Microsoft helps with Google's Flutter 2 update to improve apps on Surface Duo

Surface Duo Flutter Google
Surface Duo Flutter Google (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Google announced Flutter 2 today, a major update to the cross-platform UI framework.
  • Microsoft has worked with Google to improve Flutter on foldable devices like the Surface Duo.
  • Microsoft has also worked to help Flutter work well with Windows.

Google's Flutter is a cross-platform UI framework that allows developers to create apps across several platforms that share a single codebase. Flutter works with iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, LInux, and the web. Today, Google announced Flutter 2, a major update to the UI framework. We already covered the fact that Flutter 2 could be a major win for apps on Windows 10 and give a boost to the library of the best Windows 10 apps. In addition to the update helping bring apps to the web, Flutter 2 helps developers create apps for the Surface Duo and other folding Android devices.

Today, Microsoft released contributions to the Flutter engine that support folding Android devices, including Microsoft's own Surface Duo. Dual-screen devices are still relatively rare, but they're a growing category. The work Microsoft has done helps apps span across multiple screens. It also helps apps work well side-by-side.

We keep track of which apps are optimized for the Surface Duo. There are some impressive apps already, such as Amazon Kindle (opens in new tab), Adobe Acrobat Reader (opens in new tab), and several Microsoft apps, but it would be great to see this list grow.

Over 150,000 apps on the Google Play Store are built using Flutter. All of those get a free upgrade to Flutter 2. If the developers of those apps take advantage of the new tools to optimize apps for dual-screen devices, the Surface Duo's app experience should get a significant boost.

Microsoft's Surface Duo blog (opens in new tab) should have a post up about the company's contributions to Flutter, but it's not up at the time of publication.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

13 Comments
  • That header picture is a great visualization of one thing wrong with the Duo's dual screen implementation. Notice the entire body of the butterfly is missing. It is rendered on pixels that are not displayed. If you did this on dual screens on a PC butted together, you would see the body, split in the middle. On a picture it isn't devastating, but on a spreadsheet spanned across screens you can lose an entire column. With text there will be letters you don't see. The OS needs to understand how to break the underlying pixels across the two physical screens it has.
  • I think it was intended to be like that.
    But I don't like it and I agree with you.
  • If I'm not wrong it does not miss a single pixel... This particular image is intended to be this way...
  • You're wrong, I'm a Duo owner and anything that's in the gap is effectively lost. I'm not sure if would look right though if the content stopped and then continued with a gap either!
  • Yes, that's so images are not distorted. If the pixels in the gap weren't discarded, then images would be spread out and wrong. The way it is now, information in the gap is lost, but is all distortion-free.
  • Isn't the fact that "information in the gap is lost" the very definition of distortion?
  • Pictures may look a little strange if split, but spreadsheets, text, that sort of thing would look fine. It would be as if you had two identical monitors butted up next to each other on a desktop. You don't lose any pixels doing that and it seems normal.
    I don't agree with the aspect ratio comments. If you do a screen shot it is 1800 x 2784. Each display is 1800 x 1350. Together that should be 1800 x 2700. You lose 84 (x1800) pixels in that gap. If the DUO reported 1800 x 2700 the application would just adjust the picture to fit, as it would with any screen resolution. It wouldn't have to stretch or squish unless you asked it to.
    When you span an app that is designed for the DUO, it avoids meaningful information in those 84 pixels.
  • When you screenshot on the surface Duo, it looks as if it's one big display. There are no missing pixels. There is no aspect ratio problem. In fact it's a bit misleading because sometimes I would like to screenshot only one half or I want to show someone what it looks like on the Duo but I can't because it looks like one big display.
  • I agree with you. I am wondering if this is the approach because there will be coming tech to bridge the gap. I'm envisioning Microsoft coming up with a way to place a sliver screen in the hinge some way. It too can be split and have micro mechanisms to account for folding.
  • While I hear where you're coming from, the Duo isn't a single screen device, it's a dual screen device. It works best with different things on each, not one thing spanned across. I wouldn't span a photo across my Duo any more than I'd span a photo across two monitors to look at it (Which is basically never, missing pixels or not.) Two Duo screens, like two monitors, really shines with two different apps side by side, or apps like News or Outlook that show different content on each screen. In my everyday Duo use I rarely span an app just to make it bigger, I'll only span if it offers something I can't get on the single screen.
  • I'd love to know if ARCore support for the Duo is on the road map at all. Any suggestions on how I can find out?
  • The split screen divider in the middle does provide some distortion depending on what you're trying to do, however because the Duo is orientation based, most of those images can show another perspective of that image that shows the data that was lost in another presentation aspect. The value of the Duo is you're not restricted to looking at the picture of any image in booklet form. If I'm accessing YouTube or another streaming application, I'll flip the orientation to get a better presentation aspect. I'm sure MSFT is looking at ways to make the middle line obsolete, but it's not as cumbersome as other issues with the Duo for me like a notification indicator when it's closed.
  • Alternative head line: Microsoft "Fine, I'll do it myself". Fixed your software Google, you're welcome.