Flutter vs Native: What is Best for Your Project?

    Cross-platform apps remain of great interest for many businesses as native apps for iOS and Android are more expensive to develop and maintain. Since 2018, Flutter’s cross-platform framework has been on the rise in many industries, including retail, fintech, and e-commerce. 

    If we are to compare native development vs Flutter, both provide high scalability and quality user experience. However, they greatly differ in terms of code maintenance, development speed, app performance, costs, and other criteria. 

    Surf mobile developers have practiced native technologies for more than nine years. Since 2018, the Surf team has also made significant progress in making cross-platform apps. To assist you with decision-making, Surf experts have prepared the analysis of Flutter vs native performance. After reading this article, you will find out what business goals both Flutter and native technologies help to achieve.

    What is Flutter?

    A cross-platform framework is a set of tools that allows creating a single app suitable for both iOS and Android. At the same time, the major drawback of most cross-platform frameworks is the unpredictable behavior of interface elements as well as slow animations.

    Flutter is a popular cross-platform framework with a single code base, operating with Dart programming language. Launched only in 2018 by Google, Flutter has proven itself a convenient toolkit, easy for creating animations and quality UI components. Despite being Google’s fresh take on cross-platform, Flutter provides smooth animations and user-friendly interface elements. 

    What are native technologies?

    Unlike cross-platform tools, native application development is application-specific to either Android or iOS. Native apps are coded in languages that are supported by the device’s OS vendor:

    • Android: Kotlin, Java, and Android Studio 
    • iOS: Swift, Objective-C, and Xcode 

    As a rule, native apps do not have serious drawbacks, and their users can take full advantage of sophisticated features such as an accelerometer, camera, GPS, and others. Users can install native apps through major app stores such as Google Play and App Store.

    At the same time, the development and support of native apps require significant investments. This is because developers have to adjust business logic, interface, and layout to the features of each platform. Hence, low-budget Flutter is becoming more popular with hi-tech businesses, compared to native technologies, as illustrated by the figure below.

    Flutter vs Native popularity according to Stack Overflow

    Flutter vs native app: Speed of development

    Flutter provides developers with the capacity to create a single code for two different platforms, which significantly reduces development time and cost. Flutter codes are easier to create compared to native codes. Even novice developers quickly grasp the basics of Flutter, hence there is no need to hire experienced professionals. As for native technologies, developers have to write two codes for Android and iOS, which inevitably takes more time. 

    According to Surf experts, Flutter development is 20-50% faster compared to the creation of two native apps. Nevertheless, the speed also depends on the complexity of the interface and the expected functions.

    App performance

    Based on the experience of Surf teams, the CPU usage on the native app is about 50% less compared to the Flutter app. On the other hand, React Native applications are even more CPU hungry.

    As for memory usage, native apps show the most efficient memory consumption. Flutter takes twice the memory expenses compared to native, while React Native shows even worse performance. 

    Code Maintenance 

    In most cases, supporting a native application is more time-consuming. First,  it takes serious efforts to maintain two codebases. Second, developers have to create different updates for each platform as well as identify bugs. Third, the maintenance efforts grow proportionally with added OS-supported devices.

    As for maintaining a Flutter app, it is much easier since there is just a single codebase for two applications. The simple code helps developers quickly detect issues, support third-party libraries, and source external tools. Besides, Flutter’s Hot Reloading feature helps to immediately resolve issues in the application.

    Kotlin native vs Flutter: features and integrations

    Most native frameworks used for building iOS apps, including Swift, provide improved safety and fast integration opportunities. The same is true for Kotlin and Java for Android. 

    With Flutter, the integration of unique features of third-party plugins or libraries is not that challenging. Still, the developers who are not aware of Dart’s functionality might consider it difficult. Besides, the Flutter engine has certain limitations for integrating native modules via Xcode of Android Studio by default. Flutter’s documentation includes manual instructions to deal with possible complications and successfully integrate it for Android and iOS. 

    Swift for iOS vs Flutter: features and integrations

    Swift remains among the most popular languages created by Apple for iOS, and many developers praise it for exceptional frameworks and documentation. Comparing Flutter and Swift native, the integration with Swift iOS is simpler and involves less configuration. At the same time, Swift might have poor integration with certain third-party tools. As for Flutter, its code suits multiple platforms, including Android. Besides, Flutter offers faster code writing, which makes it an excellent choice for MVPs.

    App developers availability

    The labor market for Flutter technology is quite scarce, and most developers are still new to Flutter. The major reason for that is the lack of Flutter projects worldwide. Hence, hiring a strong team with more than 5 Flutter developers might take some time. 

    The professional experience of a prospective Flutter team might also raise some questions. Learning Dart and writing a few samples is not sufficient to start a full-fledged Flutter project. A qualified dev has to understand the limitations of mobile development in general as well as the features of both Android and iOS platforms.

    App development cost

    Native development is way more expensive since two codes have to be written for two different platforms with separate functionalities. Besides, native development requires hiring more devs and other professionals, as illustrated by the figure below.

    Typical Flutter vs Native team size

    From the experience of Surf’s teams, the use of Flutter might save you 45.6% on development, 70.5% on QA taking into account the use of autotests, and 33.3% on app design. However, projects are different. Somewhere Flutter can save up to 15% of the budget, but somewhere up to 50%. As a result, Flutter brings benefits already at the development stage: the standard team is smaller, and the time-to-market is reduced.

    Use cases for Flutter and native technologies

    The choice between Flutter and native technologies largely depends on business goals. The present-day use of Flutter mostly ranges from medium to large businesses, including the apps for Alibaba, Airbnb, and Uber. As for native technologies, developers apply them to create sophisticated niche apps with advanced features. The table below illustrates the use cases for Flutter and native technologies.

    Use cases for Flutter and native technologies

    When to choose native technologies?

    There are some cases when the choice of more expensive native technologies remains unquestioned. Typically, the most popular examples of the use of native apps include creating advanced top-performance apps with more sophisticated features, as illustrated by the table below. At the same time, investors should avoid native technologies if they wish to decrease development and maintenance costs.

    When to choose native technologies? Table

    When to choose Flutter?

    Surf teams have worked on several large Flutter projects in the Russian Federation, including mobile banking for business, pharmacy retail app, major video streaming platform, and corporate mobile app for KFC. Surf experts recommend Flutter for various retail, banks & fintech, franchisees, and large organizations. More cases of Flutter application are illustrated below.

    When to choose Flutter? Table

    The use of Flutter can be particularly interesting for the banking sector. Flutter might even be safer compared to native apps since its source codes are compiled into native code, impossible for human reading.  

    In addition, applications on Flutter can use the security technologies of the banking platform itself, including  Touch ID, Face ID, or a fingerprint scanner. The largest digital bank Nubank (more than 20 million customers outside Asia) is already sharing a successful case of integrating Flutter into a mobile application. 

    At the same time, Flutter does not suit brand-specific apps focused on native features, as illustrated above.

    Bottom Line

    Speaking of Flutter vs iOS native as well as Flutter vs native Android, we’ve reached the following conclusions:

    • Neither Flutter nor native technologies will provide a magic wand to your particular projects and business needs, each case is individual.   
    • Flutter is a very promising cross-platform framework in terms of development speed and budget reduction.
    • It is possible to create MVP applications on Flutter in 2-3 months. The full-fledged development on Flutter cost is on average 30% cheaper than creating two native apps. 
    • Native technologies suit better for sophisticated niche applications with advanced features, such as GPS or rich animation.

    Surf experts believe that crisis conditions will inevitably push more companies to choose Flutter as an excellent opportunity to move quickly online and expand their influence on electronic platforms. 
    If you are looking for an option to quickly develop an application for iOS and Android without serious losses in quality and budget, give Flutter a chance now, and contact Surf.