Using Kotlin DSL For Gradle

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Using Kotlin DSL For Gradle

If you’re an Android developer then you’ve undoubtedly worked in the build.gradle file.  And you’ve undoubtedly wanted to throw things at your computer when it didn’t work as intended.  It’s a file (2 actually) essential to your app’s well being, but it’s written in Groovy which pretty much no one knows well.

This has created frustration for countless users when they can’t compile things correctly.  Thankfully there’s a better way, and as with most things Android the answer is Kotlin!

Kotlin Instead of Groovy:

Gradle recently released version 5.0, and along with this comes Gradle Kotlin DSL v1.0.  This is what lets us write our Gradle build scripts in Kotlin.  But before doing so we should ask if this is even a good idea.  Why would we want to write our build scripts in Kotlin?  Well for starters Groovy is a dynamically typed language (type is associated with run-time variables).  This means that it’s tough for Android Studio to warn you about much until after the script is already running.  Kotlin on the other hand is statically typed, so lots of bugs can be checked by the compiler before the script is ever run.

Along with this check comes autocomplete.  Android Studio will be able to suggest common method names and variables to you the way it already does in Kotlin or Java files you type in.  Couple this with the comfort that you already (hopefully) have with Kotlin, and it’s an instant improvement.

Prepping for the Leap:

So we’ve decided it may be worth looking into. What’s the first step? Step 1 setting yourself up to make the transition less painful.  Certain things are allowed in Groovy that aren’t in Kotlin, so if we make those conversions in the plain text, then converting the file will be easier.  One of these “things” is quotation marks. Groovy uses single quotations a lot, but those aren’t allowed in Kotlin.  So step one is replacing any single quotation marks you have with doubles.

Next you should make sure that your “apply plugin” uses are replaced with the plugin DSL block.  This is one plugin block that should encompass all of the plugins your project is using.  When your done here’s an example of what your plugins should look like:

There are unfortunately some limitations with this new plugin though, so if you encounter errors it is possible to still use the legacy plugin.

The final thing you’ll need to do is assign variables and call methods.  What I mean by this is that since Groovy doesn’t require you to explicitly write the = when declaring a variable or the () when running a method, these changes need to be made for Kotlin.  Here are a few examples:

Taking The Leap:

Ok, now we’ve made our prep changes, so hopefully things go smoothly with the actual changes.  We have three files we need to rename to include .kts. Our two build.gradle files now become build.gradle.kts, and our settings.gradle file should become settings.gradle.kts.  Rename these files and try to compile the project. Fingers crossed nothing erroneous pops up, and if that’s the case then congratulations you officially have a project running on Kotlin DSL!

These are just the basics, and I’m sure if your project is complex at all there will be a few more jumps in the process to Kotlin.  If that’s the case Gradle has documentation on their website that helps walk through how to go about some of these common changes.  I’d highly recommend checking them out if you feel lost.  And if you don’t need them, then your app should run just fine now, and any time you make changes to Gradle you can do so in Kotlin.




And So The Pixel 4 Leaks Begin

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And So The Pixel 4 Leaks Begin

Last Fall I hopped on board the Pixel 3 bandwagon.  I was overdue for an upgrade and wanted a cutting-edge device.  Fast-forward more than half a year and I’m still incredibly pleased with the purchase.  That being said, I won’t be upgrading any time during the next year which is a shame because the Pixel 4 looks every bit as cool!

Pixel 4:

We’re still a long way out from the 4thgeneration device from actually dropping, but the first leak has just dropped revealing a peek into what the future holds. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Google phones are notorious for being some of the most-leaked in the industry.

The first Pixel 4 leaks are thanks to Pricebaba and OnLeaks.  Below is the image revelaing what the next phone will likely look like. It’s based on “early prototyping schematics”, so obviously nothing is set in stone.  That being said it’s probably still a good indicator of what’s to come.

The Design/Specs:

There’s a lot that’s still in the unknown for the Pixel 4, but these renderings tell us a lot all the same. Firstly, it’s impossible to not notice the large square camera module.  This will either have two or three cameras inside of it.  Pixel phones have always been known for their astonishing camera capabilities, so we’ll likely see some more improvements on that front.

What you may have not noticed immediately is what’s notthere.  The 4’s rendering is lacking a fingerprint sensor on the back of the device.  So the current rumor is that we may see an in-display fingerprint sensor.  Along with the changes we see some constants like the USB-C port and power/volume buttons on the right side. Then on the specs side there is talk that it will have 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage at a minimum.

The Pixel 4 will likely launch in October and feature the newest Android software (Q).  While I may not be due for an upgrade when it comes out, I’m excited to see any advances made in the industry!  What are your thoughts on the Pixel 4?  Do you love or hate the design?  Let us know in the comments below.

An Intro To Flutter

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An Intro To Flutter

When Google I/O came and went in May one of the topics that captured a lot of interest was Flutter. Offering a whole new option for cross platform code, Flutter has been gaining traction over the past few years. I talked about it briefly a few weeks ago, but let’s dive more into the details of why it may be worth learning.

What is Flutter?

First, let’s get a quick primer of what Flutter actually is.  It’s a toolkit developed in 2017 by Google that allows you to write code for both Android and iOS devices.  You can write code once, and then implement it anywhere.  And by anywhere, I mean Android, iOS, web, and desktop.  Already if you’re a freelancer I’m sure you see some appeal here!

It’s written in Dart which hasn’t been too popular of a language in the past, but Flutter is breaking that trend.  It’s been featured at I/O for a few years straight now, and Google uses it for internal apps, so it’s not going away any time soon.  The framework revolves around widgets.  Everything in a Flutter app is a widget.  Widgets describe what a view should look like given its current state, and when that state changes a widget rebuilds its description.  It sounds kind of foreign until you dive in.

Let’s see some code!

I won’t waste time going through how to set up Flutter on your computer.  Here’s a good link to walk you through that (don’t worry it’s super simple).  For my personal use I’ve been using Flutter in Visual Studio Code, but you can also develop in other IDE’s such as Android Studio if you’re more comfortable with those. To get started run the command flutter create hello_world.  This will take care of everything for you creating a new application named hello_world.  To run it, type cd hello_worldto enter that directory, and then type flutter runto kick things off.

Congratulations!  You’re officially looking at your first flutter app. Whether you ran it on an iPhone or an Android device (or somewhere else) you should see an app that looks like this:

So what made this app? Well, this is from the default code that Flutter made for us.  In your navigation sidebar you should see folders for things such as android, ios, and lib.  There are some others as well, but I point these out because at its core you’ll work in the lib folder.  And the others will allow you to transport that code into iOS and Android phones. That’s REALLY oversimplifying it, but it’s not wrong!


Let’s open the lib folder, and inside we’ll see one file named main.dart.  This is the core of your app right now.  If you open up main.dart you’ll see what is creating the widgets currently showing on your phone.  For anyone just reading and not following along, here’s what it looks like:

In here we can see pretty hefty comments explaining everything.  The app starts by calling the method runApp() and passing in an instance of our class MyApp.  And as we can see right below that, MyApp is a StatelessWidget.  There are stateful and stateless widgets in Flutter, and we’ll go into them down the road, but for now just know what a widget is.

One really cool thing about Flutter is hot reloading.  When you want to rerun an app and see any changes you’ve made, you only have to recompile widgets that have changed their state.  The end result of this is incredibly fast reload speeds (milliseconds). Go ahead and try this out.  Under theprimarySwatchattribute change it from to Once you’ve done that save the project and in the terminal press “r”. Instantly you’ll see the theme of your app change from blue to red.  It’s really that simple to reload!

I’ve loved my experience thus far with Flutter because of the way it is structured and hot-reloading. There’s a whole world of development to explore, but if you get started and want to let us know what you like/dislike about it let us know in the comments below!



Google Glasses 2.0 In Sight

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Google Glasses 2.0 In Sight

You guys all remember Google Glasses right?  The augmented reality headset designed to look like regular glasses, but do so much more? Well you might, but you probably didn’t get to know them too well because they flopped pretty hard in 2014. But don’t worry, Google Glasses 2.0 are here and look promising!

2ndTry’s the Charm:

The Glass Enterprise Edition 2 is on the market for $999.  Kind of.  It’s not being sold direct to consumers yet, but instead is entering the corporate world. The goal of these glasses is to “meet the demands of the growing market for wearables in the workplace” according to a post by Google.  Of course given enough time I’m sure we’ll see them used for fun too!

When Google first released the glasses, they were aimed at the public, but they received a lot of backlash for issues related to privacy.  It also didn’t help the glasses didn’t always work as intended.  Due to the complaints the focus turned towards professional uses such as surgery or factory work.  The business focus is sticking around for 2.0 as Google attempts to nail down a target market before expanding.

The Specs (Get it??):

2.0 actually looks a lot like the original Glass design.  Instead of a full headset like Microsoft’s HoloLens, Glass actually looks like a simple pair of black thick rimmed glasses.  But it can do quite a bit more than regular spectacles.  It has a new processor, a souped up camera, and a better battery for longer life.

Google says that the new headset incorporates computer vision and advanced machine learning capabilities.  Using Lens it can offer features like sign translation or info about restaurants nearby. It runs on Android, so there’s no reason to start moving away from the core topics off app development.  Instead they’ll be incorporated into newer forms of technology like this one.

Putting the Competition in Focus:

Unlike some of the other headsets we’ve seen in recent years, Google’s Glass Enterprise Edition 2 actually looks like a pair of regular glasses.  So regardless of what it can do, that’s already a good step in the right direction.  The less invasive a piece of technology can be the better from a user’s experience. It’s available in a frameless version or with a Smith Optics supplied safety frame (for use in manufacturing type jobs).

Glass is augmented reality focused with this smaller hardware, whereas some other entrants have focused on virtual reality.  Take the Vive headset for example.  It’s a complete headset that wraps around your head and obscures any vision unless it’s turned on.  The end result of course being that you can see into whatever virtual world is created. Glass instead builds on top of the real world.  In this sense it’s more like Magic Leap.  And with strides in ARCore over the past few years the ways it can interact with everyday objects are probably pretty impressive.  It’s important to consider this when thinking of competing forces. There are multiple headsets, but they also don’t necessary completely rule out one another.

What are your thoughts on the new Google glasses?  Let us know in the comments below!



Google I/O Revisited

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Google I/O Revisited

Last week we wrote about Google I/Ocoming to an end.  We highlighted some of the cool new features that were unveiled and explored upcoming technologies.  There was tons to show on stage, but of course it’s not magic.  Every tech innovation has logic working under the hood.  And as developer’s Google I/O is the perfect place to be to see how some of this logic works.

From A Developer’s POV:

First off, there’s a ton of other topics covered, but we’ll mainly be focusing on Android development in this post.  But don’t worry.  That still leaves us with tons of talking material!  Let’s start with the most fundamental topic of Android’s OS.  We saw Android Q up on the big stage at I/O, and with it are some new things that developers are going to need to consider when writing their code.

Permission changes are a big one.  An entire talk was dedicated to privacy changestaking place on Q, and immediately after it was another talk discussing location permission. In the past when you wanted access to a user’s location for your app you simple asked for it and they said yes or no. Q brings a 3rdoption into the mix.  It’s actually been around for a while on iOS devices, but starting on Q user’s will have two options to allow an app access to their location.  They can either say yes all the time, or they can grant permission only when an app is in use.  This way if there’s an app you don’t think should be tracking you when you’re not using it…well it won’t!

There were also sessions talking about new Q features such as gesture navigation and dark mode.  Yes, believe it or not Android is ditching the back button! Another iOS style move, but given time we may think it’s for the best.

New Ways to Develop:

The topic that has interested me the most since the end of I/O has been Flutter.  And if you haven’t heard of it before, here’s where to get started.  Flutter is an incredibly cool toolkit to help you write one codebase and run it on both iOS and Android apps.  Yep, write it once, ship it twice.  It was developed by Google in 2017 and since then the company has not stopped pushing it, so it doesn’t look like it’s about to fade away.  It allows for fast development, flexible UI’s and a new way of thinking while you code.

My favorite feature it the hot-reload.  Since you only have to compile changes you’ve made in the code, rerunning your app is insanely fast.  By insanely fast I mean less than a second.  This can allow for a whole new approach to coding as you constantly tweak minute things and hit run to instantly see how they change your app’s appearance.  Exploring it is a great way to learn.  I’ll be writing a post later this week in extensive detail on what Flutter has to offer because it’s so cool.

New Ways to Share:

From a developer’s standpoint there is more to life than just code.  You have to do something with the finished product, right?  There are people you need to share it with. Whether those are friends, work associates, or the world, the more options available to share your app the better.

We saw some cool things come in this realm at the talk “Customizable Delivery With the App Bundle and Easy Sharing of Test Builds”.  First, we saw how shrinking your app can dramatically increase the number of downloads that you get (1% increase for every 3MB your app sheds).  And with this we saw how to do just this by adopting App Bundles.

My favorite part of this talk though was about sharing test builds.  Taking things one step further than Alpha and Beta testing, you can now “upload” a build to the store and share the url with anyone you would like. The build is only accessible via that link though and doesn’t register as your regular app on the Play Store, so your secret is still safe if you’re doing internal testing.  Let’s say you want everyone at the office to give the new version a go before rubber stamping it.  This is designed for just that.

That’s a Wrap!

Wrapping up there were tons and tons of cool features from a development standpoint covered this year. And Google employees went over how to develop each one of them on stage in liver demos.  I would highly recommend checking out some of the footage if you haven’t yet.

What was your favorite part of Google I/O 2019?  Let us know in the comments below!


Google I/O, That’s a Wrap!

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Google I/O, That’s a Wrap!

Now that it’s come and passed Google I/O 2019 has left us amped for the coming year.  We got to see some amazing demos covering topics from Augmented Reality to new devices like the Nest Hub Max.  I’m still trying to wrap my head around some of the material, but it’s safe to say we have a good year of development ahead of us all.  Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:

New Devices have Dropped:

As mentioned just above Google released the Nest Hub Max.  A home assistant with a 10-inch display to welcome you in the morning with your daily routine.  At the keynote we saw some of its incredible features such as facial recognition and motion sensing.  Depending on who the screen sees it will display their own welcome screen with important information.  Along with the personalized assistant and a stunning speaker comes a motion sensor that can pause music at the flick of a wrist.

The Nest Hub Max wasn’t the only device dropped at I/O though.  While we technically saw it out a few months ago, the Pixel 3a was officially announced at a starting price of $599. Google’s sales of the Pixel 3 were not quite what they hoped for.  Butt they’re aiming high again with the 3a.  On stage we saw a demo of its camera in low lighting compared to an iPhone X, and the difference was pretty apparent.

Android Q and Dark Mode:

Q is in beta 3 right now, but we learned quite a bit about it at I/O.  There was a whole session discussing how gesture recognizers will be replacing the back and home buttons on Android devices.  I’m sure we’ll see a lot of smartphone carriers start to make full screen devices to reflect this change.  Instead of a back-button user’s will slide in from the left side of the screen.   And now to go home user’s will slide up.  It’s somewhat similar to Pie, but removing the back button is a pretty drastic change.

And then from a visual appearance we also have Dark Mode.  You can watch the talk online to see how to prep your app for the new UI changes coming with Q.  Basically, there is another attribute you can add on to your views to account for if a user has selected dark mode.  If so then you can make your app fit two different color scheme flows.  It’s pretty easy on the eyes!

Duplex and Live Subtitles:

Last year we saw Duplex make its debut on the main stage.  Since then it’s been rolled out to Pixel phones everywhere for use.  Duplex allows the Google assistant to call a restaurant/business on your behalf and talk with a human on the other end.  It will schedule your calendar for you and notify you when an appointment has been successfully made.  Insanely cool.

And now Duplex is going a step further to take care of things on the web.  It will be able to navigate websites for services like car rentals and fill out all of your information for you.  The end result is very similar to what we saw before. But with being able to fill out information online, a human was never contacted on the business side.  We will now be able to have computers interacting with computers and all you have to do is ask you phone to get you a car for next week.

Another amazing feature on the AI side of things is live video being translated to text.  So if you’re hard of hearing or want to watch a video in a quiet place, Google will be able to convert the audio file from a video into text on the screen live for you.

There are a ton of new features that came about in I/O this year.  Too many to count, but we’ll be writing about a lot of them over the next few weeks!  Stay tuned for another post soon about some of the Android development topics that were covered.



Google I/O Coming In Hot

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Google I/O Coming In Hot

It’s that time of year again.  The time when Android developers from around the world gather into Mountain View, CA.  The reason?  Google I/O of course!  We’re less than a week out from the annual developer conference where people connect to see what’s coming in the next year.  The scheduler is up, and it looks like a promising conference.


Google I/O 2018:


We covered last year’s conferencein detail here, and the plan is to do the same this time around.  Last year everything seemed to link back to one of three core themes:  Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, and the newest Android version at the time (Pie).  We saw a breathtaking demo of Duplex on the main stage as it called a hair salon and booked an appointment with a human on the other end.  Sure, this took a while to make it to our phones, but just under a year later it’s available on Pixel devices!

We also saw some cool demos of what Google Maps had coming in terms of Augmented Reality.  And as you’ll see in a second the AR train is still going strong.  We learned about features like Adaptive Battery and Brightness in Android P designed to improve a user’s experience through machine learning.  So on and so forth.


This Year’s Agenda:


Let’s turn towards the future now.  Google I/O 2019 has a slew of similar sessions ahead focusing on Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, and Android Q.  The conference covers many other topics as well, but these are still core themes. Along with them gaining a lot of attention this year are Kotlin and Firebase.


Kotlin was adopted as an official programming language for Android a while back, and the community LOVES it.  If you’re interested in getting started with Kotlin or app development, you should check out Phonlab’s Android App Development course. Kotlin offers a great way to improve your code’s readability and efficiency, so in this day and age it’s a must have skill for mobile developers.


Our selections:


Unless you’re locked in for a few days, you probably don’t have time to view all the materials that will be available at this year’s session.  Additionally not everything is Android based.  There are tons of other interesting topics that look like they’ll be discussed this year, but here are a few hand selected ones I’d recommend for those of you interested in taking your Android development to the next level:



10:00-1:45pm Google Keynote/Developer Keynote

2:00-3:00pm What’s New in Android


10:30-11:30am What’s New in Architecture Components

12:30-1:30pm What’s New in Kotlin on Android

5:30-6:30pm Android Studio: Tips and Tricks


10:30-11:30am Motional Intelligence: Build Smarter Animations

11:30-12:30pm Kotlin Under the Hood: Understand the Internals


All of the sessions will be available eventually on YouTube, but to guarantee that you can see some and benefit from them I’d recommend tuning in as they are live.  And if you don’t have time to go that in depth, don’t worry we’ll be covering them here!


What are you most excited for about Google I/O 2019?  Let us know in the comments below.

Android Studio Tuning Up

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Android Studio Tuning Up

Android Q has been the buzz of April, but without a physical device to see it on most developers are out of the loop.  Sure we can read things online or watch videos, but it just isn’t the same as seeing it in person.  Fortunately, this (among other things) is now a reality thanks to Android Studio’s newest version!

Android Studio 3.4:

Android’s developer blog just posted about Android Studio 3.4.  After six months of development, it’s now available on the stable release channel. There’s not a crazy amount of change from the previous version of the Integrated Development Environment (IDE), but the changes available are certainly welcome.

The first wave of these changes are for actual development.  We all use import intentions when coding to save time.  It’s what happens automatically if you hit enter halfway through typing a class or method from elsewhere.  Android Studio automatically adds the import statement at the top of your file so that you don’t have to worry about these.

And if you don’t hit enter, after seeing an error in the code you can click Alt + Enter to bring up a list of hot options such as this import.  Of course, these only work if you already have that 3rdparty library added to your Gradle file.  At least it used to work that way! Now Android Studio will recognize common classes and suggest adding these dependencies to your Gradle project files.

Visual Changes:

If you’ve ever worked in a project that uses a lot of drawable images, you know it can get very messy very fast.  A huge downside of Android Studio’s organization of images is that there is only one layer. This means you can’t nest images in folders, thus it’s very easy to see a wall of file names and have to scroll endlessly unless you remember the name of the image your looking for.

There’s actually a toggle you can use to display images so that your scrolling can take place a little easier, but overall resource management in Android Studio has always been a little clunky.  3.4. aims to bring a new tool to visualize drawables, colors, and layouts across your project in an easier way to manage.  No more scrolling indefinitely!

Android Q:

And finally with Android Q gaining popularity, it was only a matter of time before the beta build made its way onto an Emulator.  So if you’ve been itching to get your hands on a device to test the new features this version brings, now is your chance!

Android 3.4 is officially on the stable release channel, so feel free to download it right now.  After you do let us know what you think about it in the comments below.



Android Q Is Bubbling Up

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Android Q Is Bubbling Up

Android Q made its debut recently in Beta format, and since then developers have begun downloading and experimenting with the new software.  We wrote about some of the new features that it brought on its first day of release.  Since then a new feature has risen up and could dramatically change how users interact with their phones.  If you hadn’t guessed, it’s bubbles!

Multitasking Now and Then: 

In the early days of Android we thought of multitasking as simply being able to switch between apps quickly.  Then came the era of split screen.  Admittedly it was not the best experience at first, but after a few adaptations the feature became quite useful.  Larger screens also helped make this appealing.

Since then individual companies have experimented with other styles of multi-tasking such as floating apps or Facebook’s bubble conversations.  But since these concepts were not part of Android’s software globally they have not gained as much traction as a universal adoption would.  Then came Oreo’s picture in picture mode to achieve this global adoption, and since then we’ve been waiting to see what’s next.

Enter Bubbles:

But wait…as I just said bubbles have actually existed on Android via Facebook since 2013. So this release has quite a bit of déjà vu to it.  It’s hard to say how much new will be brought to the table with the reappearing feature. But it will be coming in line with a lot more apps, and as more apps build functionality for a feature its comfort of use grows.

The idea behind this is exactly what you think of if you’ve ever used Facebook messaging.  They are designed to hover on the side of your screen until you click on them or they receive a notification, and then they can expand to display more information.  If you’re texting someone, you can use another app and then expand the bubble for a few moments to write a reply.  Then press send and minimize it again almost seamlessly.

Growing adoption:

It’s a solid experience, just one that should have made its way into a lot more Android apps a long time ago.  It’s not made for every app, but with more apps having the software easily available for use (instead of having to develop code themselves) we’re sure to see some good uses of it.

Multi-resume is supposed to play a large role in Android Q as well, so potentially playing multiple videos in bubbles will be a reality as well.  Only time and creativity will tell.  What are your thoughts on Android bubbles?  Is there a reason they have been around for so long and haven’t grown? Or is it finally time that they hit the mainstream development market?  Let us know in the comments below!






Google+ Has Left The Building

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Google+ Has Left The Building

We wrote about it when first announced, but the day has finally come for Google+.  Google has officially started the process of shutting down and deleting all consumer accounts.  It was a noble effort to complete with the likes of Facebook and Twitter, but it fell flat and won’t be getting back up any time soon.

Google + Security Issues:

Google+’s demise is actually a two-fold one.  It was shut down due to “low usage”, but it also had a security Issue.  Google has disclosed two significant data leaks that potentially exposed millions of user’s private data.  The first leak was kept secret for a few months, but was the ultimate decided for the end of Google+.  And then the second prompted a premature shut down in April instead of the originally planned August.  Not great for Google.

Google says that for both of these leaks there is no evidence that they were taken advantage of, but they did exist.  Google+ API has been shut down now as part of the closing doors process.

Small But Loyal:

Google’s Ben Smith talked about the failure to grow.  He said “While our engineering teams have put a lot of effort and dedication into building Google+ over the years, it has not achieved broad consumer or developer adoption, and has seen limited user interaction with apps”.  He also revealed the fact that 90% of user session on Google+ only lasted 5 seconds.  This could be due to people simply opening the app for notification checks, but it’s still not a great number to see.

But while Google+ is shutting down due to lack of a large audience, that doesn’t mean it didn’t have an audience at all.  It was the host of a small but loyal group of users over the years and I’m sure it will be missed by at least a few.  The site was designed to encourage topic-focused discussion to mimic how we interact in real life (something a lot of social media is missing these days).

On To Other Ventures:

With Google+ being decommissioned, labor at Google is sure to be targeted towards other activities. We have a lot to see coming up in the future (Google I/O 2019 isn’t that far away!).  I’m sure we’ll all be pleasantly surprised by a few things.  Recently Google launched Stadia as its gaming platform as well.  Just because Google+ is on its way out doesn’t mean other things won’t take its place in our daily lives.

What are your thoughts about Google+’s demise?  Was it about time or are you going to miss it?  Let us know in the comments below!

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