Google’s goals of simplifying cross-platform app development take another leap forward today with the announcement of Flutter Release Preview 2 at Google Developer Days China in Shanghai. This is an important milestone in Flutter’s history, as it is the last major release before Flutter 1.0 is launched, and allows us to truly get a feel for what the first full version of Flutter will look like.
Flutter has come a long way even since Flutter Release Preview 1, becoming one of the top 50 most active open source software repos on GitHub (ahead of industry heavyweights like Django and RxJava). While Google is being careful to make iron out as many issues as possible before the final release, they already feel that it is production ready, and it shows in both the excitement from the community and in its implementation in large apps from developers like Alibaba, Tencent, and even Google themselves.
Speaking of the open source community, it truly has been a critical part of Flutter’s growth, with the community building numerous websites and tutorials for Flutter, including some fantastic tools like Flutter Studio. Google recognizes how important the community has been to Flutter, and were quite proud to tell us that in their recent community survey, they found that 92% of developers were either satisfied or very satisfied with Flutter, which is a great indication of how quickly it can continue to grow once the stable version is released.
With Flutter Release Preview 2, Google has heavily focused on making sure that cross-platform apps can look completely native on every platform that they are complied for. As part of this, Google has extensively increased the library of widgets that follow the Apple Interface Guidelines that are in their “Cupertino” package. To see examples of these new widgets, check out Flutter’s visual widget catalog. These improvements will help bring the same ease of coding, visual consistency, and performance to iOS-style interfaces that Flutter’s Material Design widgets already have.
One of Flutter’s biggest weaknesses so far has been the minimal app size. The early versions were a bit heavy in terms of install size, as the framework brought a substantial number of tools with it, and Google was focusing primarily on getting Flutter’s performance to the level that they wanted. Unfortunately, that flew directly in the face of Google’s efforts to roll out Instant Apps and to make the mobile internet more accessible. Thankfully, Google has taken those concerns to heart, and are putting a substantial focus into shrinking Flutter’s size now that it is mostly feature complete. While it still isn’t small enough to use in an Instant App, Flutter Release Preview 2 shrinks the minimal Flutter app size by an additional 30%, down to just 4.7MB, and Google has told us that they have no intention of stopping there.
While those improvements are great to see, there is one more major change that is easily lost in the background. With Flutter Release Preview 2, the framework is now able to execute Dart code in the background, even while suspended. This will allow Flutter apps to activate and run based on timers, location updates, or any other triggers that the OSes can provide.
As mentioned above, this will be the last beta Flutter version before Google launches stable Flutter, and is an excellent time to get in, see what Flutter has to offer, and submit feature requests, bug reports, and code pull requests to help shape Flutter into a tool that fits your use case.
If you want to try Flutter Release Preview 2 and are already using one of the Flutter beta versions, upgrading is as simple as typing
$ flutter upgrade. If you’re not on the beta channel yet, flutter.io can quickly walk you through installation.
How has your experience with Flutter been so far? Are you planning on using it in your app once the Stable Flutter 1.0 launches? Let us know in the comments below!