Flutter is the latest Mobile App Development Framework from Google, building high-performance, high-fidelity mobile apps for iOS and Android, Linux, Mac, Google Fuchsia and web applications from a single codebase.

Codename “Sky”, the first version of Flutter, which anchored on Android, was launched at the 2015 Dart developer summit to render 120 frames per second continuously. During the Google Developer Days in Shanghai, Google declared Flutter Release Preview 2, the major release before Flutter 1.0. The first stable version Flutter 1.0 was introduced on December 4, 2018, at the Flutter Live event. Likewise, Flutter 1.12 was released at the Flutter Interactive event. Currently Flutter is running on version 1.17.0

What is Flutter? Why it’s in the lead?

Flutter, Google’s new open-source technology aids in mobile application development, to create Android and iOS apps with a single codebase. Furthermore, it’s a complete SDK (Software Development Kit) which contains everything you need  to develop cross-platform hybrid apps viz. rendering engine, testing and integration APIs, ready-made widgets and command-line tools.

Flutter enhanced its productivity with the employment of reactive development architecture. UI contents undergo automatic update simultaneously with the update of variables in the code. React Native, which is also used for iOS and Android app development, follows this principle. But it uses the JavaScript bridge to access OEM widgets, causing performance issues. Flutter accomplish smooth performance by excluding JavaScript bridge in accessing OEM widgets which is done directly via Dart.

It’s necessary to understand Dart to build apps with Flutter. Flutter operates on Dart Virtual Machine and skillfully employs Dart as its Programming Language. The object-oriented language which utilizes Ahead-of-Time compilation technique serves as the hallmark feature of Flutter. Moreover, it accelerates the startup time of an app. Additionally, Flutter employs its own OEM widgets (Original Equipment Manufacturer) for web and mobile app development.

The following diagrams explain the mechanism behind the usage of OS as a canvas to create an interface and the movement of gestures, animations and rendering into the framework, ensuring hassle-free control over the entire system.

React interaction with native components
Flutter interaction with native components

Debugging is also a principal parameter of Flutter. Dart Observatory, Dart Analyzer, Flutter supported IDEs and their specific debuggers with the application of certain commands help to maintain apps error-free. The entire process is explicitly elaborated in Flutter debug docs. Flutter can’t be debugged directly in a browser as it does not support Web View. React Native and NativeScript allow for testing via Chrome Developer Tools. However, considering that these products often prefer third-party solutions for debugging anyway, Flutter’s process shouldn’t appear very different. Being a sophisticated SDK, it renders automated testing toolset for unit test, widget test and integration test. You can find Google’s tutorials for those tests here.

Flutter Features

Let’s take a quick look at the specific features that Flutter has to offer.

1. Ready made and custom widgets.

2. A Growing Community

3. Dart – Simple and Effective Language

4. Hot Reload Function for Instantaneous updates

5. Portability

6. Internationalisation and accessibility

7. High performance

READY MADE AND CUSTOM WIDGETS

Flutter is composed of widgets. Anything and everything in Flutter is a widget, which combines to produce layouts. Widgets can be tailored and customized depending on the need and demands of the user for flutter app development.

Widgets are organised in trees, making it handy and seamless. Prior planning of the structure is mandatory to keep complications at bay in case of large applications which might take up to 10 layers of codes to create a primary object.

The best advantage of using Flutter is that it has its widgets that correctly follow Material Design and Apple’s Cupertino looks. The UI customization is done within a minimal time frame with the help of Flutter.

A GROWING COMMUNITY

Understanding Flutter is an easy task. The Flutter team guarantees that no prior experience in mobile application development is required to get started with Flutter. It provides classic docs, video lessons from team Google, practical exercises on Codelabs, courses on Udemy and Udacity, and for interaction there are Facebook communities and also a study group on slack.

Flutter is a rapidly developing technology. The graph produced below shows the increase in the rate of users’ interest in  Flutter. The successful implementation of Flutter in enterprises, small scale industries and startups has hiked the interest in layman.

flutter-comparison-with-react-native-and-xamarin

DART-SIMPLE AND EFFECTIVE LANGUAGE

Dart accepts both strong and weak typing styles and bears a resemblance to Java and C++ in syntax, which makes it unchallenging for beginners. During the development of an app, the developers usually have to opt for the compilation the programming language provides. Mainly there are two types of compilation – Ahead Of Time compilation or AOT and Just In Time compilation also called as JIT. AOT compilation usually runs faster because they have been compiled before. But here, the development process will take more time. JIT compilation results in faster development, but affects the app startup speed since the compiler has to analyse the code before it’s execution. Flutter takes the best of both worlds resulting in faster development cycles without hindering the app startup speed.

In Android app development, the entire work is segregated into layout and code. Layouts should be written in XML as Views that are then referenced in Java code. Dart takes care of that by keeping layout and code in one place. Since everything in Flutter is a widget, the layout is also created in Dart.

Flutter produce optimal performance without a JavaScript bridge. The versatility of the language is the most exceptional trait of Flutter. One single language caters to the building of mobile apps and web apps. Flutter can be combined with other web frameworks to build web apps. Google commonly employ Flutter in combination with web framework, Angular Dart, for some of it’s services.

HOT RELOAD FUNCTIONALITY

Another outstanding feature of Flutter is its Hot reload function for instant updates which doesn’t require any plugins to operate. Hot reload helps you to fix errors right away that users encounter while using a program without restarting the entire program. It enhances the programmer’s productivity and enables experimentations without time delay. Both Xamarin and React Native have equivalent features. But some reviews claim that it’s much faster in Flutter. But its authenticity is yet to be ratified.

PROBABILITY

Flutter functions virtually on any device with a screen. Third-party ports viz. embedding APIs, mouse and keyboard input functions, different plugins are created to manufacture Flutter apps for Mac OS, Windows and Linux. To everyone’s amazement, experiments are conducted to build TV applications with the aid of Flutter. Keeping in view the boundless possibilities it offers, it’s fair to expect such a path-breaking discovery.

INTERNATIONALIZATION AND ACCESSIBILITY

Google advances multiple opportunities to enhance the accessibility of your apps to a broader audience. Internationalization is a process wherein the creator makes apps that cater to different regions and languages by preparing codes for the presentation of localized content. Dart intl package makes this process effortless and manageable. In the present era, it acts as a medium of 77 languages, currencies, dates, units of measure, layouts and much more.

Flutter ensures web accesibility and  supports Large fonts (adjusts font sizes to the user’s specified OS settings), Screen readers (provides spoken feedback on UI elements) and sufficient contrast (makes the test easier to comprehend). The developers should experiment and experience all these available options.

HIGH PERFORMANCE

CPU usage, number of requests per second, average response time, number of frames per second are the various factors that decide an app’s performance. Flutter team guarantees a smooth and precise motion of pictures at 60fps without any time delay. A research conducted to make a comparative study on the performance of Flutter, Xamarin and React Native says that, Flutter was introduced with 58fps and a 220 millisecond launch time, Xamarin with 345ms with 53fps and React Native with 57fps and 229ms. The researchers concluded that Flutter bears similarity with native app CPU usage but used 50 % more memory than React Native.

How To Get Started With Flutter

Check your system requirements:- Windows users must pre-install Windows 7 SP1 or later 64-bit with Windows PowerShell 5.0 and Git for Windows. Mac OS requires a 64-bit version with Xcode 9.0 and Linux users don’t have to comply with any special requirements.

Download Flutter SDK:- Choose your OS and strictly adhere to the instructions. A platform-specific editor is mandatory for the smooth operation of Flutter. Dart comes pre-installed with Flutter.

Install an editor:- Google recommends using their plugins for officially supported editors such as Android Studio, Intellji and Visual Studio. But any IDE with Flutter command lines are also reliable.

Several exciting videos are available on the internet to get started with Flutter.

Looking Ahead

In the coming ages, learning Flutter will open numerous opportunities and possibilities. Flutter definitely proves to be a boon in the coming years of digital advancement.

Enthusiasts experiment with Flutter as it makes you more productive, and outcomes are readily visible. Prior knowledge about C# or JavaScript background makes the concepts familiar and offers a gratifying and brilliant experience.

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