When businesses think about app development, cross-platform solutions generally come to mind first. The ability to run on multiple platforms saves time and cuts expenses significantly, which is crucial for startups and small enterprises.
Cross-platform frameworks like Xamarin, React Native, Ionic, and Flutter are widely recognised and used by millions of developers worldwide, but the latter is worth special attention.
The growing influence of Flutter cannot be ignored; this relatively new technology skyrocketed almost immediately after its release and its potential is still being discovered. According to Statista, Flutter usage increased by nine per cent in 2020, which is quite impressive especially considering its rivals faced a drop in popularity compared to the previous year.
In this article, we'll explore Flutter’s capabilities and discover why it’s an optimal choice for cross-platform app development. We also review Flutter app development costs and major expenses. But before we dive deep, let’s take a brief look at Flutter's characteristics.
Flutter is an open-source mobile SDK created by Google that allows native mobile app development with a single code-base. It utilises Dart – a fast, objective-oriented programming language.
Flutter’s initial version, Flutter 1.0, was launched in 2018 and spread widely. Lately it has even outperformed React Native in both GitHub and Stack Overflow. Over 100,000 apps using Flutter are on hundreds of millions of devices. Among the apps built with Flutter are Xianyu by Alibaba, the Google Ads app, Hamilton, and many others.
There are several cross-platform frameworks for mobile app development, but Flutter is one of the most competitive and top-performing. This technology differs from its opponents in some core aspects. Below are its major benefits.
Open-source technologies are common among developers and organisations worldwide — around 78 per cent of companies run open-source software. The public and freely available, source code can be viewed, modified, and used by third parties. Flutter's fast-growing and active community deserves special credit for its dedication to ongoing enhancements to the technology and the strong support provided to developers and users.
What’s so special about Dart that we highlight it as one of Flutter’s significant advantages? This object-oriented language with C-style syntax was developed by Google and first introduced in 2011. Dart allows developers to build various app types as it supports all major platforms. Additionally, it has a strong base with multiple libraries and tools. Simplifying programming tasks is among Dart’s key objectives and many developers agree that the language is fun and easy to learn.
Flutter is compatible with multiple operating systems and platforms. Plus, its native widgets allow apps to run older operating system (OS) versions and platforms with no significant drawbacks or degradation.
With Flutter, you can build natively compiled applications for Android, iOS, web, and desktop from a single codebase. Covering Android and iOS platforms simultaneously streamlines both maintenance and update submissions.
This powerful feature allows developers to rebuild an application and see their changes reflected straight away without having to restart the app each time. Whether it’s adding features, fixing bugs, or building user interfaces (UIs), after running the hot reload command, the code updates immediately and execution continues.
Flutter possesses a broad collection of visual, structural, platform, and interactive widgets that don’t rely on platform-specific UI components. Flutter’s widgets are rendered directly by the Skia framework and look native to Android (Material) and to iOS apps (Cupertino).
MadAppGang were acquainted with Flutter when it first started creating a buzz in the development community. Check out our review where we unveiled Flutters pros and cons and compared it to React Native.
With the variety of cross-platform frameworks available, you're probably wondering which is the best for your app. Above and beyond Flutter’s technical benefits, it offers some real pros in terms of development timeframes and performance. Here are few more reasons why you might choose Flutters over the competition:
If you need to develop an app fast, Flutter is an excellent solution. The hot reload feature we mentioned earlier saves times as code changes can be viewed immediately, a factor that also applies to Flutter’s ready-made widgets.
Plus, as Flutter possesses a rich set of components, developers have everything they need in one place, including plenty of libraries. Working with this framework is more efficient than React Native, for example, which has fewer components and relies strongly on third-party libraries.
Another solid reason to choose Flutter for your next project is cost efficiency. We’ll explain that later in the article, but first, let’s estimate Flutter app development costs.
Flutter seems highly attractive in terms of building feature-rich applications on a limited budget. However, bear in mind that the cost of developing a mobile app in Flutter depends on several factors, the most significant of which are described below.
The application type and its key features are the main factors affecting mobile app development costs. Due to code reusability, building a cross-platform app is faster and cheaper compared to the development of two dedicated native apps for the iOS and Android platforms respectively.
But even with Flutter, complex apps with advanced features require months of development and testing, which is expensive. If you only want to build a working minimum viable product (MVP) with one or two key features max, the process is obviously faster, and you can expect the price to start at $15,000 on average.
Sometimes, an MVP can be created very quickly, something MadAppGang learnt when we built an MVP in six weeks.
Another factor that impacts project costs is the location of the developer you hire. App developer salaries fluctuate worldwide, it's a well-known fact. But is there any difference in rates for Flutter developers?
Well, the Flutter community is still young, but it is growing rapidly along with the market. The Open Flutter Project revealed the average annual income of Flutter developers in 2020.
According to the research, in countries like the US, Russia, and India, Flutter developers earn more than Kotlin and Swift developers. While in the UK, Flutter developer incomes are noticeably lower compared to the other two categories.
UI development is integral to a pleasant user experience. After all, who doesn't enjoy rich animations and interactive graphics in an app? Designing quality and robust UI requires a lot of time and effort, which leads to increased costs. But with Flutter it's possible to reduce design time due to its incredibly customisable widgets and that handy hot reload feature.
Mobile app development expenses do not end when an application is deployed. Based on user feedback, there might be small changes or updates implemented post-launch. If you want to keep the audience and attract new users, it’s crucial to follow the latest trends and update your app with new features from time to time. Besides, it’s also required to conduct standard maintenance procedures like application data backups or server scaling. For post-launch app maintenance, expect costs to run at approximately 20 per cent of the initial development cost.
Cost estimation in mobile app development is a complex process and the above-mentioned factors aren’t the only considerations. If you’re struggling to set the right budget for your project, check out our detailed article on how much it costs to develop an app.
Cost optimisation is the core priority for any successful business. When it comes to mobile app development, a relatively expensive process, business owners often search for affordable choices and alternatives. For example, instead of developing native apps separately for Android and iOS platforms, building a single cross-platform app at a lower cost is an attractive proposition.
We’ve already highlighted the Flutter SDK's main advantages, so now let’s review this cross-platform framework from the point of cost-effectiveness.
The first thing about Flutter that helps saving money is the expedited development process. Developers can write the code, implement changes, and test the app faster with this technology. The collection of ready-to-use widgets helps to create a beautiful UI within a shorter time. Besides, faster prototyping and debugging as well as reduced testing and QA cycles increase the time-to-market speed. Developers report that 50 per cent fewer automated tests are required as the same tests run on both platforms.
After discovering Flutter's numerous benefits and perks, you're probably optimistic about trying it on your next project. However, we recommend that you don’t rush your decision as Flutter is not a universal solution. In fact, there are quite a few exceptions when you should consider other alternatives.
For example, if you need to create an instant, smaller-sized app, this technology isn’t the best choice as Flutter apps – even optimised – are bigger than native apps. Search for better alternatives if you're planning a minimalistic UI or intend to use the phone’s hardware as an integral part of your app, for example, to play music or take pictures with the camera. Additionally, when you need to use native UI elements such as maps and web views, the app might not work as smoothly as expected.
The cross-platform approach, with all its advantages, simply isn’t the right solution for every app. In the above instances and with some other exceptions, developing a native app is preferable.
For more info on native app development prices and benefits, check out our expert guides to Android and iOS app development:
Cross-platform mobile development is a massive trend in software development. Flutter SDK is among the top frameworks available to build cross-platform mobile apps that perform well. Its reliability minimises the risks for business while its cost-effectiveness makes it a great solution for small enterprises and startups.
That all said, Flutter isn’t a one size fits all solution, and you may be better off looking elsewhere. If you’re not sure, it’s best to talk to some experts for guidance.
To learn more about cost estimation in mobile app development, check out our article, where we explained the difference between $5,000 and $5,000,000 apps. And if you need help deciding if Flutter is right for your next project, get in touch with us and take advantage of our experience.
17 February 2021