. There may be hiccups when extracting passwords from built-in or third-party password managers.

Comparisons With Flutter Alternatives

Comparisons with Flutter Alternatives
Source: Unsplash

If you’re still deciding which platform to use, here is a brief comparison between Flutter, React Native, Iconic, and Xamarin.

Flutter vs. React Native

Both Flutter and React Native are equally popular and relatively young. React Native was released in 2015 and Flutter in 2017. 

React Native has an easier learning curve since it uses JavaScript, compared to Flutter uses its own language (Dart). Developers need to learn Dart before building apps with Flutter. 

Both Flutter SDK and React Native installations are straightforward. The available documentation is on par with that of any other mature environment.

The components in React Native are pretty basic. You should have this in mind if you want to add something extra because you’d need to put in considerable effort. In React Native, only a few components are adaptive, meaning that you’ll spend a lot of time using different components for iOS and Android. 

However, with Flutter everything is customizable since widgets are based on Material Design. If you choose to use Flutter, you’ll see that most of the widgets are adaptive and you can use the same widgets both for Android and iOS.

When we talk about performance, we can easily say that Flutter is a winner here. While React Native uses Javascript to bridge native components, Flutter eliminates that need. This makes Flutter much faster compared to React Native.

Flutter vs. Ionic

If you’re wondering whether to use Flutter or Iconic, here are a few things to consider. Flutter is well-known for its ability to create original animations that are favorable when it comes to user experience. 

In short, they make the apps more engaging. But Iconic uses front-end technologies for rendering, making its apps slower in comparison to Flutter apps.

The main difference between Flutter and Ionic when it comes to performance is about the code and the size of the app. Flutter requires a huge amount of code even for the most basic apps, while Ionic uses standard browser runtime (ThirdRock, 2021).

Another point to think about is its maintenance. It’s generally easy to maintain Flutter apps. The simplicity of code allows developers to quickly spot issues, source external tools, and support third-party libraries. The hot reloading feature aids the bug-resolution process in a way that doesn’t exist with Ionic.

In fact, Ionic developers frequently have to rewrite code to ensure the stability of the app. This makes Ionic code maintenance much more challenging.

However, the Ionic framework is much easier to learn compared to Flutter. You need to know Dart to understand Flutter, while Ionic has web technologies that are easier to understand for most developers.

Flutter vs. Xamarin

Before considering whether to use Flutter or Xamarin, you need to consider the project’s complexity. 

Complex projects require a greater focus on developing and testing. Since Flutter offers excellent tooling support for testing and CI/CD, it's usually a more suitable choice for complex projects. If you need faster development, Xamarin might be the better option.

Another point to think about is the frameworks’ popularity. Many developers prefer Flutter over Xamarin, which may mean that Flutter will be used more in the future. Since more and more are using it, it will be easier to find a workforce for Flutter as well.

Lastly, it’s more expensive to use Xamarin on a commercial scale compared to Flutter. The licensing costs of Microsoft Visual Studio IDE needs to be accounted for when considering Xamarin.

How Can You Learn Development in Flutter?

Learning Flutter is fairly easy since mobile, web or desktop development knowledge is not required. However, people who have experience developing apps for other platforms can learn Flutter even faster.

Since there is detailed documentation for developers coming from Android, iOS, React Native or Web, the learning curve for Flutter may be shorter than it seems.

Before starting with Flutter, you’ll need to know:

  • Object-oriented Programming: This is an important programming model you need to learn in order to develop apps.

Furthermore, before learning Flutter, you need to have its SDK installed. You can run the SDK either on Android Studio, IntelliJ or Visual Studio Code.

Finally, you can also learn Flutter by:

  • Watching Videos: There’s a wide range of video tutorials on how to learn Flutter, both paid and free, and some of them are even available on Youtube.
  • Learning from Examples: The best parts of Flutter’s documentation are the examples. You can find brief and clear examples of Flutter at flutter.dev, GitHub and other websites.

How To Get Started With Flutter App Development in 4 Steps

Starting with Flutter app development is a straightforward process. We will cover the basics in this section to help you get started.

Step 1: Setting Up the Environment for the Flutter App Development

To start with Flutter app development, you'll have to create the environment for it first. You'll need the Flutter SDK and an editor. Even though the code lab assumes you'll use the Android Studio, you can choose the environment you prefer. You can run the code lab either by using a physical Android or iOS device connected to your computer and setting it to developer mode, or by using the iOS simulator, Android Emulator or Chrome browser.

Step 2: Create a Flutter Project

Once you've installed and created the environment for Flutter app development, you're ready to create a new Flutter project. The first thing you need to do is to open the terminal window and go to the directory where you want to create a new Flutter project. Once you do that, type the flutter create hello_flutter command. Then change into the project directory (cd hello_flutter) and open this project with the editor of your choice.

Step 3: Launch the Project

Check the documentation for running the code, either in theVisual Studio Code or Android Studio. Let’s say you chose Visual Studio Code. You’d want to open the Run and Debug option and select Dart and Flutter from the dropdown menu. Select the hello_flutter configuration and specify the simulator of your choice. Click Start Debugging. You should be able to see the demo app in the simulator or browser.

Step 4: Create the Flutter App

In this step, open lib/main.dart in your code editor. You can delete all the code from lib/main.dart and replace it with the following code, which displays “Hello World” in the center of the screen.

At this point, you can now run the app.

Once you get an idea of how to get started using the steps above, you can proceed with building your own app.

Building a Chat App With Flutter 

Building a chat app with Flutter has never been easier! Given the feedback we’ve received from our customers, we decided to release our Flutter SDK (currently as a beta release).

CometChat’s communication platform is an easy-to-use solution that drives user engagement. With CometChat, developers can easily add one-on-one and group chat options in their app with features such as:

  • Read receipts
  • Media sharing (images and video)
  • User and Friends lists
  • Typing Indicators
  • Authentication
  • Transient messages
  • Other compatibility extensions

If you’re interested in learning more about how our SDK can help your Flutter app development project, make sure to read more about it here.

Final Remarks

After all, that's been said we see how Flutter app development will become the next big thing in the following years.

If you’re working in any industry that involves retail, finance, and ecommerce with large user bases, building your cross-platform app using Flutter will help you reach a larger number of users at lower development costs than native builds.

Given reduced development time and costs, improved productivity and greater performance, we are confident that companies will choose Flutter over other platforms.

Although it may be difficult to assemble a team of Flutter developers, getting started is easier than it might seem. Our CometChat SDK provides all the resources you need.

About the Author

Nabeel Keblawi, a deaf entrepreneur, runs a Content Marketing and SEO agency that helps B2B SaaS companies grow organically in their industries around the world. His previous work experience involved software development, renewable energy, and cloud computing. In his personal life, Nabeel loves to go hiking with his family, and dust off his skis to hit the slopes given the chance. He is also an avid reader of fictional history.

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