Flutter vs NativeScript: Everything You Need to Know

Mobile App Development November 22, 2020
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Flutter vs NativeScript: Everything You Need to Know

Unlike cross-platform applications, native apps take complete advantage of features specific to an operating system of a device. This functionality is a boon for native mobile app projects as it exercises the full potential of the device’s features. Flutter is a modernistic SDK, a framework developed by Google, that offers many pre-configured widgets and modules to build native apps. NativeScript, on the other hand, is a JavaScript-based framework that offers complete native-like functionality with multi-platform compatibility options. Apps built on this framework are coded with Angular, Vue, and TypeScript. So you might wonder which one of these frameworks is adaptive or future-proof, economical or expensive? 

Though NativeScript and Flutter are similar in some aspects, they are different in terms of system components, architecture, size, cost of development, and more. This article focuses on the differences between Flutter and NativeScript, so you can decide the framework that best suits your project expectations and requirements.

What is Flutter? – An overview

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. 

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. (Source: StackOverflow)

Use cases of Flutter

  • 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 popular apps are 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 from React Native to Flutter and created quality data events with StreamBuilder widget to improve data synchronization. 

What is NativeScript? – An overview

NativeScript is an open-source framework that builds cross-platform applications for iOS and Android using JavaScript. It transpiles one programming language to another, building truly native applications using Angular, Vue JS, and TypeScript. Unlike other frameworks that use Cordova for rendering a WebView-driven app UI, NativeScript has a rendering engine that genuinely provides native performance and user experience. 

Market usage of NativeScript:

  • Today, 5% to 11% of developers use NaiveScript for cross-platform application development. (Source: Statista)
  • The number of NativeScript downloads between 2019 and 2020 increased to more than 812,575. (Source: npm stat) 
  • 28% of the developers are dedicatedly using NativeScript for more than a year for various cross-platform application development. (Source: NativeScript survey) 

Use cases of NativeScript

  • Apps with massive server connectivity 
  • Simple gaming apps 
  • Real-time applications 
  • Music or Video streaming apps 
  • Geolocation apps 
  • Apps that can function with the default apps of the device 

What are popular apps made with NativeScript?

Sennheiser – Improved the ability to code between iOS and Android platforms with 85% code sharing and 100% elements sharing capacities. They also improved the development rate by 40%. 

PUMA – Built high-quality, simple-interface mobile apps in a short time. Easily integrated on-demand native features like messaging, push notifications, user authorization with cloud storage capabilities among others. 

Airbnb Design – Leveraged NativeScript with Lottie to create a native performance for building creative UI elements that quickly render After Effects animations in real-time. Additionally, developers could manipulate code according to the native design. 

MDBootstrap – Built a dedicated UI kit that functioned efficiently with native applications– ready-to-use mobile components, features, and icons. Created responsive and scalable cross-platform portable kits to develop flexible and native app compatibility. 

Portable North Pole (PNP) – Sharing of xplat-code with NativeScript allowed PNP to enhance and diversify platform compatibility without compromising the user experience and features. 

SAP – Used to build its mobile development kit that allowed higher code abstraction levels. Without influencing the system network, it allowed the rendering of JavaScript codes into useful native codes with sophisticated business logic. 

React Native vs NativeScript: The Complete Comparison Explained

Pros and cons difference between Flutter vs NativeScript

Let’s compare Flutter and NativeScript to analyze their advantages 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 React Native.

User interface: Vector graphics and animation support have issues in rendering plugins on time. 

Operating platform: Not compatible to develop 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 NativeScript

Cross-technology compatibility: Uses Angular, TypeScript, or JavaScript that allows convenient data binding and more component reusability. 

Native functionality: Accesses Native device API via native components developed with native performance. 

Programming language: Uses an XML-Esque-based markup language like HTML to develop applications with customized features.

Extensibility: Gives complete and direct access to all kinds of iOS and Android APIs. This offers accessibility and allows for the reuse of free plugins, Android SDKs, and CocoaPods. 

Developer-friendly CLI: NativeScript CLI allows developers to do almost anything ranging from adding a platform to deploying apps to a specific platform or device. Installation of plugins and app debugging is quicker and more comfortable. 

Cons of NativeScript

UI limitation: DOM and HTML are not widely supported, which leaves the necessity to learn the use of different UI components. This eats up a good chunk of your time and budget. 

Non-verified plugins: The total number of verified plugins are significantly less. Hence, there’s no assurance of the quality of plugins used in this framework. 

Native Knowledge: Developers must be aware of the native functionality and APIs of iOS and Android. Only then can they access the hardware of a device and any other platform-specific elements. 

Slower testing: Due to its native nature, an application can only accurately be tested on an emulator or an actual device. Consequently, this slows down the initial testing rate.

Performance comparison for Flutter vs NativeScript

While performance should not be a killer factor for small projects, it becomes extremely important to consider it when building complex and large projects. With that being said, let’s compare Flutter and NativeScript in terms of performance.

How does Flutter stand out in terms of performance? 

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 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 NativeScript stand out in terms of performance?

The expectation of NativeScript performance is neither high nor low; instead, it’s at par with most cross-platform frameworks. Animations built with NativeScipt perform well at 60 FPS without any difficulty. In addition to that, this framework provides the ability to offload certain types of long-running processes to maintain a balanced  frontend speed for fast performance. The ability to offload in NativeScript is achieved through the multiple-threading model. Performance improvement with this framework also depends upon the use of specific best practices. Some of these practices include merging manual tool instrumentation to optimize performance and tracing of execution time within an application. 

From version 3.1 to the current version 7.0.13, NativeScript blogs offer extensive tips and tricks to improve application performance.

React Native Performance: Major issues and insights on improving your app’s performance

Architecture – Flutter vs NativeScript

When choosing a framework, it’s important to choose flexibility and avoid any strict enforcement of architecture and guidelines.  As a matter of fact, it’s always recommended to treat a framework as a guide, not methods, and standards. That said, let’s juxtapose Flutter and NativeScript to check whether they are flexible in terms of architecture. 

What kind of architecture does Flutter support?

Flutter’s architecture is layered. The hierarchy of a simple application built on this framework starts with a 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 NativeScript support?

NativeScript follows the MVC or MVVM architectural pattern. But, this framework widely functions on Modules, CLI, and plugins. The structure of NativeScript is composed of multiple modules, and each of them is responsible for enabling a set of specific features. The two most essential ones that make up the architecture are Root Module and Page Module. Together, they form an application Module comprising CSS style code, actual business logic, and XML-based UI codes. This framework efficiently manages Module dialogs due to its MVC friendliness. 

Testing – Flutter vs NativeScript

To be able to work without a glitch under continuous, high load, and growing market expectations, your application development project needs to go through a series of tests to ensure compliance with the UI standards, compatibility, and usability. Here’s how Flutter vs NativeScript stands out when compared with testing. 

How easier is it to test a Flutter app?

Flutter offers extensive support for automated testing since it functions with Dart. Not only does it offer a myriad number of testing features to test apps at the unit, widget, and integration level, but also boasts of detailed documentation related to it. What’s more, Flutter provides robust documentation to build and release Android and iOS apps on the Play Store and App Store respectively. In addition, it has its deployment process documented officially as well.  

How easier is it to test a NativeScript app?

Since the release of version 2.5, NativeScript follows its own QA workflow that enhances an application’s default testing capacities. It integrates unit testing directly into the default CLI to support testing tools such as Jasmine, Mocha, and QUnit. Furthermore, external providers like Appium can also be used for functional testing. 

NativeScript uses Karma to run unit tests. It supports continuous integration when the unit test is configured with a Karma reporter or JUnit reporter. 

Development Complexity – Flutter vs NativeScript

Both Flutter and NativeScript offer official documents, guidelines, open-source projects, third-party libraries, and plugins to support developers throughout the development process. Let’s compare how Flutter vs NativeScript fare against each other in terms of building complex apps.

Is Flutter suitable for building complex apps? 

At the time of writing this article, Flutter is not suitable to handle more complex projects. However, startups can still think of flutter as a good solution for building Minimal Valuable Product (MVP).  

It can be assumed as an excellent option to build faster prototypes when you are most likely to experiment with them and cut costs to see your idea in action. The idea here is to build two different prototypes (iOS and Android) with Flutter and analyze the results in the market. Thereafter, you can invest more and take your idea from simpler to complex ones.

Is NativeScript suitable for building complex apps?

Unlike most frameworks, complex or advanced apps work smoothly with NativeScript with high performance even while building a complex or an advanced app. However, building a full-packaged complex application requires additional XML and UI support. NativeScript follows a bundle workflow process that develops optimized and complex apps using a tree-shaking mechanism, which improves the build time. Additionally, the Hot Module Replacement feature replaces, updates, and upgrades modules without restarting the existing application.

Which framework will help your app work smoothly?

Flutter vs NativeScript – User Experience

User experience is a vital element in choosing the right framework for your project. It aims to provide positive experiences that keep users loyal to the product or brand. Additionally, a meaningful user experience allows you to define customer journeys on your website that are most conducive to business success.

Flutter’s ability to give the best user experience  

Flutter offers a rich user experience with simplified tools, elements, and even customized widgets. 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.

NativeScript’s ability to give the best user experience

Building enterprise-level business applications are one of the added benefits of choosing this framework. Moreover, you could explicitly customize the free, professional-grade UI elements that NativeScript offers. Since all its features are backed by native functionality and native controls, it gives you performance that improves the user experience. This framework also tests all its libraries, templates, and UI elements before implementation to achieve the desired user-interface. In fact,  you can take your user experience to a whole new level by using methods like getFrameByld, classes like Frame, and properties like navigationContext

Flutter vs NativeScript – Application size comparison

The selection of a framework can have a large impact on the size of an application code. For a large project, the application size should dominate the framework size. Less size is always more in this case. Let’s map out the difference between Flutter and NativeScript in terms of application size. 

What is the minimum application size 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. 

What is the minimum application size in NativeScript?

A simple native application built with NativeScript is anything more than 12MB. However, it is still small-sized considering the package of native elements and features. Also, self-containing multiple APKs within one package with a single codebase targets different device configurations and reduces the size of the application. The ABI mechanism of NativeScript with Android allows the device to automatically extract the machine code and scan for any shared library during development. This saves application size as the device identifies the 32-bit and 64-bit compatibility. 

Flutter vs NativeScript – Code maintainability

A framework should be easier to maintain and adapt. In terms of application development, maintainability means that your developers can easily analyze the code and proceed in fixing errors, thus implementing the correct functionality. That said, let’s analyze how maintainable the code is in the case of Flutter and NativeScript.

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 is taken for releasing quality updates and making immediate changes in the application are considered to be better than the hot reloading capacity of React Native. 

How convenient is it to maintain code in NativeScript apps?

Since NativeScript focuses on native functionality, it requires less effort to figure out where the problems lie. In fact, it takes fixing of a single codebase to correct multiple issues across devices as the code is shared between multiple platforms. Moreover, the behavior of the HTML code-shared as modules differentiate between various platforms by using http.get commands and abstractions. The common ground between different devices is quickly developed with NativeScript through appropriate maintenance. What’s more, the reusability of components for building different features for different devices is high with NativeScript. This helps developers access more solutions and opportunities to sustain the existing codes. 

Learning curve for Flutter vs NativeScript

The learning curve can help organizations to understand the time frame required for the developers to become proficient in the framework. It is important while choosing a framework as organizations can better perceive the situation and foresee whether the developers require training support or time to practice the framework before start working with it. Let’s find out how Flutter vs NativeScript fare against each other in terms of the learning curve.

How good is the learning curve of Flutter for developers?  

On the other hand, 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 React Native. 

How good is the learning curve of NativeScript for developers?

NativeScript offers extensive learning as developers can switch between TypeScript, JavaScript, or Angular based on your need, feasibility, and comfortability. Declarative coding style, for one, allows both experienced developers and newbies to get their hands on NativeScript quickly. A deep understanding of native performance comes with development experience in Core Modules and design patterns. All the available resources and documents might be overwhelming for first times, but they prove to be extremely useful.

Flutter vs NativeScript – Hiring developers

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 NativeScript developers?

On average, NativeScript developers charge $249 for prioritized, unlimited application builds and a minimum of $19 per month to build applications only with free community support. All in all, the cost of hiring NativeScript developers is between $20 and $100 an hour. Whether your plan is to build an advanced, high-end application or a straightforward, simple one, you’re more likely to reduce costs by hiring an extended development team rather than full-time developers or freelancers. Since NativeScript supports modularity and multiple technologies, you just need a team size of around four or more at the very least.

Whether it is Flutter or Nativescript, we are here to help you build a high-performance application!

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Conclusion

Both Flutter and NativeScript have their own sets of strengths and limitations. If you are still in the dilemma of choosing which is best for your project, the following points might help: 

Choose Flutter if you want to: 

  • Develop a single code with both front-end and back-end functionalities. 
  • Create a powerful materialistic and smooth design experience. 
  • Build native apps with real-time databases and modernistic cloud services. 
  • Build MVP with reactive widgets and on-demand mobile features. 
  • Provide futuristic UI updates and upgrades to platforms that function with Jellybean OS and iOS 8. 
  • Ensure a seamless development process by integrating code magic to support Continuous Integration (CI). 

Choose NativeScript if you want to: 

  • Leverage your existing development team’s Angular, TypeScript, or Vue skills to build native apps. 
  • Exponentially re-use Android SDKs and CocoaPods to create extensible native applications. 
  • Avail powerful community support from developers, who also back NativeScript for NASDAQ. 
  • Share a single codebase between Android and iOS platforms to extend the app to a web platform.
  • Build enterprise-level mobile applications with MVP like functionalities and rich native performance at a faster development rate. 
  • Transition Angular or Vue-based web applications to mobile platforms. 

Working from last 8 years into consumer and enterprise mobility, Hardik leads large scale mobility programs covering platforms, solutions, governance, standardization and best practices.

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