Contents

    Flutter VS Ionic: Choosing The Best Technology For Your Next App

    When developing a cross-platform app in 2021, it pays off to learn a little about the available technologies. Surf has been in the app development game for more than 10 years. We know firsthand that choosing the right tools for work saves time, money and delivers better results. In the article we’ll compare two widely-used cross-platform frameworks, Flutter VS Ionic: their performance, components, and other aspects, so you can choose the right technology for your next app.

    Flutter VS Ionic. Overview

    The first version of Ionic framework was released in 2013 by Drifty Co. It utilizes common web-technologies, such as JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. Ionic is an open-source UI toolkit and supports easy integration with other open frameworks and libraries, such as Apache Cordova and others. Ionic is considered to be easy to learn and over the years has gained wide support from the developer community. Some of the well-known brands have their apps developed using Ionic, such as MarketWatch, Diesel, Sworkit, and others.

    Compared to Ionic, Flutter is a newer technology, created by Google in 2017, and it is still managed by Google with the support of ECMA standard. Flutter’s main purpose is to serve as a UI toolkit for building nice-looking and swiftly working cross-platform apps. It runs on Dart programming language, utilizes Swift and Objective C for iOS integration and Java for Android. Being a newer technology in the market, Flutter doesn’t have a support community as big as other cross-platform apps, but this changes rapidly, as more developers begin to appreciate Flutter’s capabilities. Among popular apps that went along with Flutter are Tencent, Stadia, The New York Times app, and multiple Google apps.

    Screen mockups:

    Screen mockup: Sworkit (Ionic)
    Sworkit (Ionic)
    Screen mockup: Stadia (Flutter)
    Stadia (Flutter)

    Code usability

    The key difference between Flutter and Ionic is that Flutter ‘lives’ in a closed ecosystem with its own standards. Ionic is built using open web-technologies according to common web standards.

    Since both frameworks are cross-platform technologies, a single set of code written in Ionic and Flutter performs equally well on smartphones and computers. However, Flutter has some limitations when it comes to web deployment, so if your primary goal is to build PWA — Progressive Web Apps, Ionic might be a better choice. On the other hand, Ionic’s older versions have security issues, because they don’t support code uglification. Still, when it comes to sharing code across platforms, the process is considered to be easier and faster with Flutter, which makes it a better choice for developing MVPs.

    Who wins: no clear winner.

    Testing

    Flutter supports Hot Reload — a feature that instantly updates the app, the moment you change the code. This opens up a huge field for experimenting and speeds up the process of fixing bugs and updating the app. 

    Ionic framework does not have a feature similar to Hot Reload. Any change requires refreshing of the whole app, which might slow down the speed of development.

    Who wins: Flutter.

    User experience and performance 

    Ionic and Flutter don’t use native UI elements of the platform the app is running on. Both frameworks automatically update the appearance of their UI elements to match the visual styles of Android and iOS platforms, and users won’t notice the difference. 

    However, when it comes to heavy animation and beautiful visuals, Flutter wins with higher FPS and fewer dropped frames. The reasons are that, due to the default availability of native components, Flutter does not need a ‘communication bridge’ between its modules, and it also utilizes its own rendering engine.

    Flutter does not need a bridge to interact with native components.

    Who wins: Flutter.

    Learning curve

    Thanks to the fact that Ionic is built around web-technologies, it is easy for developers who already know JavaScript and CSS to start building apps on Ionic. And if you’re new to coding, learning Ionic is equal to learning how to build web apps in general, which might come in handy anyway. 

    On the contrary, Flutter requires a degree of dedication — you have to start from learning Dart language used solely in the Flutter framework (at least, currently). But if a developer already knows JavaScript language or works with Ionic or React Native, learning Dart shouldn’t be a daunting task, while it opens opportunities to use the features of the Flutter framework. 

    Who wins: Ionic.

    How easy it is to find a developer

    These days Flutter is the second most popular cross-platform framework (after React Native) among developers, while Ionic holds fourth place. According to researchers, the share of developers who prefer Flutter to other frameworks grew from 30% to 39% from 2019 to 2020, while the share of Ionic supporters shrank from 28% to 18%. This said, it should be easy enough to find developers for both frameworks in 2021.

    How easy it is to find a developer depending on cross-platform chosen?

    Who wins: Flutter.

    Future

    Being backed by Google and a rapidly growing web-community, the future looks bright for Flutter. And since Ionic works on widely known web-technologies, which are here to stay, it will remain quite popular for hybrid app development in the foreseeable future.

    Who wins: no clear winner.

    What to choose for your project

    • Choose Ionic, if:

    – your primary goal is an app delivered through the web (PWA);

    – you already know JavaScript and have no time to learn a new language.

    • Choose Flutter, if:

    – you need an app for mobile and desktop with great performance;

    – there will be graphics and/or animation in your app.

    Also, it is important to say that code quality plays an essential role in the performance of both frameworks. So, choose your developer wisely.

    To sum things up

    Ionic framework works on widely used web-technologies. The apps built on it perform well on mobiles, desktops, and the web. Flutter is a newer technology, which runs on its own coding language in a closed ecosystem. At first it might seem like a constriction, but in fact provides higher performance and other benefits.

    Brief comparison of Flutter & Ionic key characteristics

    We at Surf have decided to go with Flutter, and haven’t regretted it. Over the 10 years we’ve had many satisfied customers — take a look at our projects.

    So, are you ready to take your app idea one step closer to a real thing? Click here and tell us briefly about the project, and we’ll return to you with an approximate quote for developing your app.