Flutter vs Ionic: Which one should you choose for your next project?

Mobile App Development January 19, 2021
flutter vs ionic

Flutter vs Ionic: Which one should you choose for your next project?

The latest mantra in the IT industry is “Code Once, Use Everywhere.” Businesses nowadays prefer hybrid mobile applications more than their native counterparts, because it dramatically cuts down the development time and costs. Two of the most popular hybrid frameworks in the market right now are Flutter and Ionic.

In terms of popularity, both the frameworks are backed up by a massive team of developers that love these frameworks for their uniqueness. Flutter offers a rich set of inbuilt widgets, integrated tools, and customizations, while Ionic provides a plethora of plugins to speed up the development process.  

While both may prove to be a viable option for you, each of the frameworks has its unique advantages and disadvantages. This Flutter vs Ionic comparison blog is designed to equip you with unbiased information that will help you choose between the two frameworks.

Introduction to Ionic and Flutter

flutter vs ionic popularity

What is Flutter?

Flutter is an open-source framework that functions with a language called Dart created by Google. It is commonly addressed as an enhanced UI toolkit that’s used to build cross-platform applications with a single codebase. It provides accessibility to develop expressive and flexible UI with native performance.  Additionally, it is supported and contributed by a team of Google developers and the entire flutter community. 

What is Ionic?

Ionic is an open-source UI toolkit that enables you to create hybrid cross-platform mobile applications. It uses Webview for mobile instead of using native device elements. The framework leverages familiar JavaScript codebases like vanilla JavaScript, Angular, React, or Vue. Furthermore, Ionic has multiple components presets that provide native functionality. The framework is known for providing efficient performance with minimum DOM manipulation. 

Market Usage Statistics – Flutter vs. Ionic

Flutter Statistics

Here are some cool stats for the market usage of Flutter:

  • 39% of the population use Flutter to build cross-platform mobile applications worldwide. (Source: Statista)
  • Flutter is loved by 68.8% of the developing community. (Source: stackoverflow)
  • 7.2% of the community choose Flutter for its libraries and tools popularity. 

Ionic Statistics

Here are some cool stats for the market usage of Ionic:

Pros and Cons of Flutter and Ionic

Let’s compare Flutter and Ionic to identify their best features and limitations.

Pros of Flutter

  • Hot-reloading: Stateful Hot Reloading feature reflects changes immediately without losing the application state. 
  • Rich-widgets: Provides rich widgets that follow the guidelines of Cupertino (iOS) and Material Design (Android). 
  • Seamless integration: Re-writing code is not necessary as it easily integrates with Java for Android and Swift or Objective C for iOS. 
  • Quick shipping: Offers quick iteration cycles and saves build time as testing is required only for one single codebase. 
  • Codesharing: Codes can be written and shared across platforms easier and faster, which makes it perfect for MVP development.

Cons of Flutter

  • Tools and Plugins: Libraries and tools are impressive, yet it’s not as rich as Ionic.
  • User interface: Vector graphics and animation support have issues in rendering plugins on time. 
  • Operating platform: Not compatible with developing apps for tvOS, Android Auto, CarPlay, or watchOS.
  • Updates: Cannot instantly push patches and updates into applications without passing through the standard release processes.

Pros of Ionic

  • Platform-independent Framework: Reduces the time, effort, and resources employed to build a cross-platform application while giving it a native look and feel. 
  • Uses Capacitor: Saves build time by providing a simplistic interface for accessing native SDK and native API on each platform.
  • Developer-friendly: Creates a single codebase by using familiar Javascript frameworks and libraries, reducing code rewrites
  • Scalability: Scales efficiently as the number of active users doesn’t affect its performance. 

Cons of Ionic

  • Plugin Dependent System: Although Ionic offers a plethora of plugins, developers may need to create some highly-specific features.
  • Absence of Hot Reloading: Refreshes the whole app whenever the developer makes some changes, affecting the development speed.
  • Security threats: Using older versions won’t provide code uglification.  
  • Performance: Not suitable for memory-intensive or complex applications as Ionic uses WebView to render apps. Using it to build heavy applications will make the app crawl.

React Native vs Ionic: Which Framework is best and Why?

Use cases – Flutter vs. Ionic

What’s Flutter used for?

  • MVP mobile applications 
  • Apps with material design 
  • Apps that function with OS-level features 
  • Advanced OS plugins with simple logic 
  • High-performance apps with Skia rendering engine 
  • Flexible UI with high-level widgets 
  • Reactivate apps with vast data integration 

What’s Ionic used for?

  • Hybrid App Development
  • MVC mobile applications
  • Cross-Platform App Development
  • Native Wrapper
  • App with Hardware Functionality
  • Developing high-performance UI/UX app

Popular applications built with Flutter and Ionic

Here’s a list of some tech giants who are entrusting Flutter and Ionic to meet their market needs.

What popular apps made with Flutter

  • Google Ads – Leveraged Dart packages, Firebase admob plugins, and static utility classes of Flutter to provide portable user experience in iOS and Android. 
  • Tencent – Built a connected and shared device experience between users with multi-platform support with fewer than 5 developers. 
  • Alibaba – Created a single-tap navigation experience for all applications with high FPS and a single codebase. 
  • eBay – Leveraged complex and customized edge-powered AI features by integrating Flutter and Firebase to create autoML for eBay Motors. 
  • BMW – Developed high-performance user interfaces by using flutter_bloc for management.  
  • Reflectly – Migrated to Flutter and created quality data events with StreamBuilder widget to improve data synchronization. 

What popular apps are made with Ionic

  • TD Ameritrade Mobile: Built a user-friendly application for new and experienced traders that reinforced security by integrating facial and touch authentication to keep hackers at bay.  
  • Sworkit: Shortened the development time in half and saved over $200K per annum in additional manpower by writing a single codebase to develop its iOS and Android application. 
  • MarketWatch: Boosted user experience and leveraged features like code reusability, WebView, reusability of the existing library, and plugins in addition to familiarity with existing technologies.
  • Diesel: Simplified the reporting and analysis of stores and product performances for merchandising teams and discovered new branding opportunities. 
  • Microsoft Flow: Developed a workflow automation engine by integrating Ionic with Azure and AAD authentication for enterprise-grade, lag-free performance.

Community around Flutter and Ionic

Both frameworks have been in the market for quite some time and have evolved with every technological update. 

How big is the community around Flutter?

Ever since its launch in 2017, the Flutter community is gaining a tad bit more traction than Ionic. However, the number of professional contributors are 662+ only. Yet, the count of live projects being forked by the community together is around 13.7k, where anybody can seek help in development. Some popular platforms for connecting with the global community of Flutter: 

How big is the community around Ionic?

Since its launch in 2013, the Ionic developer community has exceeded 5 million developers. To date, nearly 5 million+ apps have been created by developers from over 200 countries by using the Ionic framework. The count of live projects being forked by the ionic community on GitHub is around 13.3K. Some popular platform for connecting with the global community of Ionic are:

Comparison of Modularity between Flutter and Ionic

Modularization in development indicates the ability or the extent to which a particular framework allows different people with different technical skills and experiences to work under one project. For instance, a big application with an incoherent code structure may take longer to build. 

Does Flutter support modularity?

Flutter offers better accessibility for team diversity as well as the division of project codes into different modules with its pub package system.  Your team can easily construct different modules with the plug-in ability and add or change a codebase. At the Droidcon NYC conference 2019, BMW architects mentioned how they enabled multiple teams with different skill sets to effortlessly work with Flutter. 

Does Ionic support modularity?

Ionic supports modularity through the use of Angular’s @NgModule class. Developers can construct different components using modules and combine them together to form the structure of an application, which contains one root module for bootstrapping. Furthermore, additional feature modules created allow lazy loading of the components whenever required. 

Flutter vs Ionic performance comparison

How does Flutter stand out?

Flutter offers comparably better performance than its arch-rivals. It does not require a bridge to communicate between the native modules due to the default availability of native components. The performance test indicated that the “hello world” app always performed at 60 FPS and the time is taken to render each frame does not take longer than 16 milliseconds. The number of frames that got dropped were fewer. Flutter uses the Skia graphics library, which allows the UI to be redrawn each time with each change in the application view. This is how Flutter can perform efficiently even at 60 FPS. 

How does Ionic stand out?

Ionic is known as the best cross-platform framework. It recently rose to popularity in 2019. 

popularity of ionic

source 

In terms of performance, Ionic apps offer 60FPS on both mobile and desktop. It uses pre-existing plugins and offers a hybrid approach to speed up the development process. The framework has an interactive time of fewer than 1.8 seconds. Despite being a non-native framework, Ionic excels in providing hardware accelerated transitions, touch-optimized gestures, and pre-rendering.

Flutter vs Ionic application architecture

Choosing the right architectural framework will simplify the process of development and will aid your application with support during future updates. 

What kind of architecture does Flutter support?

Flutter’s architecture is layered. The hierarchy of a simple application built on this framework starts with top-level root function or, in other words,  platform-specific widgets. It is followed by basic widgets that interact with the platform and rendering layers. Beyond the rendering, layer exists the animation gestures that transfer API calls to the foundation of the application. It is also known as Scaffold that is run by a C/C++ engine and a platform-specific embedder. If you want to separate the presentation layer from business logic, you can consider implementing Flutter BLoC. This architecture makes it easier for experienced as well as junior Flutter developers to create complex applications with small and simple components. 

What kind of architecture does Ionic support?

Ionic uses AngularJS MVC architecture, a software design pattern comprising Model View Controller, to build sophisticated single-page, cross-platform applications optimized for mobile devices. This architecture lets multiple developers work simultaneously, which reduces the development turnaround time and increases productivity. What’s more, since the architecture allows the creation of multiple Views, the application stays immune to recurring iterations.

Code Maintainability – Flutter vs Ionic

Ionic has one of the biggest communities yet there are problems that you might face while maintaining the code for your application. In fact, it’s more convenient to maintain Flutter than Ionic.

How convenient is it to maintain code in Flutter apps? 

Maintaining a Flutter application is easy. The simplicity of code helps developers spot issues, source external tools, and support third-party libraries. Furthermore, the stateful Hot Reloading feature immediately resolves the issues at hand. The time taken for releasing quality updates and making immediate changes in the application are considered to be better.

How convenient is it to maintain code in Ionic apps? 

With Ionic, developers often find themselves rewriting codes to maintain stability in their applications, making code maintenance a substantial challenge. What makes it worse is that the backward compatibility breaks most of the time, which makes it a more frustrating experience.

Suitability for building complex apps– Flutter vs Ionic

Today both frameworks have countless official documents, guidelines, open-sourced projects, and third-party libraries and plugins to support developers throughout the development process. However, if we compare Flutter with Ionic in terms of feasibility, we can conclude that the former is preferred to build complex apps. 

Is Flutter suitable for building complex apps? 

Developers are often attracted to frameworks that take minimum effort to integrate during the development lifecycle.  Flutter comes with a plug-in system that helps applications communicate with the operating system for functions that are non-UI. While Android experts use Material Components to add value to their application, iOS developers use Cupertino Widgets to build expressive interfaces. All you need is a team with experience in Dart or who’d love to learn a new language. 

Is Ionic suitable for building complex apps? 

The latest Ionic v5 is not suitable for building complex applications. When you try to add intricate functionalities to the application, you may encounter challenges while integrating features like location-based services, image processing, and animated UI. However, it’s an optimal solution for building small-sized, simple applications. 

Comparing user experience – Flutter vs Ionic

Flutter’s ability to give the best user experience  

Flutter offers a rich user experience with simplified tools, elements, and even customized widgets. Once you understand FutureBuilder, StreamBuilder, and AnimationBuilder, there’s no limit to how you customize your user interface. The generational garbage collection feature is also a part of Dart which helps in creating UI frames for object codes that may be temporary. This feature of Dart allocates objects within a single pointer bump that avoids UI clutter, junk, and shutter of animation lag during the development process. 

Ionic’s ability to give the best user experience  

Ionic offers a rich, seamless in-app experience for both iOS and Android applications to create a native-like persistent, and transient UI navigation. Its hybrid approach eliminates the need to submit a newer version to the app stores. This allows for the rapid development of features within a native mobile app container that further sends live updates to users’ devices. Moreover, users don’t have to download the app apk time to time for new updates.

Xamarin vs Flutter- Comparing two Cross-Platforms for Native-like Experiences

Testing – Flutter vs Ionic

Maintaining the smooth functionality of a code with minimal time and effort is one of the primary goals of development. Let’s take a look at the different tools and methods that both frameworks offer to ensure quality testing

Testing possibilities in Flutter   

Since Flutter functions with Dart, it provides extensive support for automated testing. If your developers have already used Mocha, Spek, or Spec, unit testing in Flutter will be a piece of cake with its ready-to-use unit test framework. A library like Flutter test provides necessary tools for widget testing. Tools like Appium and XCUITest can be used for simulating UI testing. Dart packages like Flutter driver offer an instrumental testing suite for widgets and integrated testing. 

Testing possibilities in Ionic

Testing an Ionic app is relatively simple and is built with web-based technologies. You won’t need additional testing devices or an emulator as the app is tried in multiple browsers via WebView. Browsers offer built-in testing and debugging tools to make the whole testing process convenient. Furthermore, Ionic CLI has all the functionalities for web component testing.

Flutter vs Ionic – Application size

Analyzing APK files and codes will ensure that the libraries and components used do not affect the size of the application. To explain this, let’s consider a simple “Hello World” app.

Size of the application in Flutter  

The size of a simple hello world app created in Flutter was 7.5 MB. With Flutter, the size of this app is influenced by the Virtual Machine of Dart and the C/C++ engine. However, Flutter can self-contain all codes and assets to avoid size concerns. Moreover, usage of a special tag like –split-debug-info helps reduce the code size. 

Size of the application in Ionic

With the advent of Ionic v5, the size of the hello world app created in Ionic is reduced to 3.2MB from the previous versions that ranged between 5 and 6 MBs. Moreover, the usage of special tags during production build –prod –release further reduces the app size.

Flutter vs Ionic – Learning Curve

Is flutter easy to learn?

Flutter is not that hard to learn. Writing a code with Dart might be a little unusual but that’s what makes developing with Flutter easier. To learn this framework, all novice needs is some basic know-how of native Android or iOS development. What’s more, developers have reported that documentation in Flutter is a lot smoother than Ionic.

Is Ionic easy to learn? 

Ionic could be a piece of cake for developers with solid hands-on experience with Angular. All they need is to simply explore the framework, especially Cordova plug-ins or CLI. Additionally, JavaScript coders with experience in styling applications with HTML/CSS have a head start on learning this framework. Unlike a novice, who’d take a good amount of time understanding Ionic, chances are, they’d get a hang of Ionic in about 2 weeks.

Hiring developers – Flutter vs Ionic

Irrespective of the advantages and disadvantages of Flutter and Ionic, it is important to know the cost of hiring experienced developers before you begin the development. 

How convenient is it to hire Flutter developers?

The average cost to hire a flutter developer ranges between $20 to $100/ hr. It’s taken no more than 5 developers for big players like Alibaba, BMW, Watermaniac, PostMuse among others to build their applications on Flutter. Not only does it allow developers to write codes effortlessly but it’s also easier for new developers to understand those codes. Since the training cost for Flutter and Dart is economical, even a novice developer can be trained easily and you do not have to hire multiple experienced developers. 

How convenient is it to hire Ionic developers?

The average cost of hiring an Ionic expert ranges from $10/hr to $150/hr based on the skill set and years of experience. However, if your application has a complex structure, it is advisable to hire a dedicated team of Ionic developers to handle the development process. Although there is an abundance of Ionic developers, the training cost of the framework is economical. A novice developer having intermediate knowledge of web frameworks can be trained easily.

Conclusion

We, at Simform, evaluate cross-platform frameworks through use cases and extensive research to recommend whether a particular framework would be suitable for a specific task. While both frameworks are ideal for building hybrid applications, the preference for choosing the framework depends from individual to individual. 

We recommend you see these use cases once for Flutter and Ionic and choose based on your needs.

Choose Flutter, if: 

  • Your idea does not require complete native functionality.
  • You have a tight budget and delivery timeline. 
  • You want to write codes faster and deploy them into the market quickly. 
  • You are familiar with Dart
  • Your requirement is to customize UI with widgets and less testing. 

Choose Ionic, if:

  • Your application idea is new, and you are planning to launch a startup. 
  • You are under a tight budget, and you want to keep development expenses at the minimum. 
  • Your application is simple, doesn’t require high-end customizations, and need a native-like experience.
  • You are good with web-based technologies

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Hiren Dhaduk

Hiren is VP of Technology at Simform with an extensive experience in helping enterprises and startups streamline their business performance through data-driven innovation.

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