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App Development with Google Flutter: Cross-platform Strategy in a Large-scale Project

Flutter is a development framework from Google. From a single code base, natively compiled applications can be created as mobile apps as well as web and desktop applications. As with all cross-platform frameworks, this promises significant cost benefits compared to purely native developments.

They Key Facts at a Glance

  • Internationally operating group with more than  50,000 employees
  • 125,000  Lines of Code – business critical apps
  • Cross-platform – Realignment of the technology strategy 

The Challenge

Our client is an international corporation. As part of the digitalization of the company's core business processes, Almato developed comprehensive app solutions for the iPad over a period of more than five years. The apps are used by several thousand managers. The apps have so far been developed purely natively for iOS and have been optimized in terms of functionality and usability over several years as part of a continuous release management process. They meet the highest security and performance requirements. The development effort for the native apps amounted to several thousand person-days and resulted in an application with more than 125,000 lines of code.

As part of the further internationalization of its business, our customer wanted to expand its platform strategy and defined Android as a further target platform for the apps. This decision made it necessary to redefine the technology strategy. Depending on the specialist functionality, new apps were to be developed using cross-platform technologies. This should make it possible for our customer to distribute apps flexibly on Android and iOS devices.

The Almato Solution

The choice of suitable cross-platform technology had to be made with several objectives in mind, such as performance, integration capability of existing libraries and investment security.

The choice of technology also had to take particular account of the business and technical requirements. Aspects such as performance and offline capability, which are regularly not met using web-based approaches, were important. Following a pre-selection, the cross-platform approaches Flutter, Progressive Web App, React Native and Xamarin were analyzed on the basis of the business and technical concept created.

Flutter was selected for the following reasons:

  • Development approach with DART as an object-oriented programming language fits in well with the existing development organization with front-end developers for iOS. This avoids a reorientation towards JavaScript.
  • The implemented app is compiled as a native application for the ARM architecture. This means that no JavaScript bridge is required.
  • Flutter provides an SDK with extensive, partly platform-sensitive libraries and widgets. In addition, Flutter provides an extensive selection of ready-made modules from third-party providers, which can be obtained as DART packages and integrated into the app.
  • The customer's distribution channel for distributing apps to target devices can be maintained, as IPAs are still generated (as opposed to a web-based approach).
  • Technological risks, such as caching problems with browsers in web-based approaches due to larger data volumes, can be avoided right from the start.
  • No additional development infrastructure required, e.g. for the development of progressive web-apps.
  • Google is an important provider behind Flutter. The risks with regard to the sustainability and long-term development of the framework are considered to be lower with Google than with other approaches.
  • Flutter is being used by a growing number of development organizations.
  • The performance of the resulting apps is significantly better than with web-based or JavaScript-based approaches.

The Success

By using Flutter for cross-platform development, our client achieved the following goals:

  • Almost the same performance and usability as native apps.
  • Convenience features such as Face ID or Touch ID and changeable settings via external configuration files have been retained.
  • The existing distribution channel for apps at the customer via the Enterprise App Store in mobile device management was retained, both for pilot users and for the productive rollout.
  • The offline capability required by the customer was fully ensured.
  • The customer's existing, platform-specific libraries could still be integrated.

»The new strategy consistently follows the business objectives of our customer. Our recommendation for Flutter was unanimously confirmed by the customer team.«

– Ralf Schneeberg, Project Manager, Almato AG

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