Flutter vs. Native Technology For Mobile App Development
May 24, 2022
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Modern mobile app development is usually about choosing between native solutions and cross-platform technology like Flutter. While native apps remain popular for their high performance, Flutter apps allow you to reduce time-to-market significantly and reap other benefits.
So what approach should you choose and when?
It depends on your business case and what matters for your company. You need to study the characteristics of both native and Flutter mobile development to make up your mind.
This article should help you with a choice. Keep reading to discover the comparable metrics for Flutter and native apps.
What is Flutter vs. Native Technology? Use Cases
First, let’s clarify what Flutter is and what tech stack native mobile app development includes.
What is Flutter?
Flutter is an open-source mobile software development kit by Google and the seventh most used framework among developers. It relies on a language called Dart and enables engineers to create cross-platform apps for iOS, Android, macOS, Linux, Windows, Fuchsia, and the web with a single codebase. Your engineering team won’t have to develop a separate app version for every operating system.
Besides its cross-platform capabilities, Flutter is renowned for its flexible UI and native-like performance. On the surface, you won’t notice any significant difference between navigating a cross-platform Flutter and a native app.
Flutter use cases
- Material design apps
- App with OS-level features
- MVP mobile apps
- Advanced OS plugins that have a simple logic
What is native mobile app development?
Native mobile development covers a whole set of iOS and Android development technologies, including Kotlin, Java, Swift, and Objective-C. Native apps take full advantage of the device they are installed on, using its camera, compass, GPS, accelerometer, and other capabilities as required by the app functionality. It makes native apps more versatile and tailored to the connected device than the cross-platform solutions based on Flutter.
Native mobile app development use cases
- Separate apps designed specifically for iOS or Android
- Apps that heavily rely on the functionality of a smartphone
- Apps with complicated animation or graphics
- AR/VR applications
- Heavy computation apps
- Apps with custom and complex UI
- Apps that process large data volumes
Main Characteristics Overview
To understand what stands behind the listed native and Flutter use cases, let’s review their capabilities. This should help you decide what technology stack is the most suitable for your needs.
Speed of mobile app development
Flutter lets you create a single codebase for multiple platforms. Cross-platformness considerably cuts the development time if you need an app that runs on all mobile devices. It takes around 250 hours to develop a mobile app with Flutter, whereas iOS and Android apps require 400 and 250 hours, respectively. Since you will need to design a separate native app for each platform, Flutter is more time-saving.
The time required to design a native app depends on the size of the team, project complexity, and resources. Nevertheless, as a rule, native applications take more time as you have to work on two codes for different platforms with different functionalities. You will also need to hire software developers for iOS and Android versions separately, which may increase the time to assemble a team and delay the start of the project.
Features and integration
Flutter enables developers to integrate complex features from external sources, even though it requires some advanced Dart language skills. If you need a specific Android or iOS feature, you will need to use add-on plugins like CocoaPods, Android Archive, etc. Note that the Flutter technology has limitations regarding the volume of incorporated native modules.
The integration capabilities of native apps depend on the combination of core technologies used for development. Yet, overall, integration is where native applications are better than Flutter. Swift and Kotlin flawlessly integrate with most platform-specific features such as Bluetooth, location tracking, or camera. Although you can connect the same features with Flutter, you will have to use external plugins, which may result in external dependency.
App performance and size
Flutter apps are bigger than native and are approximately 20% slower. But as the storage on our smartphones increases, it doesn’t affect the app performance much. The ‘hello world app’ test on a standard device showed quality performance for 60 FPS, with time to render each frame not exceeding 16 milliseconds.
Quite predictably, native apps show the best performance. They are tailored to the hardware and perfectly match the requirements of the OS they run on. Therefore, native mobile app development is the best option for apps with sophisticated animation or graphics and applications handling lots of data. They run smoothly at 60 FPS and 120 FPS.
Leobit experts can analyze your unique case to recommend the best technology for your mobile application.
Maintaining an app written in Flutter is more convenient for an apparent reason – You have only one codebase to care about. Besides, Flutter code is very simple, helping software engineers troubleshoot and implement updates. They can also use the Hot Reloading feature to make changes to the app while it’s running.
Demanding maintenance is the main drawback of native mobile app development compared to cross-platform. Native app maintenance takes more financial and time resources. You will need to support Android and iOS versions separately. Bug fixing and upgrading processes also double.
Using Flutter, you will build complex UIs with ready-made widgets and layouts. The view of your future mobile app depends on the chosen widgets since the structure of the app is a tree of widgets. Overall, there are 14 categories of widgets, including accessibility, animation & motion, input, layout, and others.
Thanks to widgets, the UI development process with Flutter is slightly faster than native UI creation.
Working on native apps, front-end developers dedicate a lot of time to designing the UI, but the result is worth it. There are no limitations to the look and complexity of the visuals.
You can use the Android Studio interface builder to speed up UI development. It allows creating an interface with a drag-and-drop builder instead of manually writing layout XML.
Cost of mobile app development
Flutter mobile app development is more affordable than native since it takes fewer resources. Instead of investing in two different solutions for iOS and Android, you have one codebase for all platforms. Based on approximate estimates, a small cross-platform app starts at $11,000, while a large one takes $22,000 and up.
Choosing native mobile app development, be ready to pay for two platforms. This is the main factor that affects the cost and makes native solutions more expensive. Of course, you can create one app for one platform to save money, but it will make you lose a significant market share. Generally, the cost of a native mobile solution varies from $15,000 to 300,000, depending on the functionality and complexity.
Which Technology to Choose?
After discussing the core characteristics of Flutter vs. native mobile apps, it’s time to draw the balance. Here’ are concise instructions on when to choose each option.
Opt for Flutter if:
- You want one code for back-end and front-end
- You have a limited budget and need a simple cross-platform app
- You need an MVP with reactive widgets and standard mobile functionality
- You want to reduce the time-to-market
Choose native app development:
- You create an app with complex functionality
- You develop an app that processes large data volumes
- You need a high-performance app with an embedded connection with a device
- You expect constant updates and upgrades
- You need a unique MVP design
- You expect top-notch performance
If you still have doubts about the optimum mobile app development technology for your project after reading this article, consider consulting. Leobit is a full-stack software engineering provider specializing in native, cross-platform, and hybrid apps. With over 250 apps developed for customers worldwide, we can analyze your unique case to recommend the best fit for you.
Check out our completed projects and contact us to discuss yours.