Google Releases Beta Version of Flutter Mobile App Development Tool

Developers can use the Flutter framework to speed up their work on native versions of their apps for Android and iOS.

Android Mobile Device Management

Google this week released a beta version of Flutter, a new mobile application user interface framework that the company first announced last year. 

Developers can use Flutter to speed up the process of building native mobile apps for both Android and iOS devices because applications and interfaces made with Flutter are built from a single code base. They compile directly to the native processor architecture code on mobile devices and can access all of the iOS or Android platform's API and services according to Google. 

"Flutter targets the sweet spot of mobile development: performance and platform integrations of native mobile, with high-velocity development and multi-platform reach of portable UI toolkits," said Seth Ladd, product manager for Flutter at Google in a Medium blog on Feb 27. 

Flutter is designed for use by both new and experienced mobile application developers, according to Google. It integrates with popular development tools so developers can continue using the editor or integrated development environment that they always use. 

One of Flutter's key features is its support for rapid development. For example, Flutter supports a so-called stateful Hot Reload feature that allows developers to experiment with their code, add features to it or fix bugs and almost immediately see the impact of those changes on the app.  

It also comes with a set of customizable widgets, an integrated toolset and animation libraries that developers can use to rapidly build native iOS and Android mobile apps, Google said. The widgets that come with Flutter take into account all the major differences between iOS and Android when it comes to capabilities such as navigation and scrolling. So an app built with Flutter will provide full native capabilities on both platforms.

Since Flutter's alpha release last year, Google has built support for additional features Ladd said. They include screen reader support and other accessibility functions and features that allow developers to localize their applications or to prepare it for use internationally. The beta version of Flutter also supports iPhone X and iOS 11 and capabilities such as inline video, and advanced image formatting.

Google's focus as it works to bring Flutter to general availability is on stabilization and ease of use, Ladd noted. Google for instance is working to make it easier for developers to embed Flutter into an existing mobile application, on integrating Android and iOS WebView component for viewing web content within mobile applications and on building additional support for its Firebase messaging system.

Google currently plans to release new Flutter beta versions every four weeks so developers have a chance to test it and identify and issues that might need to be fixed.

According to Ladd, Flutter already has a relatively thriving ecosystem around it. Over 1,000 apps including Facebook Connect and GraphQL already work with Flutter. Members of Flutter's community have established multiple websites focused on helping developers getting started with the UI framework, he said. 

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.