Flutter, What Is It, and Its Impact on Software Development Since Its Release


Software development in this age has seen impressive progress that developers from decades ago would be proud to experience. Although, progress comes with new technological challenges. For one, developers now have endless problems to solve and multiple platforms to consider when building applications. Yet stakeholders in the industry can genuinely say that software development is more flexible in this decade than ever before. Hence why we are discussing Flutter, one of the recent most impressive inventions in software development.

What is Flutter?

Flutter is an open-source software development kit (aka devkit) that uses Dart programming language to enable cross-platform application development using the same codebase. Flutter allows developers to build native mobile and web applications on multiple platforms eliminating the need to create native code for different platforms. Developers can use the same codebase to build a mobile app for Android and iOS, and a web app for Windows, Linux, and macOS. And the apps will feel native on each platform.

Flutter SDK comes with a UI framework, a library of design and widgets, a rendering engine, APIs, a debugger, a compiler, documentation, and other resources so that developers will have everything to build from start to finish.

Is Flutter a Good Alternative to the Older Libraries, Frameworks, and SDKs?

Software developers can name older frameworks and SDKs such as Xamarin, React Native, and Ionic that attempt to solve the same problems as Flutter. But Flutter manages to achieve the same results with fewer complexities. Some might even say that Flutter is the future. In its short existence, Flutter has been used to build popular products used globally, such as Alibaba and Google Pay. Unlike its popular alternatives, Flutter is a complete SDK that contains a library, framework, and APIs. Frameworks, libraries, and APIs are like tools, while an SDK is an entire workshop with many tools.

Let’s compare Flutter to other similar technologies.

Flutter VS React Native

React Native is arguably the most popular alternative. Unlike Flutter, which uses Dart, a less popular language among developers, React Native is a JavaScript library, and it uses JavaScript. Hence, React Native is easier to learn. Both technologies have easy installation processes, and they come with sufficient documentation to guide you through the onboarding. However, React Native does not exactly enable cross-platform development. Instead, it helps developers bridge the gap between native components. React Native uses different components for iOS and Android development, while Flutter uses the same component for both platforms, which makes it a faster technology.

Although, Flutter is limited in what you can build with it for now. It supports 2D software development, so if you want to develop AR/3D products, React Native is a better alternative.

Flutter VS Xamarin

Unlike React Native, Xamarin is faster than Flutter for software development. However, Flutter is a better choice considering the licensing costs of both technologies. Xamarin is a Microsoft -owned technology that uses Microsoft Visual Studio IDE, which costs a lot compared to Flutter. You can use Flutter on VS Code, and VS Code is free.

Another advantage of Flutter over Xamarin is the software development difficulty it can manage. Although Flutter uses a simple coding language, it can manage complex projects better than Xamarin because of the resources Flutter provides. Flutter comes with testing and CI/CD tools. Dart is also a more powerful and efficient language than XAML and C#, which are used in Xamarin.

Lastly, Microsoft is planning to replace Xamarin in 2023. On the other hand, Google has more plans to improve Flutter in the future. So if you are looking for a technology that will still be here in 2023 to enable your employees to build without worrying about learning a new technology, Flutter is a better choice.

Flutter VS Ionic

Ionic is also an open-source technology that enables cross-platform mobile app development. It uses popular languages; HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, so that’s an easier learning curve head start for Ionic compared to Flutter, which uses Dart. However, Flutter apps have better UX than Ionic apps because Ionic renders with front-end technologies, which slow down the apps compared to Flutter apps.

Another advantage of Flutter over Ionic is the code. While Flutter code is bulky, which makes Flutter apps generally heavier than Ionic apps, Flutter code is easier to maintain. Flutter developers can easily detect and fix bugs, but Ionic often requires a complete rewrite of the code for app maintenance.

The Impact of Flutter on Software Development

Google introduced Flutter in May 2017. Although Dart, which was also introduced to the world by Google, has been around since 2011. But Flutter and Dart have since gained prominence among developers because of the flexibility they brought to software development. Although Flutter was initially for cross-platform mobile development, it has extended its reach to desktop and web.

“Flutter is highly portable and already works on many form factors beyond phones… So if I look forward a few years, I see Flutter running in a ton more places,” says Engineering Manager at Google, Eric Seidel.

Flutter makes software development faster. 43% of app developers are working on cross-platform app projects, according to a Jet Brains survey. You can imagine how much time and money they save because Flutter lets them code for multiple platforms easily.

Additionally, Flutter fosters the current no-code/low-code trend. It’s old news that one can convert Google docs into HTML using an HTML converter. Flutter supports design exports to Dart code in minutes, hence reducing the time spent on coding designs — Adobe XD supports designs-to-Flutter exports.

Earlier this year, in May, Google released Dart 2.17 and Flutter 3.0. These releases extended Flutter/Dart support to more platforms and concepts, including foldable phone support and games support. That’s to show you that Google means business. But if we choose to be pessimistic and doubt that Flutter will remain popular in the future, we can’t take away the impact of Flutter on software development. In the coming years, we will see more technologies that enable thorough cross-platform software development.

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