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Winging it

Flutter: Google’s new cross-platform mobile framework

JAX Editorial Team
Butterfly image via Shutterstock

Google has released Flutter, their open source, high-fidelity, cross-platform mobile framework. Being exclusively mobile, Google have been able to focus on delivering a single codebase that runs on both Android and iOS in the project’s early stages.

Google has unveiled a new open-source framework for building cross-platform mobile applications called Flutter. It offers predominantly low-latency input and a high frame rate for both Android and iOS.

The origins of Flutter date back to 2014 when some Google developers launched the Sky coding engine project, facilitating the creation of a completely new, mobile-first rendering engine. Not to be confused with the 2013 gesture control project by Google specialists of the same name, Flutter focuses on the development of high-performance, multi-platform mobile applications.

The tech behind Flutter

Flutter uses Dart, which the development team describes as a scalable language that Java and JavaScript programmers alike should find readily accessible. The main components of the project include an optimised mobile-first 2D rendering engine, a functionally-reactive framework influenced by React, and a collection of Material Design widgets, libraries and tools on top of an Atom plug-in.

In addition to Dart, Flutter is built on C, C++, 2D rendering engine Skia, Mojo IPC and the rendering engine Blink, soon to be arriving to Chromium. To use it, Flutter requires at least Android KitKat or iOS 5 to work. An official list of compatible smartphones and tablets doesn’t exist yet, however.

For Android, the engine’s C / C++ code is compiled using Android’s NDK, while the majority of frameworks and application code run on the Dart Virtual Machine. The latter generates Just-In-Time-compiled and optimised native code on the device itself. For iOS, the C / C ++ code is compiled with LLVM; Dart code is Ahead-of-Time compiled into native code.

SEE MORE: Dart moving entirely to GitHub, Google wanting the open-source sauce

Flutter is optimised for 2D apps, with developers emphasising that a constant frame rate for both Android and iOS at 60 fps is achieved relatively easily. For desktop apps, Flutter is less suitable – for now. There are no plans to create a web version of Flutter at this stage.

The project is completely open source and is driven mainly by Google employees. You can find out more about Flutter here.

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