The State of Flutter for 2021 - pros and cons of mobile development in Flutter

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For whom? Product owners who are making a decision about the tech stack for their new startup venture

Flutter is eating the mobile world. This is currently one of the major cross-platform solutions to develop apps not only for iOS and Android but also for Desktop and Web applications (with its limitations) from one codebase. What does it mean for the business? Flutter has a great impact on how all customer-facing digital products will be delivered. Yet, this is not a silver bullet for all business applications and you must be aware of its potential and limitations to include Flutter in the tech stack of your new venture.

In this article you will learn:

  1. What are Flutter and Dart?
  2. Is Flutter reliable? Is Flutter credible for large digital products?
  3. Is Flutter the future in the long run?
  4. How much does it cost to develop and maintain the Flutter App?

This article is based on our experience from setting up the 15+ Flutter Devs Team and building 20+ apps in Flutter. Some of our earlier conclusions have been summarized here: https://leancode.pl/blog/lessons-learned-after-making-the-first-10-commercial-apps-in-flutter.

What are Flutter and Dart?

A short history of Flutter - what you really need to know as a Product/Business Owner

Flutter has been originally developed by Google as a UI framework for building the apps without the burden of adjusting the interfaces for the multi-screen, fragmented environments running on the different operating systems. This great promise could be delivered mostly with Dart, the programming language optimized for multiple platforms. Thanks to Dart implementations not only the mobile apps developed with Flutter are using hot reload (so that they can instantly look at the results), which greatly streamlines the development process, but also they are compiled into native applications which vastly increases the performance and provide a lot of space for advanced animations and beautiful interfaces. This unification allows the designers to take the best of two worlds and adopt either Google’s Material Design or Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines or even develop a fully custom user interface different for both of those if needed, depending on what is best from the end-user perspective. 

As a result Flutter enables developers to build native apps for mobile devices running iOS or Android as well as for Web, macOS, Windows and Linux platforms from one single codebase.

Although the Flutter project has been revealed to the public in early 2015, its first stable version has been announced at the live event in December 2018. It was possible to build commercially successful apps before that date (we’ve started our first commercial project in June 2018), which only proves that Google itself was from the start very cautious about the framework quality. It is still the case, as the major goals for 2020 were to further enhance the Cupertino library and iOS fidelity in general and provide better support for the long tail of extraordinary Android devices. This means that the foundations for further growth and creating the tool for making the beautiful and fast apps fast are solid.

Is Flutter reliable? Is Flutter credible for large digital products?

The key element in Google’s strategy

Flutter as a framework has its core components being developed by the Google Team and there are pros and cons of this situation. On one hand, this is a tech giant, fully capable of building all necessary elements and developer tools. Yet, on the other hand, there is a risk that the project will be suspended because of the lack of compliance with Google’s strategy in the long term. Truth to be told, Google is doing a great job to prove otherwise. First and foremost, Google is transparent about the development roadmap at least one year ahead and the community voice is taken into account while making fixes and improvements. Secondly, the Flutter Team managed to convince other internal stakeholders to move their businesses to Flutter and those are really big deals. Starting with Stadia, Google’s gaming platforms which mobile interfaces have been built in Flutter for iOS and Android, through Google Pay major Flutter replacement being rolled out in India and South East Asia in 2020, to Google Ads.

Google apps written in Flutter

Those are major brands managed by Google and it would be extremely hard to take a step back from such a growing commitment, especially as the new Flutter releases have positive reviews (check our review of the latest release of Flutter 2.0). Last but not least, Google’s long-term goal is to launch Fuchsia, the open-source capability-based operating system whose UI and applications are running on Flutter. It is intended to run on all kinds of mobile and desktop devices with a clear potential to disrupt the market. 

Community support for Flutter

Google is not the only source of market credibility for the product. Equally important is community support. Since the days it was born, Flutter attracts developers who highlight the ease and speed of development of even advanced and demanding interfaces. What is more, there has been an outburst of independent libraries created for Flutter and developed by enthusiasts who are all willing to support the framework. It is exceptionally important that those initiatives are coming from the community with some of the most notable gatherings and meetups like Flutter London, Flutter Berlin, Flutter Paris, Flutter Warsaw, and Flutter Chicago which managed to thrive even despite the pandemic. 

Huge popularity among developer

As a result, the number of stargazers on GitHub has been growing steadily over the last couple of months making Flutter the most popular cross-platform framework in the world. This popularity transfers over time into higher probability of finding new, suitable candidates for the further development and internal maintenance of the mobile app.

Flutter popularity on a GitHub in 2021

Source: Star History build by @tim_qian

Commercial examples of Flutter Apps

Together with the rise of Google’s involvement as well as the community's positive impact Flutter is further strengthened by the examples of new great applications being developed by independent teams. They are coming from different backgrounds, with startups and disruptors like Realtor, Reflectly, EasyA, and Virium through mature digital players like Groupon, Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, to corporations like Philips, BMW, Nubank, or ING. At LeanCode we have gathered the experience from building close to 20 apps, some of them described in our Flutter portfolio and soon we will share with the world probably the biggest ever app written in Flutter.

Examples of enterprises building the app using Flutter

Source: Flutter Case Studies at Flutter.dev

All in all, we can see that Flutter is a solid, credible technology, with many successful implementations and a firm place on Google’s strategic roadmap. Once the obstacles are eliminated, let’s focus on the potential gains from using this technology.

How much does it cost to develop and maintain the Flutter App?

Case study of Uber Eats/Wolt application

All benefits are worth considering from the business perspective to understand how they help to create better products quicker. Back in the old days for the MVP of an application similar to Uber Eats or Wolt you would need to prepare the following separate apps/interfaces:

  1. User facing Android app;
  2. User facing iOS app;
  3. User facing Web app;
  4. Restaurant Android tablet app;
  5. Restaurant iOS tablet app;
  6. Courier iOS app;
  7. Courier Android app;
  8. Administrative Web app. 

In total, those are 8 independent interfaces, which require separate teams and are time-consuming. With Flutter, it is possible to reduce that number to only 4 apps:

  1. User facing Flutter app for iOS, Android, and web;
  2. Restaurant Flutter app for iOS and Android;
  3. Courier Flutter app for iOS and Android;
  4. Administrative Web app (which also can be created in Flutter).

Let’s have a look right now at the numbers and costs to understand how this transfers to building MVP for a similar product. 

An important disclaimer. The complete replica of the Uber Eats interfaces is not feasible to accomplish during 530 MDs nor 260 MDs with Flutter or any other close equivalent. Yet, an MVP, which is providing 80% of customer-facing features is perfectly achievable within this budget.

The savings in development can go up to 51%!

From this example, we can see that the time needed for producing the same MVP using separate apps and Flutter is ~51% smaller. This allows not only to streamline the time to market, which is extremely important for the new disruptive ventures but also substantially cuts the costs without any loss on the quality of the final product. The total savings can differ depending on the location of the development team with the average hourly rate between $60 for the USA, $40 for CEE, and even $25 for India and south-east Asia.

The savings in the maintenance costs are even higher! 

What is more important than the instant savings are also the lower costs of recruiting the team needed for the maintenance, as only one core technology is required. With Flutter being the core technology, an in-house developer can coordinate all the issues reported from users for all platforms. For the companies, which decided to follow the separate, native-only interface policy, this in comparison would mean that they need to employ at least 3 independent developers for Swift, Java and React (or equivalent) for support. This means that the difference of the Total Costs of the Ownership will further multiply in the long run.

Quality matters

Not only the costs but also the quality of the product can be substantially improved. Although this is hard to provide quantifiable proof, the team spirit is higher when everybody is united, working together on specific user stories, instead of focusing on the independent, platform-related silos. Experienced product owners understand the burden of coordinating the speed of development between iOS, Android, and Web teams working on the same feature and waiting with the deployment till the time when the slowest team is ready to go forward. From the perspective of project management, this also means one backlog, one design code, and less testing required. These project management benefits can enlarge the potential savings related to Flutter app development.

Total Costs of Ownership are lower for Flutter

All in all, the Total Cost of Ownership of the Flutter application depends on the scope of the project and the location of the development team. In your own estimates, you need to include the three independent areas:

  • Costs of development - as shown in the example above these can be >50% smaller in comparison to the separate-interfaces policy.
  • Costs of project management. Due to the one design code, one backlog, and simplified testing procedures, these can be reduced by 20-25%. 
  • Costs of maintenance. If you decide to include Flutter as your core technology for user interfaces you can reduce the number of developers needed to supervise your working project from 3 specialists (Swift, Java, and Android) to one Flutter expert, cutting the costs to 1/3rd.

Those three saving areas can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars attributed to your future MVP. For detailed estimates on your product please contact us to arrange a scoping call or send us your brief. 

Don’t waste these savings. Start working on your Flutter app with us.

Hire the most experienced experts

At LeanCode we have a team of 15+ Flutter Developers working on remote projects from California, Arizona, the East Coast, the UK, Germany, China, and Australia. We’ve been developing commercial apps in Flutter since June 2018 and have accumulated great experience and best practices. With our team you can benefit instantly from the important know-how on: 

  • How to design project architecture in Flutter?
  • How to organize the development process and set up the CI/CD pipeline so that you can see a daily update of works on your application.
  • How to use the existing Flutter libraries and not reinvent the wheel from scratch. 
  • When to use the native code instead of building Flutter widgets.

What makes LeanCode probably the best Flutter studio in the world?

LeanCode - probably the best software studio for Flutter apps
  1. We are involved in Flutter since its early days in 2018. 
  2. We’ve co-founded the so-far-the-biggest-in-the-world conference on Flutter called Flutter Europe. 
  3. We co-founded and support one of the biggest and most active Flutter meetups called Flutter Warsaw. 
  4. We’ve delivered more than 20 apps in Flutter and the number is growing. You can read about our previous experience here.

How to start working on your next Flutter app?

It depends on the state of your current applications but this is the universal guideline that works the best:

  1. Join our Service Design Workshop and enable us to better understand your needs and challenges.
  2. Order the PoC of the mobile app with the most advanced features accomplished within 2-3 days.
  3. Sign the risk-free agreement. You can cancel the work anytime.
  4. Hire a dedicated team for the mobile app who understands your needs in the long run.
  5. Secure the maintenance and support of the mobile app (7D/week) after the project has ended.

Don’t hesitate, arrange a free call with us to discuss your brief or project idea.

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Frequently asked questions

What are Flutter and Dart?

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What exactly is Flutter?

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What are the main advantages of Flutter?

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Is Flutter reliable? 

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How much does it cost to produce a Flutter app? 

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Why is Flutter unique?

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Are there any limitations to Flutter?

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How good Flutter is in comparison to React Native?

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