At the ongoing 2019 Google I/O, Google made a major overhaul to its Flutter UI framework. Flutter is now expanded from mobile to multi-platform. The company released the first technical preview of Flutter for web. The core framework for mobile devices was also upgraded to Flutter 1.5. For desktop, Flutter is being used as an experimental project. It is not production-ready, but the team has published early instructions for developing apps to run on Mac, Windows, and Linux. An embedding API for Flutter is also available that allows it to be used in scenarios for home and automotives.
Google notes, “The core Flutter project has been making progress to enable desktop-class apps, with input paradigms such as keyboard and mouse, window resizing, and tooling for Chrome OS app development. The exploratory work that we did for embedding Flutter into desktop-class apps running on Windows, Mac and Linux has also graduated into the core Flutter engine.”
Flutter for Web
Flutter for web allows web-based applications to be built using the Flutter framework. Per Google, with Flutter for web you can create “highly interactive, graphically rich content,” though it plans to continue evolving this version with a “focus on performance and harmonizing the codebase.” It allows developers to compile existing Flutter code written in Dart into a client experience that can be embedded in the browser and deployed to any web server.
Google teamed up with the New York Times to build a small puzzle game called Kenken as an early example of what can be built using Flutter for Web. This game uses the same code across Android, iOS, the web and Chrome OS.
Source: Google Blog
Flutter 1.5 hosts a variety of new features including updates to its iOS and Material widget and engine support for new mobile devices types. The latest release also brings support for Dart 2.3 with extensive UI-as-code functionality. It also has an in-app payment library which will make monetizing Flutter based apps easier.
Google also showcased an ML Kit Custom Image Classifier, built using Flutter and Firebase at Google I/O 2019. The kit offers an easy-to-use app-based workflow for creating custom image classification models. You can collect training data using the phone’s camera, invite others to contribute to your datasets, trigger model training, and use trained models, all from the same app.
Google has also released a comprehensive new training course for Flutter, built by The App Brewery. Their new course is available for a time-limited discount from $199 to just $10.
Netizens had trouble acknowledging Google’s move and were left wondering as to whether Google wants people to invest in learning Dart or Kotlin. For reference, Flutter is entirely built in Dart and Google made two major announcements for Kotlin at the Google I/O. Android development will become increasingly Kotlin-first, and Google announcing the first preview of Jetpack Compose, a new open-source UI toolkit for Kotlin developers.
A comment on Hacker News reads, “This is massively confusing. Do we invest in Kotlin …or do we invest in Dart? Where will Android be in 2 years: Dart or Kotlin?”
In response to this, another comment reads, “I don’t think anyone has a definite answer, not even Google itself. Google placed several bets on different technologies and community will ultimately decide which of them is the winning one. Personally, I think native Android (Kotlin) and iOS ( Swift) development is here to stay. I have tried many cross-platform frameworks and on any non-trivial mobile app, all of them cause more problem than they solve.”
Another said, “If you want to do android development, Kotlin. If you want to do multi-platform development, flutter.”
Read the entire conversation on Hacker News.