Google at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 in Barcelona, instead of bringing a new Pixel phone or any other hardware, announced the release of the first beta SDK of its Flutter UI framework. The cross-platform development framework, which got an alpha SDK release last year, is claimed to offer developers a source to build high-quality native interfaces for both Android and iOS platforms. There are preloaded UI widgets for Material Design and Cupertino design languages as well as support for Android Studio an Visual Studio Code.
Flutter has already been used by Google in some of its major projects. Most importantly, the experimental Fuchsia OS is built on Flutter, as well as apps such as AdWords are using the open source framework to prove its success. However, with the new SDK release, the search giant is aiming to persuade developers to start using Flutter as their handy UI solution for building cross-platform apps. There are features such as new refactoring to help developers manage their widget code, platform interop to expose the power of mobile platforms to Flutter code, improved stateful hotreloads, and a new widget inspector with an easy view to browse the entire widget tree. Similarly, the beta release works with a pre-release version of Dart 2 language and includes support for declaring UI within the code with minimal language ceremony.
In a blog post, Google highlights three major benefits of opting for Flutter, including high-velocity development with new features, reactive framework, rich widget set, and integrated tooling; expressive and flexible designs with composible widget sets, rich animation libraries, and a layered, extensible architecture; and high-quality experiences cross devices and platform with built-in GPU-accelerated renderer and native ARM code runtime and platform interop. In simpler words, if a developer doesn’t want to stick to Android development, Flutter has all good things to offer a unified solution for apps supporting multiple platforms. It also has the ability to transform the experience from platform to another by changing the scrolling behaviour, buttons, sliders, dialogue boxes, and switches among others from Android’s Material Design standards to iOS’ Cupertino ones.
“We’re thrilled to see Flutter’s ecosystem thriving. There are now over 1,000 packages that work with Flutter (for example: SQLite, Firebase, Facebook Connect, shared preferences, GraphQL, and lots more), over 1,700 people in our chat, and we’re delighted to see our community launch new sites such as Flutter Institute, Start Flutter, and Flutter Rocks,” writes Google Product Manager Seth Ladd in the post.
Since the launch of its alpha release, Flutter’s team has brought many changes such as screen reader support and accessibility options, including right-to-left text, localisation, and internationalisation, iPhone X and iOS 11 support, inline video, additional image format support, and running Flutter code in the background. Likewise, for 1.0 release, there are plans to bring features such as an easier way to embed Flutter into an existing app, inline WebView, improved routing and navigation APIs, additional Firebase support, inline maps, and smaller core engine. Google, like any other open source solution provider, also directly listen to the feedback it receives from the developer community to enhance experiences on Flutter. It also offers a Getting Started guide and instructions to use the beta release.
While Google emphasises on supporting Android and iOS platforms, Flutter is also the backbone of Fuchsia OS that is yet to receive its final shape. Technically, most of the apps that have been designed using the Flutter framework are operable on Fuchsia OS. Therefore, there might be a development to utilise Flutter’s growth to offer a bunch of native apps ahead of the release of Fuchsia OS.