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Flutter: Google’s Answer for Fast App Development

Flutter is Google’s new portable UI toolkit for building beautiful, natively-compiled applications for mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase. Google describes this cross-platform application development SDK beautifully through its tagline - “Beautiful native apps in record time”. As mentioned on the official website, Flutter enables fast development through its expressive and flexible UI to boost native app performance.

What is Flutter?

For those of you, who haven’t heard of Flutter a brief introduction to this new mobile application development SDK would be well in order. Flutter is like any other framework, developed in DART (an object-oriented and class defined language). It is a client-optimized programming language for building fast apps on multiple platforms (Mobile, Desktop, Backend, and Web Applications), making it a one-in-all power-packed framework. If the rumors are to be believed, Google’s revolutionary new Fuchsia would be utilizing Flutter 1.7 to develop apps on its platform.


The Quest for Fast Development

One of the major benefits of using Flutter for app development is the fast development time it offers. So, the automatic question is: how much time does it take to set-up the environment and start building an application with this framework? Honestly speaking, it took me around 40 – 60 minutes the first time around and took less than 5 minutes, in the second instance, to start coding the application. Flutter is filled with many attractive features that reduce app development challenges. Some such features include:

  • Hot Reload: Runs the app changes almost instantly.
  • Light Editor: Just like the VS Code, it can be used to build apps.
  • Detailed documentation: This is the most essential feature behind the speed of Flutter. Its documentation has so much to offer.
  • Single Code Base: Developers can work on only a single code base for Android or iOS devices.

As you can see, Google is right in claiming that Flutter offers fast development

The intensity of Expressive and Flexible UI

When it comes to UI, there is only one thing we developers take reference from and that is Material Design. Everything you see in Flutter is a widget or “a component of an interface that enables a user to perform some task”. Flutter took reference from material design to create its app’s widget, which is a standard everywhere whether you design a webpage, an Android app, or an iOS app.

As mentioned and tested, Flutter is capable of rendering the screen elements up to 60FPS which shows its capabilities of expressing UI elements. Applications made with Flutter emits a premium-class feel for both Android and iOS users.

As far as flexibility is concerned, Flutter widgets are getting constant updates with every release, as seen with the introduction of material range slider in its recent 1.7 version. The Flutter SDK also contains Cupertino widgets (iOS style widgets) to give the look and feel of an iOS native application. The SDK is getting more flexible with time.

Improvement in Native Performance

Flutter is ideal for fast development with its set of productive features, but this doesn’t prove that the framework is perfect for developing mobile apps. Let’s pit Flutter against some of the essential app development parameters and judge the results.

  • Availability: As far as I have explored over the past 6 months, the availability of content in Flutter has increased significantly. Documentation, Code lab examples, and tutorials are all available now. This shows that the framework has now gained reliability because availability always equates to more reliability.
  • Response Time: If I have to analyze the response time of applications built using Flutter, then I would have to say that the application takes some time to load at the beginning which again is higher than the expected time. But once the application loads, it gives a smooth and linear performance.
  • Processing Speed & Latency: The processing speed of apps built with Flutter is quite slow. For example, rendering ripple effects and interacting with the widgets lag a bit but on the other side, you only have a single code base for both Android and iOS platforms. So, such a compromise can be happily accommodated.
  • Size & Weight: The size of the application is around 2.5 times more than that of a native application but again compromises have to be made somewhere.

Rounding up the findings, it can be said that Flutter is slow when initiated, but it gathers pace and runs at 60 FPS to provide a linear performance with some minor glitches.

Example of a simple Flutter App

import 'package:flutter/material.dart';

                    void main() => runApp(MyApp());
                    
                    /// This Widget is the main application widget.
                    class MyApp extends StatelessWidget {
                      static const String _title = 'Flutter Code Sample';
                    
                      @override
                      Widget build(BuildContext context) {
                        return MaterialApp(
                          title: _title,
                       body: Center(
                        child: Text(“Hello World”),
                    ),
                        );
                      }
                    }