This article introduces two cross platform application development framework — Flutter and .NET MAUI and highlights differences between them
Flutter is an open-source UI software development kit created by Google. It is used to develop cross platform applications from a single codebase for any web browser, Fuchsia, Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows. First described in 2015, Flutter was released in May 2017
The major components of Flutter include:
- Dart platform
- Flutter engine
- Foundation library
- Design-specific widgets
- Flutter Development Tools (DevTools)
Flutter apps are written in the Dart language and make use of many of the language’s more advanced features.
Flutter inherits Dart’s Pub package manager and software repository, which allows users to publish and use custom packages as well as Flutter-specific plugins.
Flutter’s engine, written primarily in C++, provides low-level rendering support using either Google’s Skia graphics library or the custom “Impeller” graphics layer. Additionally, it interfaces with platform-specific SDKs such as those provided by Android and iOS to implement accessibility, file and network I/O, native plugin support, and more.
The Foundation library, written in Dart, provides basic classes and functions that are used to construct applications using Flutter, such as APIs to communicate with the engine.
The Flutter framework contains two sets of widgets that conform to specific design languages: Material Design widgets implement Google’s design language of the same name, and Cupertino widgets implement Apple’s iOS Human interface guidelines.
Flutter allows the developer to use either set of widgets on either platform, i.e. even Cupertino widgets on Android. Third party packages can be used to automatically adjust the app’s design to the current operating system.
.NET Multi-platform App UI (.NET MAUI) is a cross-platform framework for creating native mobile and desktop apps with C# and XAML.
Using .NET MAUI, you can develop apps that can run on Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows from a single shared code-base.
It is the successor to Xamarin Forms, and it builds on the same foundation of .NET.
Cross-platform APIs for device features
.NET MAUI provides cross-platform APIs for native device features. Examples of functionality provided by .NET MAUI for accessing device features includes:
- Access to sensors, such as the accelerometer, compass, and gyroscope on devices.
- Ability to check the device’s network connectivity state, and detect changes.
- Provide information about the device the app is running on.
- Copy and paste text to the system clipboard, between apps.
- Pick single or multiple files from the device.
- Store data securely as key/value pairs.
- Utilize built-in text-to-speech engines to read text from the device.
- Initiate browser-based authentication flows that listen for a callback to a specific app registered URL.
.NET MAUI includes support for .NET hot reload, which enables you to modify your managed source code while the app is running, without the need to manually pause or hit a breakpoint. Then, your code edits can be applied to your running app without recompilation.
.NET MAUI supports data binding, which makes it easy to bind data from your app’s model to the user interface. This makes your apps more responsive and easier to maintain.
.NET MAUI supports dependency injection, which makes it easy to decouple your code and make your apps more maintainable.
Limitations of Flutter and .NET MAUI
- Build apps for tvOS, watchOS, CarPlay, or Android Auto: Both Flutter and .NET MAUI currently only support Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS.
- Access some device features and sensors: The integration of both frameworks with native APIs is not as tight as some other frameworks, so you may not be able to access all device features and sensors.
- Flutter and .NET MAUI have a limited number of third-party libraries: The frameworks are still relatively new, and the number of third-party libraries available for them is limited compared to more established frameworks such as React Native.
- Flutter and .NET MAUI can be difficult to debug: The frameworks’ hot reload feature can make it difficult to track down bugs.
- Flutter and .NET MAUI apps can be large: Flutter and .NET MAUI apps are typically larger than apps built with other frameworks.
Do we have access to all the device features with both platforms?
Here is a table that summarises the device features that you can access with Flutter and .NET MAUI:
Do we have access to all the sensors with both platforms?
Here is a table that summarizes the sensors that you can access with Flutter and .NET MAUI:
Here are some additional details about the limitations of accessing sensors with Flutter and .NET MAUI:
- Flutter: Flutter does not have direct access to the hardware on iOS devices. This means that you cannot access some sensors such as the accelerometer or gyroscope without using the iOS SDK.
- .NET MAUI: .NET MAUI also does not have direct access to the hardware on iOS devices. However, it can access these sensors through the iOS SDK.
If you need to access sensors that are not supported by Flutter or .NET MAUI, you can use the native APIs for the platform you are targeting.
Flutter vs .NET MAUI
- Language comparison
.NET MAUI, on the other hand, uses C# as its primary language. C# is a popular language for developing Windows applications and is widely used in the enterprise world. It has a more complex syntax than Dart and has a steeper learning curve. However, C# is a mature language with excellent support for object-oriented programming, making it a great choice for large-scale projects.
- Cross-platform capabilities
Flutter uses a single codebase to create Android, iOS, web, and desktop applications. It achieves this through a “write once, run anywhere” approach, where the same codebase can be used for all platforms. This approach makes maintaining and updating the application easy since all changes are reflected across all platforms.
.NET MAUI takes a slightly different approach to cross-platform development. It uses a unified API to create applications for iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows. However, it has a different implementation for each platform, which allows it to take advantage of the native capabilities of each operating system. This approach ensures that the application runs smoothly on each platform and has a native look and feel.
Flutter is more popular than .NET MAUI in terms of search interest. One of the reasons why Flutter is so popular is that it offers a great user experience and a fast development process. Additionally, it has a large and growing community of developers, which makes it easy to find resources and support.
Flutter is an open-source framework, which means that it is free to use and comes with no licensing fees.
.NET MAUI is also free and open-source, with no licensing fees. However, it is important to note that businesses may need to pay for additional services and tools, such as Azure DevOps or Visual Studio Enterprise, which can add to the cost.