What is Flutter?

Flutter, a development framework using the programming language Dart, has been around since 2017. Both Flutter and Dart were developed by Google and are completely free and open-source. Thanks to their ease of use, excellent documentation, and quality-of-life features like hot reload, both have become favorites in the app development community.

Flutter is a great choice if you’re looking for near-native app performance on a large variety of platforms. As of version 3, it not only supports Android, iOS, Web, and Windows, but also macOS and Linux.

Flutter logo

Advantages of developing apps with Flutter

When developing an app for multiple platforms, you will have to decide between native (code written specifically for the target platform) and cross-platform (code that may be used to build applications for multiple systems) development. 

The main advantage of native development is performance: Apps typically run more smoothly, since the software has better access to internal device resources. However, developing an app natively for multiple platforms also means recruiting skilled talent for each of them, driving up costs.

Flutter brings two key advantages to the table: First, it achieves near-native performance on most devices, even though it is a cross-platform framework. 

Second, Flutter is very easy to learn, thanks to its intuitive structure and excellent documentation. This means that in no time at all, your team can begin developing a single codebase for applications that run on all major platforms.

How Flutter achieves near-native performance

What makes Flutter so unique? How can apps developed with it rival the performance of natively developed software?

1. Direct communication with render engine

    One reason is that Flutter uses the graphics engine Skia, bypassing the platform UI libraries. Directly communicating with Skia in the engine layer, which provides instructions for GPU, gives Flutter apps aperformance boost.

    2. Flexible compilation options

      Typically, programming languages are compiled either AOT (ahead of time) or JIT (just in time). Static languages often use AOT, dynamic languages mostly opt for JIT. Flutter’s language Dart, however, supports both approaches. This means that during development, JIT speeds up workflows, while AOT ensures fast execution for released apps.

      Another aspect of Flutter that makes app development much more comfortable is its very fast hot reload feature: Developers can make changes to the app’s code on the fly and see the results on the real or virtual device in less than a second — even the app’s state is maintained.

      3. Smart memory use

        With Flutter, interfaces typically run at 60 frames per second, or even 120 frames on capable devices. This is in part due to Dart’s runtime garbage collector, which efficiently allocates memory for the many objects Flutter renders on-screen and destroys again later. 

        Another factor is that in Dart, memory is not shared across threads. Since Dart employs single-threading, developers can make sure that critical functions are executed to completion. All this contributes to a smooth user experience.

        Flutter vs. React Native

        If you are already using React Native – another popular framework for cross-platform development – you may wonder if switching to Flutter could be worthwhile. Both are compelling app development frameworks, though Flutter has some advantages.

        One such advantage is platform coverage. While React Native allows you to use the same codebase for both your Android and iOS apps, with some libraries even supporting Web and Windows, it cannot match the adaptability of Flutter, which also supports macOS and Linux out of the box.

        React Native is also slower: The bridges and native elements it relies on limit its performance. Flutter circumvents this by using its own widgets for UI elements. This has the added benefit of apps looking the same across OS versions. Conversely, the UI of your React app may break with a significant OS update.

        React Native comes with a limited set of components. If you want to add more unusual UI elements, you will have to rely on external libraries. Those may not always be well-maintained, which can introduce additional security risk. Flutter addresses this issue by including more UI elements out of the box, which gives developers greater freedom in designing their apps while avoiding support issues.

        The main advantage of React Native is that it uses JavaScript, so you will not have problems finding talent for your projects. But if your developers are willing to put some effort into learning Dart, you should give Flutter a try.

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