Mobile Development
Artificial Intelligence

Decreasing Cost and Overhead by Migrating Native Apps to Flutter Using AI

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Most successful apps have been on the market for 10+ years — there were no reliable multi-platform solutions back then. Flutter reached enterprise maturity on mobile about 3 years ago. Most enterprises are now well aware that multi-platform can save cost and time, and they choose it for new projects. Still, core products remain native due to the cost of transitioning to Flutter. Based on our research, that cost can be way lower than anticipated thanks to advancements in the GenAI solutions.

The Law of Diminishing Returns: The Crux for Excessive Product Maintenance Costs?

In the lifecycle of a product, there are usually only a few key features that provide the most value to users — so to speak the core features around which the product is built. Initially, adding these features significantly enhances the product's appeal, giving the application the necessary traction to continue operating and evolving.

After the core functionalities are introduced, additional features tend to have a smaller impact on the overall value of the product. Subsequent features often cater to less critical user needs and target a smaller user base. By that time, the company running the application has usually grown considerably, running large teams of developers.

Staying relevant vs. becoming difficult

Companies want to keep their products up-to-date and competitive. Large companies have the resources to expand the product, and while well-intentioned, the need to improve and innovate sometimes gets businesses in trouble.

Adding new features can be a natural response to customer requests, market trends, or technological advancements. But the constant addition of features can make the product complex and difficult to use. This can also lead to the accumulation of rarely used or unnecessary features. The so-called feature-bloat.

Chasing after features creates a downward spiral:

  1. As more features are added, the product becomes more complex, making it harder to integrate new features.
  2. Every new feature adds to the maintenance burden, requiring updates, bug fixes, and support.
  3. Larger teams and more complex products require more coordination, which can slow down development and increase costs.
  4. More features mean more testing is needed to ensure that new additions do not break existing functionalities.

The key is to recognize the point of maximum return and act accordingly to optimize costs and focus on strategically important aspects of the product: user experience improvements or enhancing the core features that provide the most value.

The point of maximum yields. Source: UX Magazine

But there’s a conundrum: should a company past the point of maximum yields (the stage numbered three on the graph) run two development teams separate for each platform (iOS and Android)? One argument for having two teams is the inevitable inception of new technologies like Generative AI, 5G, or Apple Vision Pro that prompt the product team to add corresponding features. The real question then is how often does the need to add new functionalities happen?

Gartner's Hype Cycle. Source: Gartner

If your app has been on the market for some time, the strategically right move is to save money in order to maximize profit all the while remaining agile to quickly apply innovations in case a black swan event occurs. Preparing for such events allows the business to potentially seize new opportunities that arise from the turmoil or minimize negative impacts.

To the Rescue, Here AI Come

So when new technologies appear on the market, the teams might want to integrate them into their products. Developers on the two teams still have to acquire the new skills (which is a cost) and then implement the functionalities on both platforms (again, a cost).

A viable long-term solution may be rewriting the Android and iOS applications to Flutter to have just one codebase to maintain and add new features to. Flutter is already mature and used by both established enterprises and agile startups in many business contexts. The cost of rewriting the application is almost always lower: a copy is cheaper than the original because we’re only copying the latest state of the app, without any prior refactorings, earlier designs, or failed experiments. Plus, the communication about product requirements takes up to 30% of total project time even in small projects. The larger the project, the more has to be discussed. When you rewrite the app, the original already has all the specifications already implemented.

The cost of migrating to Flutter further decreases thanks to technological advancement in artificial intelligence. By adopting a rapid application development approach aided by AI, you can:

  • generate automated tests to ensure the copy does not introduce regressions
  • translate from one programming language to another
  • interpret the meaning and operation of code segments
  • create and modernize UI in a new technology with design2code tools
  • spot and remove bugs in the original code

But even with AI, migration is not a quick win – it’s a strategic long-term gains game, but one that yields considerable benefits. AI can improve industry-specific processes, business functions using internal data, and productivity through automation. In the skilled hands, it’s a great tool, but it does make errors and needs oversight.

We've already researched how to leverage AI in the transition of networking, routing layers, translations, and more with our custom prompts, scripts, and LLMs selection.

Optimizing Operations for Long-Term Benefits

The migration from traditional dual-platform development to Flutter can be a clever strategic step to ensure long-term optimal costs for product maintenance and innovation. By transcoding the codebase into Flutter using artificial intelligence, companies can significantly speed up development, spot and fix bugs, and focus on optimizing the user experience and further refining the existing product instead of adding often unnecessary features. In the somewhat hectic economic reality, Flutter combined with AI provides a robust foundation for sustained competitiveness and growth.

FAQ — Migrating Applications to Flutter

Here's a quick guide for most pressing questions:

How do you migrate to Flutter?

In search of cost reduction and improvement in efficiency, product owners can look to migrate Android to Flutter or migrate iOS app to a Flutter app. This transition enables a streamlined approach to unifying separate iOS app and Android app codebases.

The migration starts with setting up the Flutter environment in Android Studio, a familiar IDE for many developers. This setup includes installing the Flutter SDK and configuring it to work with existing development tools.

A practical approach to migration involves incorporating Flutter modules into your existing app. This can be done via the command line provided by Flutter, making it easier to gradually transition parts of your app to Flutter. Approaching migration efforts this way also helps maintain app availability while keeping costs lower compared to building a new app from scratch.

In this new environment, developers use Dart — the official programming language of Flutter — to develop these modules or even entire applications. The Dart code allows for an efficient development process of a Flutter project and existing Android app or iOS app.

How do I convert native code to Flutter efficiently?

Using AI tools, you can quickly transcode large parts of native app code to Flutter. And while AI tools can assist in some aspects of the process, manual intervention is often necessary to ensure optimal performance and integration. Still, using AI significantly speeds up development time — when this benefit is paired with time reductions in communication regarding project requirements (because the already existing product is an excellent specification document), the gains are noticeable in many areas of product development, including optimized team and product maintenance costs.

Why migrate to Flutter?

For teams managing an existing app, whether it's an iOS application or an Android app, the ability to add Flutter to the development process can mean a significant improvement in efficiency and productivity. Flutter has numerous libraries available for reuse and customization, with ready-made Flutter screens, widgets, and animations that can reduce the time and effort required for UI development and design.

The comprehensive Flutter package ecosystem offers solutions for common app functionalities such as networking, storage, and state management, allowing developers to focus more on core app features rather than working on basic functionality. Flutter's stateful hot reload feature enables immediate feedback for changes made in the code, streamlining the testing and iteration process once the iOS and Android app are transcoded.

What are the benefits of migrating to Flutter from native iOS and Android?

The decision to migrate to a Flutter environment for both Android and iOS apps marks a pivotal shift towards reducing complexity, focusing on core functionalities, and decreasing team maintenance costs. This strategic move not only enhances the ability to introduce innovative features with less overhead but also aligns with the goal of optimizing operations for long-term benefits.

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