By Tim Ruddell, Senior Software Development Engineer

When it comes to mobile app development, companies are faced with two options: you can develop a mobile app for iOS and one for Android, separately, or you can go with the latest in cross-platform development, using a framework like Flutter.

Cross-platform development with Flutter has been on the rise around the globe lately – and for good reason. It offers all the benefits of native app development (and then some) with absolutely no compromises needed.

What is Flutter?

Flutter is an open-source cross-platform mobile app development framework created by Google. This means that, instead of having to create an app to run on iOS devices and an app to run on Android devices, you build one app that runs just as seamlessly on both, using a single codebase. 

While native development involves building apps specifically for one platform, within that platform’s specific technology ecosystem, Flutter follows the Write Once, Run Anywhere paradigm, meaning you only build the app once and it’ll run on both iOS and Android platforms.

Flutter provides the tools to create flexible, and accessible UI with native performance, meaning your app will look the same regardless of the mobile platform your customers use. Additionally, all new features and upgrades are rolled out together, meaning iOS and Android versions will always be in sync and provide the same user experience. 

Native or Flutter — how to know which one is right for you

ClearPoint’s Lead Software Engineer Tim Ruddell has been working with Flutter since its adoption by ClearPoint three years ago. For him, there is no doubt that Flutter is the future of mobile app development. 

He describes Flutter as “a modern take on cross-platform development”.

No compromise on productivity

From a productivity point of view, as Ruddell points out, “building something once is far better than building it twice”. This applies “not just in terms of the initial development but also in terms of app maintenance”, as there are fewer overheads with using one codebase rather than two. 

“Flutter has been developed for the last seven years to be cross-platform compatible from the ground up,” he explains. “It’s the first of its kind to be completely capable of disrupting this market that has been traditionally native-development focused.

“Mobile has been waiting for this kind of advancement for many, many years. Mobile has been traditionally very expensive to build, so businesses have been looking at web first development. Now, this brings mobile development up to the same pace as web development,” Ruddell adds.

In short, Flutter offers the same functionality in fully customised and branded apps that work seamlessly across both platforms. Because you are only building it once, it is faster to take to market and it makes the ongoing app maintenance and upgrades easier and faster to execute as well, with no compromises on security or performance.

No compromise on security

When it comes to security, Ruddell argues apps built using Flutter are just as secure. “Flutter is built by world class mobile engineers at Google, who have taken much of the burden of native configuration, and baked it into the Flutter platform.” 

“One of our largest apps is Zip New Zealand, a Buy Now Pay Later app. It has hundreds of thousands of downloads. They were our first app. With it, we proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Flutter is production-ready,” Ruddell says.

ClearPoint had a Zip app prototype out in the market within three months, fully branded, secure and ready to use, running seamlessly across mobile platforms. “There are no compromises made with Flutter.”

According to Ruddell, there are very few situations when a company should not consider Flutter for their mobile app development. If your app requires very specific hardware integration and very, very high performance (like 3D mobile games, for example), “adding a layer like Flutter may not get you to your goals as quickly as native development”.

Additionally, businesses with existing iOS and Android developers, inhouse, who have no budget constraints and have the organisational structure to just keep going are the ones for whom native development makes sense. That is, however, not the reality of many businesses in New Zealand.

Helping NZ businesses get mobile-ready

For the majority of small and medium businesses in New Zealand, Flutter makes sense, from both a finance and technology point of view.

“It is absolutely the way to go,” Ruddell says. Mobile apps built on Flutter are fully branded and customisable, and just as secure as native developed apps. In addition to that, developing an app using Flutter is substantially cheaper. 

“It opens up a huge opportunity for small businesses. Typically a mobile presence is something that is considered further into the future, but now they can build an MVP in two or three months, and even consider a mobile-first technology strategy,” Ruddell says. 

While some research shows that Flutter mobile app development is at least 30% cheaper than native development, Ruddell says that estimate is very conservative. “I’d say it’s closer to 50% cheaper.”

In summary, unless your company has very niche needs and little in the way of budget constraints, you should consider looking into Flutter for your mobile app development.


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