At Google I/O, new features were announced for the next version of Flutter, Google’s open source UI development kit.
The open source UI toolkit known as Flutter has a new version—Flutter 2.2. Unveiled at Google I/O on Tuesday, there are new features that include a way for developers to monetize their apps with in-app purchases and ads. Developers can also connect to cloud services, and there are APIs that extend apps to support new capabilities.
There are currently more than 200,000 apps in the Google Play store that use Flutter, including WeChat, MyBMW, Grab, eBay Motors and ByteDance, which is the company behind TikTok, explained Zoey Fan, product manager on the Flutter team.
Fan said, “ByteDance currently has more than 70 apps using Flutter. Their engineers told us, after switching to Flutter, their productivity actually improved 30%. They could ship new features and apps 30% faster compared with previous native development, because now they no longer have to build for two, like iOS or Android, they can ship with one single code base.”
Flutter was originally released in 2018, but it’s been growing quickly, with 47% growth from Q1 2020 and Q1 2021, according to SlashData’s Mobile Developer Population Forecast 2021. According to SlashData, in the past 30 days, more than one in eight new apps in the Play Store were built with Flutter.
With Flutter, developers can use the same code base to compile apps into a native machine code for Android, iOS, web, desktop, or anywhere that people want to paint pixels on their screen. The team partners with everyone from Microsoft Surface, Toyota, Canonical, Samsung and Sony to bring Flutter to a range of devices and screens, Fan said.
Google released Flutter 2.0 in March, so this string of updates was built on top of that, to address feedback from the user, enhance quality and performance for Flutter 2.0, Fan said.
“Some enhancements we made in Flutter 2.2 are we have improved the beta for desktop on Windows, Mac OS, Linux. We continue to make progress towards that, towards a stable quality, and then we continue to make enhancements in accessibility,” Fan said. “And the other thing on desktop is Windows UWP support is also going into alpha stage, which means the Flutter developers can now build apps on Xbox.”
Fan said, “on the Dart front, I previously mentioned in Flutter 2.0, sound null safety became available, but now in Flutter 2.2 sound null safety is the default for new projects. So for developers, if they get sound null safety, which means they can remove a whole class of no errors, and also their app size can be smaller, their apps can run faster. So there are tons of developer benefits when we make sound null safety the default for new projects.” Dart 2.13 expands support for native interoperability with support for arrays and packed structs in FFI, according to the Google blog on Flutter’s updates.
On the developer tooling side, there are upgraded Flutter dev tools to help developers understand how memory is allocated in apps. “Another major theme in Flutter 2.2 is that we are letting developers know that we’re investing heavily to help them connect their apps to the rest of the Google ecosystem. So we collaborate with a few different partners within Google to make apps integration a lot easier,” Fan said.
This includes a new payment plugin with the Google Pay team, which allows people to make purchase of physical goods and services and pay via Google Pay on Android and Apple Pay on iOS. And Google is updating the Google Mobile Ads SDK for Flutter. It was available for Flutter as open beta in the Flutter 2 launch, it’s upgraded to include a new ads format called Adaptive Banner, she said.
“Moreover, we previously had an app-purchased plugin basically that allows developers to build in that purchase mechanism. For example, if a user wants to pay for a virtual coin or some game currency, they will use that mechanism to pay for things like that. We previously had that plugin in a beta quality, and this time in Flutter 2.2, we’re also upgrading this plugin to production quality,” Fan said.
The material team will announce a new design guidance later this year for building applications.