At its I/O Developer Conference, Google today announced the release of Flutter 3, the latest version of its open-source, cross-platform UI development framework for building natively compiled applications. It’s been about four years since the company first released a beta version of Flutter 1.0. Back then, the team was primarily focused on helping developers build cross-platform mobile apps. Since then it has also started adding web and desktop support, and now with version 3 the team is coming full circle here by making Linux and macOS desktop support generally available, as well as adding support for Apple Silicon, among many other new features.
“We’re announcing Flutter 3, which is the culmination of our journey of developing cross-platform user interfaces across phone, desktop, and web,” Tim Sneath, director of product and UX for Flutter and the Dart language, told me. “It really goes back to when we launched Flutter a few years ago. With the launch of Flutter 1, we were pretty clear, at least in terms of vision, even then, that we didn’t have the ‘intended to be a mobile toolbox. We wanted to be seen as something bigger than just phones.
With the Flutter 3 release, the platform now supports iOS, Android, and web apps, as well as Windows, macOS, and Linux desktop apps, all as part of the stable version of Flutter. On macOS this includes support for universal binaries so apps can run natively on Intel and Apple Silicon chips, while for the Linux version Google has partnered with Ubuntu’s Canonical to ” offer a highly integrated and state-of-the-art development option”.
Despite desktop support, most developers probably consider Flutter a framework for building mobile apps. But a number of developers are also actively using it to build desktop apps, including former Wunderlist founders who are launching their new productivity app, Superlist, in beta today as a Flutter app on desktop. .
On the mobile side, companies like WeChat, ByteDance, Betterment, SHEIN and BMW are now betting on Flutter, as is Google itself. Indeed, as Google announced today, more than 500,000 Flutter apps have now been released, twice as many as a year ago.
As Sneath noted, a number of developers also use Flutter to write casual games, in part because of its built-in support for hardware acceleration. Some games, like PUBG Mobile, also use Flutter for their out-of-game UI. This is something the team didn’t expect, but to help these developers, Google is now releasing the Flutter Casual Games Toolkit, using the open source Flame game engine.
“We released this toolkit at I/O that helps people through all the bits that are shared logic for these games,” Sneath explained. “Things like, how do I integrate with Apple Game Center or the equivalent of Play services? How do I create leaderboards or splash screens? How do I accept in-app payments for micro-transactions? How do I create ads so you can monetize? We have this toolkit, which includes best practices, source code, videos, and a sample app that brings it all together. We believe it will help developers who want to build games with Flutter to success.
The sample game, a Flutter-themed pinball simulator, is available here.
Also new in Flutter 3 are deeper integrations with Firebase, Google’s core platform for building mobile and web apps. That doesn’t take away from Flutter’s integrations with third-party services, including the likes of Firebase competitor AWS Amplify. But as the Flutter team notes, Flutter/Firebase integration is now a fully supported core element of Firebase and the two teams plan to evolve “Firebase support for Flutter alongside Android and iOS.” .
Also new here is better support for Flutter apps in Crashlytics, Firebase’s crash reporting service, which can now track fatal crashes in real time, among other things.
Additionally, the Flutter team has also nearly completed its move to Material Design 3, Google’s internal design language.