Flutter is rapidly becoming a household name in the world of mobile app development. Known for its ability to create visually appealing and functionally rich applications across various platforms, it's captured the attention of developers and businesses alike. But is it the silver bullet for all mobile app needs? That's the question this comprehensive guide aims to address.
The purpose of this article is not only to dive into the landscapes where Flutter shines brightly but also to explore the shadows where it may not be the ideal choice. It's crucial to understand that no single development framework can be a one-size-fits-all solution, and Flutter is no exception. It also has it's pros & cons.
Whether you're an experienced developer contemplating Flutter for your next big project or a curious entrepreneur seeking the best technology for your startup, this guide will offer invaluable insights. So fasten your seatbelt as we take you through an in-depth analysis that balances the allure of Flutter's capabilities with a realistic look at its limitations.
When Not to Use Flutter & Its Disadvantages
Flutter offers numerous advantages, but it's also essential to be aware of the circumstances where it might not be the best choice. Being informed about its limitations ensures that you make a well-rounded decision for your project.
1. Platform limitations
- Wearable devices: You might not be able to harness the full power and efficiency of Flutter when designing for wearable devices, especially for Apple Watch.
- Smart TV, Android TV: Building for platforms like Android TV requires a significant rethink in terms of control logic. Android TV predominantly relies on remote control input, whereas Flutter is tailored for touchscreens and mouse movements. This gap translates to additional development time and potential inconsistencies in user experience.
- Instant apps in Play Market: Instant apps need to be nimble. However, the inherent size of Flutter apps, even when optimized, often exceeds native applications. With Google setting a stringent 10MB limit, Flutter apps with a plethora of features or packages might struggle to fit within this constraint.
2. Size considerations
- App size bigger than Native: One of Flutter's most cited drawbacks is the size of the applications it produces. Since Flutter is not native, it necessitates the inclusion of additional libraries for its functionality. These libraries, although crucial, inflate the app's size. For context, the smallest Flutter app starts at over 4MB. In comparison, native Java and Kotlin apps stand at 539KB and 550KB respectively. In scenarios where every byte counts, this can be a significant disadvantage.
3. Technical and connectivity issues
- Bluetooth difficulties: Connecting to hardware devices over Bluetooth using Flutter can sometimes be fraught with challenges. Since Flutter does not use the device's native Bluetooth capabilities directly, developers may encounter connectivity and performance issues. It makes the development proccess more challenging than with Native frameworks, but not impossible.
- Web development challenges: The introduction of Flutter for Web sparked excitement, but it still has minor inefficiencies with loading speed and SEO. Furthermore, Flutter's limited WebView support can be a pain point for developers aiming for nuanced web interactions.
- Handling of new system features: As OS platforms evolve, they introduce novel features that app developers can leverage. However, Flutter's cycle in integrating these features is notably lagging compared to their native SDK counterparts. A case in point: The Dark Mode for iOS took over two years to see a half-baked introduction in Flutter, post the release of the dark mode-enabled iOS 13. Similarly, achieving performance parity with the 120+ Hz displays on modern smartphones remains elusive with Flutter.
- Using Native code: Certain native UI elements have to be recreated in Flutter, which requires using native languages such as Kotlin or Swift. For instance, video player implementations in Flutter might visually deviate from the system ones, especially noticeable on iOS.
4. Language and Development Challenges
- Dart language limitations: Dart, the primary language behind Flutter, offers simplicity that can be both a boon and a bane. While its simplicity can be an asset for beginners, experienced developers might find it lacking in complexity when stacked against robust languages like Kotlin or Swift. Dart's dynamic typing can introduce unpredictability. Additionally, certain advanced features like static metaprogramming and mature JSON serialization are conspicuously absent, posing a challenge to developers accustomed to these functionalities.
5. Higher Development Costs:
- Flutter development can often be more expensive than native development. This is due to the need for specialized expertise and the complexities involved in building cross-platform applications with a consistent look and feel. Additionally, finding senior Flutter developers can be a challenge. While the community is growing, it's still relatively new, and seasoned experts in the field are in high demand, which can drive up costs.
What is Flutter Best Suited For?
Flutter's rise to fame is not without reason. It provides developers with a rich set of tools and a robust framework to craft stunning applications. Let's break down the areas where Flutter really stands out:
1. E-commerce and retail
From online stores with seamless browsing experiences to loyalty programs that ensure customer retention, Flutter can handle it all. Its capability to create intuitive UI and maintain consistent performance across devices makes it a top pick for retail giants and startups alike.
2. Banks and fintechs
Financial apps demand a combination of top-tier security, real-time processing, and user-friendly interfaces. Flutter's architecture lends itself well to these requirements, making it a top choice for fintech innovations.
3. Large business / enterprises
Large corporations have a diverse set of needs. From internal process organization to contact centers, logistics, and more, the versatility of Flutter allows businesses to create tailored solutions that fit their unique challenges.
4. IoT and embedded systems
The world of IoT is rapidly expanding, and Flutter is ready to meet its demands. It can smoothly integrate with embedded systems, providing a cohesive experience between smart devices and user interfaces.
5. Prototyping and MVP development
When you need to get your idea to market quickly or test a concept, Flutter is your ally. Its rapid development cycle and pre-built components allow startups to roll out MVPs in record time.
6. Simple 2D game development
While Flutter isn't primarily a game development platform, its graphics engine is potent enough for simple 2D games. This makes it a feasible option for basic gaming apps with rich animations.
7. Progressive web applications (PWAs)
Flutter isn't just confined to mobile. With its web capabilities, creating progressive web applications that feel native and are highly responsive is a breeze.
8. Desktop app development
Flutter's reach extends to the desktop realm. It offers a consistent experience across mobile and desktop platforms, making it easier to maintain and update applications.
9. Single-page or multi-page applications
Whether it's a concise single-page application or a sprawling multi-page behemoth, Flutter's widget-based architecture ensures that apps are modular, maintainable, and scalable.
So, is Flutter a Good Choice for Mobile App Development?
Absolutely! Flutter undeniably shines in a multitude of scenarios:
- It provides a unified development experience, rapid iteration capabilities, and has been the bedrock for some high-performing applications in the market.
- For startups and businesses looking to build a visually consistent product across both iOS and Android without doubling development efforts, Flutter can be a game-changer. Its rich widget library, complemented by its performative Dart underpinnings, ensures that apps look and feel beautiful while maintaining a snappy user experience.
However, as we've discussed in this article, there are situations and niches where Flutter might not be the most optimal choice. Projects that require deep platform-specific integrations, those targeting wearables, smart TVs, or instant apps, and those that lean heavily on certain third-party libraries may find hurdles with Flutter.
Therefore, it's essential to analyze the project's scope, the platforms targeted, the desired user experience, and technical requirements. Consider factors like maintenance, longevity, and the possibility of needing to pivot to a different solution in the future.
If you're still wondering if Flutter is the perfect fit for your next project, at What the Flutter, our expert Flutter developers are here to guide you. With years of experience in building scalable, beautiful, and efficient Flutter apps, we know the ins and outs of what makes a Flutter project succeed.
Whether you're looking to create a cross-platform masterpiece or need professional insights into whether Flutter is right for you, we're here to help. Our commitment to quality, innovation, and client satisfaction sets us apart.
Contact us today to discuss your project's specific needs and discover how we can turn your app idea into reality with Flutter. Let's build something extraordinary together!