How Flutter succeeds at cross platform development

Using Flutter to Develop Cross-Platform Applications

The incredible transition from web platforms to mobile platforms has created a necessity to address multiple devices in terms of creating software that will address various scenarios. There are two main camps to consider when coding a mobile application, and these are Apple’s iOS, and Google’s Android operating systems. Coding for Apple’s iOS in the past has been rooted in Objective C and also Swift, while coding for Android has been rooted in utilizing Java and Kotlin. The difference between iOS and Android devices comes by way of the fact that hardware on iOS devices is controlled, meaning that Apple determines the hardware that will be utilized for iOS. On the Android side of things however, it is the hardware manufacturers that adapt Android to their device. The adaptation found between the Android operating system and Android hardware is due to the use of Java, which can be run on any hardware. The development of cross-platform applications with flutter is something that boils down to a need to avoid development costs wherever possible. To that end, Flutter (developed by Google), allows for the opportunity to develop for both iOS and Android at the same time, cutting down on costs and increasing productivity.

Flutter, React Native, and Xamarin

There are a couple heavy hitters in the native mobile development platform arena, and these are Flutter, React Native, and Xamarin. Each of these options is sponsored by a large tech company, with Flutter having Google behind it, React Native being developed by Facebook, and Xamarin being supported + developed by Microsoft. The core philosophies of each of these companies comes through in the way in which these products are developed and utilized. Flutter for instance is largely based upon openness, ease of use, and also versatility with regard to the applications that can be developed. React Native is largely based upon Facebook’s React javascript framework, and is somewhat experimental, but is very popular due to its use of JSX. Xamarin is a unique option as it is Microsoft’s offering, and seeks to be utilized by enterprise-minded organizations specifically (banks, government organizations, etc…). Choosing the right option from those listed above is a matter of looking at the needs of the client, and seeking to solve a specific set of problems. A client that needs a relatively simple mobile app and wants to minimize costs might be best suited by React Native, while a client that needs something more comprehensive would probably be better suited by Flutter, and a client that needs an enterprise solution would probably opt for Xamarin.

Moving Forward With Flutter

Assuming the choice is to engage in development of cross-platform applications with Flutter, there is an incredible development community to engage with. Aside from the support of Google in terms of updates and optimization(s), the documentation and community that revolves around Flutter is enormous. This amounts to not having to scour high and low for information when running into the inevitable error that will crop up. In the world of development, anything that solves a problem quickly and effectively is worth considering. Flutter brings a well-balanced, well-supported set of tools supported by one of the largest tech companies on the planet, with the chance to also avoid having to develop two applications at once. As with all technology though there are inevitable drawbacks to using Flutter vs. developing natively using Swift/Kotlin, and these drawbacks include having a slightly decreased level of control. One of the most promising aspects of utilizing Flutter comes by way of being able to reduce the amount of code being used, while still achieving the same functionality.

Reducing Technical Debt

While one of the first concerns of using a solution like Flutter is the possibility of technical debt, it is one that can be largely put aside. There are some significant benefits to cutting down on the amount of code being used with a native solution, chief among these is the amount of testing that has to be done. Still, when creating an extremely complicated application such as a game that has advanced physics and graphics, there is a need to employ a superior level of memory management. Flutter does not offer superior performance when it comes to setting aside, utilizing, and subsequently freeing up physical memory. This is one of the drawbacks of utilizing Flutter as opposed to Objective C / Java, and it can be likened to using a high level language like Python as opposed to a low level language such as C/C++. As the amount of physical memory utilized in handheld devices increases however, the consumption of memory will not be as big of a concern. And regarding most mobile applications, memory management is not going to be a priority during most projects.

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