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  • Writer's pictureDon Peter

Understanding Flow in Kotlin

Understanding Flow in Kotlin

Kotlin, a statically-typed, modern programming language, has introduced a powerful asynchronous programming concept called Flow. Flow simplifies asynchronous programming in Kotlin, making it more efficient and expressive.

In this blog post, we'll delve into what Flow is, how to use it, and provide practical examples in the context of Android app development. We'll explore how to send internal notifications to different modules within an Android application using Kotlin Flow.

What is Flow in Kotlin?

Flow is a new asynchronous stream processing library introduced in Kotlin, specifically designed to handle streams of data asynchronously and in a non-blocking way. It's built on top of Kotlin's coroutines and allows you to work with sequences of values as they become available.

Key features of Flow:

  1. Asynchronous: Flow is designed for asynchronous operations and is perfect for use cases where you want to handle data asynchronously without blocking the main thread.

  2. Non-blocking: Flow works seamlessly with Kotlin's coroutines, which means it is non-blocking and doesn't freeze your app while processing data.

  3. Backpressure: Flow can handle backpressure, allowing you to control the flow of data between the producer and consumer, preventing overloading of resources.

  4. Composability: Flow can be easily combined, transformed, and modified, making it a versatile tool for stream processing.

How to use Flow in Kotlin?

To use Flow in your Kotlin application, follow these steps:

1. Import the necessary dependencies:

To use Flow in an Android app, you need to include the Kotlin coroutines library in your project.

You can add it to your app-level build.gradle file:

implementation "org.jetbrains.kotlinx:kotlinx-coroutines-android:x.x.x" // Use the latest version

2. Create a Flow:

You can create a Flow using the following code, providing the values you want to emit.

For example:

fun fetchUserData(): Flow<User> = flow {
    // Fetch user data asynchronously
    val user = api.fetchUser()

3. Collect data from a Flow:

To consume data from a Flow, you can use the collect extension function. This allows you to receive emitted values and handle them:

viewModelScope.launch {
    fetchUserData().collect { user ->
        // Handle the user data

4. Transform and combine Flows:

You can use various operators on Flow to transform, filter, and combine multiple Flows. Some common operators include map, filter, zip, and merge.

val transformedFlow = fetchUserData()
    .map { user -> }

Now that you understand the basics of using Flow, let's explore a practical example in an Android app.

Sending Internal Notifications in an Android App

In Android app development, you often need to communicate between different modules or components within your app. Using Flow, you can send internal notifications from one module to another without tightly coupling them. Here's how you can achieve this,

Create a Notification Flow:

Define a Flow that represents the notifications you want to send. For example, let's create a simple Flow for sending notifications of new messages:

object MessageNotificationManager {
    private val notificationFlow = MutableSharedFlow<Message>()

    fun sendNotification(message: Message) {
        viewModelScope.launch {

    fun getNotificationFlow(): Flow<Message> = notificationFlow

In this example, MessageNotificationManager provides methods to send notifications and get the Flow to receive notifications.

Subscribe to the Notification Flow:

In the module that needs to receive notifications, subscribe to the Flow.

class ChatFragment : Fragment() {
    // ...

    override fun onViewCreated(view: View, savedInstanceState: Bundle?) {
        super.onViewCreated(view, savedInstanceState)

            .onEach { message ->
                // Handle the new message notification

In this example, ChatFragment listens to the notification Flow using onEach and processes incoming messages.

Sending Notifications:

In the module where you want to send notifications, call the sendNotification method.

val newMessage = Message("Hello, world!")

By using Flow to send and receive internal notifications, you decouple different parts of your Android app, making it more modular and maintainable.

Use Cases for Flow in Android Apps

Flow is a powerful tool for handling asynchronous and non-blocking operations in Android apps. Here are some common use cases for Flow:

  1. Data fetching and processing: Use Flow to fetch data from network requests, databases, or other sources asynchronously.

  2. Real-time updates: Implement real-time features in your app, such as chat applications or live notifications, using Flow to handle data updates.

  3. User interface updates: Update UI components when data changes, ensuring a smooth and responsive user experience.

  4. Event handling: Manage and process events, such as button clicks, gestures, or sensor data, using Flow to handle events as they occur.


In Android app development, Flow allows for efficient communication between different modules and components, making your code more modular and maintainable. By following the steps outlined in this blog post and considering the practical examples, you can effectively incorporate Flow into your Kotlin-based Android applications.


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