Flutter Forward is an annual conference where developers, product managers, and founders can come together to discuss all things related to the open-source mobile app development platform, Flutter. This year’s conference was held virtually from Jan 25th and featured a wide variety of topics and speakers.
Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from this year’s event.
The keynote speakers at this year’s conference included Google’s VP of Engineering for Flutter, Tim Sneath; Google Developers Agency Lead for Europe and the Middle East, Carola Nitz; and IDEO U Managing Director Steph Hay. Each speaker discussed their own unique perspectives on how to make the most out of Flutter. Tim Sneath highlighted new features in the latest version of Flutter while Nitz shared her experiences leading global teams using agile methods while using Flutter as a platform. Finally, Steph Hay offered tips on how to effectively use design thinking when building apps with Flutter.
During this event, Flutter looked ahead and gave viewers a sneak peek of the upcoming wave of investments we're making in the platform: ground-breaking graphics performance, seamless integration for web and mobile, early support for new and emerging architectures, and a continued emphasis on the developer experience. They did so in an effort to get viewers enthusiastic about their vision for Flutter as a potent toolbox for any developer who wants to create stunning, high-quality user experiences that can be used everywhere pixels are painted. They showed off work that will be gradually provided over the upcoming months.
They presented further advancements on Impeller, Flutter's next rendering engine, at Flutter Forward. Impeller has been optimised for Flutter, providing developers with new possibilities and increased freedom and control over the graphics process. Impeller uses precompiled shaders to deliver performance that is more consistent and reduces frame drops brought on by runtime shader compilation. It makes use of Metal and Vulkan primitives, two current low-level iOS and Android APIs. Additionally, it efficiently utilises concurrency by dividing single-frame duties among threads.
For graphically demanding apps like Wonderous, a stunning app that takes you on a tour of the world's treasures, Impeller offers silky-smooth performance. Source: Tim Sneath, Medium
Impeller will not only provide a slick user interface but will also significantly enhance performance in some circumstances. One demonstration gave a best-case illustration of this. A kaleidoscopic app with SVG clipping that was created using the current default renderer was displayed to visitors. As you scroll down the page, performance degrades as rendering consumes more resources than was allocated every frame, resulting in a frame rate of 7–10 fps. The identical application was visible on the right side, displaying at a smooth 60 frames per second when using Impeller.
Flutter in 3D
They also showed preliminary Flutter 3D support work. In the keynote, they demonstrated how you can import Blender models and even utilise hot reload to iterate with Blender in real-time while viewing the results in an app that is already running. Even though it's early on, Flutter is enthusiastic about the early results they're seeing and the possibility of incorporating 3D into future Flutter experiences.
An entertaining Dash example given by Flutter demonstrates how Impeller enables Flutter to produce 3D images. Source: Time Sneath, Medium
Ease of development
Developer productivity, which has been a distinguishing element of Flutter from its inception with features such as stateful hot reload, was at the heart of everything covered at the event. They will continue to prioritise the developer experience for both Flutter and Dart, which will be their fourth and last focus of future investment.
They showed some of their early work on many major new Dart language features at Flutter Forward, seeking to demonstrate their commitment to the language's aesthetic evolution. In their development channel, they now have early support for records and patterns, two recent developments that complement each other rather well.
A simple example of records and patterns being used to return and receive multiple function parameters. Source: Tim Sneath, Medium
They also publicly announced Dart 3, the culmination of their efforts to bring sound null safety to the language. Dart 3 also eliminates some long-deprecated features in order to modernise the language even more. They’ve begun providing alpha-quality Dart 3 builds, along with matching Flutter versions, to allow developers to test packages and apps. Check out Flutter's dedicated blog article for additional details about Dart 3.
A feature of our own making
As you may have seen from our socials this week, we were asked to put together a series of animations which were displayed at the event, focusing on a few of our clients' apps. The team loved seeing their work displayed at such a prestigious event, adding to the excitement around the office!
The breakout sessions at this year’s conference were designed to offer more specific guidance on how to make the most out of Flutter as a tool for building high-performance mobile apps. These sessions covered topics such as debugging tools, performance optimization techniques, testing strategies, accessibility best practices and more. Attendees also had access to expert speakers who answered questions about their particular area of expertise.
In addition to keynote presentations and breakout sessions, there were lightning talks that featured short five-minute presentations from industry experts discussing everything from design trends in Flutter development to cross-platform development strategies. These lightning talks provided attendees with valuable insights into some of the newest trends in developing with Flutter.
Overall, this year's virtual edition of the Flutter Forward conference was an incredible success! With so many great speakers offering valuable insights into making the most out of mobile app development with the open-source platform, attendees left feeling inspired and empowered to create amazing mobile applications with Flutter!
If you missed it this year, be sure to mark your calendars for next year's event! It's sure to be even bigger than ever!