Google Flutter Release Preview 1: Next-Gen Native App Design
Cross-platform development is a difficult problem to solve, but Google feels that they have created a toolkit that will go a long way to helping simplify it with Flutter. Earlier this year at Google I/O, they announced Flutter Beta 3, which they felt was a production ready build of the cross-platform UI framework. Google is taking that commitment that it is production ready one step further, by announcing the Flutter Release Preview 1 build at the Global Front-End Conference (GMTC) in Beijing, China.
With RP1, the team is heavily focused on filling out the edge cases to reach as many users as possible. This includes adding support for 32-bit iOS ARMv7 devices (running all the way back to the iPhone 5c and the iPad Mini), extending Firebase support to better handle multi-platform reporting and integrations, adding support for more formats to the video player, and further improving the documentation for how to add Flutter widgets to existing Android and iOS apps.
While the framework has not officially reached stable yet, it has seen a surge in popularity, with a 50% increase in active users since Google I/O, and it has already cracked the top 100 most starred repositories on GitHub.
As we approach the first stable release of Flutter, community support for it has grown substantially. Thanks to the project’s open source nature, the community has been able to step up and help out by adding some of the features that they are more interested in, including adding hardware keyboard support, video recording, asset directory support, and much more. The community has also been compiling add-on packages for use in other programs, including ML Kit API wrappers, animation construction helpers, and better native cross-platform widget designs (that adapt to the native look of both iOS and Android).
Google is particularly excited about how quickly Chinese developers are embracing Flutter in their apps, and Google will be doing everything they can to support that community. While Flutter’s rapidly growing market share in the US and India comes as no surprise, the massive outpouring of support from the Chinese development community has gone a long way towards making Flutter’s sudden adoption in China possible and has accelerated Google’s internationalization plans. To support the Chinese development community, Google is launching a Chinese focused website which will host community-curated Chinese Flutter content for developers to use and learn from.
Speaking of support, Release Preview 1 has seen a further expansion of the tools available. Google’s Flutter extension for Visual Studio Code is seeing a substantial update, adding statement completion, emulator support directly in VS Code, and a new outline view. Google is also excited to see how quickly the community developed Flutter Studio is coming along, which aims to allow developers to build screens right from their browsers, with support for editing more than 50 widgets.
If you are ready to try the Release Preview 1, upgrading to it is as simple as typing “flutter upgrade” into your terminal if you’re on the beta channel (or typing “flutter channel beta” first if you’re still on the master channel). RP1 looks to be a solid stable step towards a final official release and is a great spot to get started with it.
Have you implemented Flutter in your apps? Have you seen any small apps that you are using implement the framework? Let us know in the comments below!