Android Studio Tuning Up

Share if the site was helpful

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

Share if the site was helpful

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

Share if the site was helpful

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!

App Mirroring Has Begun!

Share if the site was helpful

App Mirroring Has Begun!

Last October we wrote about Microsoft’s expedition in linking mobile phones and computers to provide a seamless experience for users. Known as App Mirroring, the goal is to allows users to take any app they use on their phone and use it the same way on a desktop or laptop.  It was just a showcase idea at the time, but now the beta testing has begun!

App Mirroring:

We all love a fluid experience between our devices, yet up to this point in time there has been a noticeable gap between apps and how/if they can be accessed on a computer.  If you want to take your Snapchat conversation and continue it on a desktop, that can prove to be a feat.  With app mirroring the idea is that any app that you can use on a phone can be mimicked on a Windows screen.

We talked about how this could be exciting not only for users, but for developers too.  It could create another medium for experiences, and thus new types of apps could spring up.  Hard to say what, but that’s up the creatives of the world and I’m sure we’ll see some cool things.

Device Limitations:

App Mirroring is still a catchy term in my opinion, but the feature is currently named “Phone Screen”, and it has a few limitations.  Phone Screen will only be supported on certain types of hardware and requires users to use the latest beta Windows 10 Insiders build.  It will be compatible with Android phones running 7.0 or higher, so if you’ve bought a phone within the past few years you are probably in the clear there.

Additionally user’s PCs will need to support Bluetooth with Low Energy Peripheral mode. And with the Surface Go meeting these requirements, there will likely be a fair amount of compatibility between the app and tablet worlds as well.

Using Phone Screen:

To use Phone Screen as a beta tester you’ll simply open the Windows 10 Your Phone app.  In here you’ll be able to see a list of all your installed Android apps, and you can select any of them to open the same way you would a phone.

Currently only Windows Insiders running the latest test builds will be able to test app-mirroring (that’s how betas usually go), but it’s hard to say how long until its available to everyone.  Android users can already use the Your Phone app to see the last couple dozen photos they’ve taken on their phone.  So the first steps to bridging the gap are actually already here for all of us. It’s good to see that trend is continuing with App Mirroring

What are your thoughts on App Mirroring/Phone Screen?  Are there any apps it will be amazing to use on a desktop?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

Introducing Android Q

Share if the site was helpful

Introducing Android Q

 

Pie is still on its way out to most of the world, but today we’re going one step further.  Android Q’s first beta has officially launched!  As Android’s developer blog puts it so perfectly: “…mobile innovation is stronger than ever, with new technologies from 5G to edge to edge displays and even foldable screens.  Android is right at the center of this innovation cycle”.

The bug tracker for Q first opened on Monday, and since then we’ve all been waiting expectantly to see its release.  Now that it’s here let’s take a look at some of the things it has to offer.

Privacy and Security: 

Whenever we’re discussing privacy, one of the first things that comes to mind is location.  We don’t all like the idea of being tracked everywhere we go by 3rdparties.  Currently on Android no app is able to track your location unless you explicitly allow it. Q takes this to the next level by allowing users to grant location based on app usage.  So if you want, no more being tracked when an app isn’t open.  This could be useful for things such as food delivery apps that really have no business monitoring you during other parts of your day.  

Another improvement for user security that revolves around runtime permissions is access to files and media. The Photos and Videos and Audio collections will be featured in a new set of runtime permissions.  And downloads must use the system file picker, allowing the user to decide which download files an app has access to.  This is just another step to help silo information and enhance a user’s experience without having to give an app everything.

Innovative Screens and Experiences:

You’ve undoubtedly seen some of the new foldable phones that have been revealed recently.  They look incredibly fun (unfortunately also incredibly expensive), but it should be no surprise that Q will be accounting for these.  To help users make use of an unfolded device with lots of screen space, changes have been made to onResume and onPause to support multi-resume (we wrote about this in one of our Q hypothesis posts a while back).

In addition, some changes have been made with sharing and setting to speed up a user’s navigation. The process of moving from one app to another to share content has been streamlined with Sharing Shortcuts.  You can also show key system settings insideof your app using a new Settings Panel API.  This uses the Slices feature from Pie and lets you present a modal to users where they can directly access things such as what Wi-Fi they are connected to. No more redirecting users into the Settings app to mess with things!

There are also changes to the camera, media, and graphics utilizing Dynamic Depth.  Using Q users can request a Dynamic Depth image which consists of a JPEG, XMP metadata, and a depth and confidence map all embedded in the same file. The result of this is the possibility to offer specialized blurs and bokeh options in your app.  Or if you want you can create 3D images/photograph things in AR much more accurately.

Getting Q On Your Phone:

As with many of Google’s recent technologies, you can get your hands on it first if you own a Pixel. Beta 1 is available all the way back to the original Pixel/Pixel XL.  Click here to enroll in the Android Q Beta and start playing around with it.  And if you don’t own a Pixel, you can always use the Android Emulator and download a system image via the SDK Manager.

There is a ton to explore for Android Q still since it’s just day 1.  Let us know what you think about it in the comments below!

Duplex Is Officially Here

Share if the site was helpful

Duplex Is Officially Here

Time after time we’ve seen Google Duplex in the news, but it’s always been just on the horizon for the mass market.  Well here’s some news that isn’t just a tease: Duplex is now on your phone!

Pixels Now Have Duplex:

Ok, sorry to get your hopes up if you’re not team Pixel, but if you are, then this is good news for you. Google has just rolled out Duplex to Pixel phones in 43 states.  This means that if you own a Pixel and live in one of these states, you can now have your Google Assistant call on your behalf.  Looking for a restaurant reservation?  Just say “Ok Google, make a reservation at ___”.

That’s it.  Duplex will call the restaurant and take care of everything else.  Ok, it will ask you a few more details (such as for what time and for how many people), but it takes care of all the conversing on the phone.  The future is now.

Just how good is it?

Google actually received a ton of criticism after I/O last year when Duplex made its debut.  People were concerned that it mimicked a human toowell.  In June the company promised that Google Assistant would introduce itself before engaging in any conversation.  If you’ve used Google’s call screening feature before then you’re somewhat familiar with this introduction.

Duplex uses Google’s WaveNet audio processing neural network, and as such it sounds incredibly natural.  It throws “ums” into the conversation to mimic how people actually converse. While these may seem arbitrary, the VP of engineering for Google Assistant said that they are actually the key to keeping people engrossed in conversation.  Otherwise things start to feel too artificial and people hang up.

Opting Out:

While this technology is incredible, there are certainly going to be people that want nothing to do with it yet.  And as such Duplex makes it very clear that the call is automated, and informs everyone it calls that their being recorded.  If they respond with anything along the lines of “I don’t want to be recorded” or “I don’t want to speak with this” then the call is handed off to a human operator.

There’s sure to be some legal/ethical issues that arise despite this, but it’s good to at least see people are given the option to opt out.  Duplex is going to continue its rollout to other devices over time, and eventually it will just be taken for granted.  But for now its cutting edge tech and Pixel users can take advantage of it.

What are your thoughts on Duplex and its rollout?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

Backing Away From The Back Button

Share if the site was helpful

Backing Away From The Back Button

If you ever have a conversation between an Android user and an iPhone user, each will have their arguments for why one phone is superior.  While many of the differences are in the software, one is glaringly different between the two: the back button.  At least is used to be, but we may be seeing the end of days for this feature.

Q Follows P:

The back button is one of the most prominent features on Android phones.  At least it was, but there has been discussion recently about moving deeper into the world of gesture recognition.  The idea is to move closer to a buttonless screen, and thus create more screen real estate for users on smaller devices.  Android Pie took a step in this direction with some of its changes in navigation between apps, and Q will likely continue the trend.

If you own a phone that operates on Pie, then it likely took you a few days to adjust.  The whole process of navigating between apps is different from Oreo.  Instead of swiping left or right to kill apps you swipe them up (much like iOS).  And while Pie still has a back button on the left side of Pixel devices, there are some unique interactions you can use with the bottom nav bar.

What’s New With Q?

On Pie phones today if you swipe from the left side of the nav bar over to the right, your phone will exit the current app and open whatever app you were using just before it.  What’s more, if you swipe to the right and don’t release, you’ll be able to scroll between all of your apps to select one quickly. It’s not too different from checking all the paused apps and selecting one, but one swipe actions put a grin on your face.

Q is looking to do just this by removing the back button entirely and replacing it with a swipe to the left.  The exact motion discussed above, just in reverse.  So when users want to back out of an application or go back in an app, they will swipe instead of pressing the back button.  Whether you like it or not, this is a pretty drastic change from years of tradition on a feature that has separated Android from iOS.

Swiping: The Good, Bad, and Ugly:

My initial reaction to this was not a good one.  It seemed rather counter intuitive to have users swipe in one direction to go back in an app, and swipe in the opposite direction to go “back” to other apps.  Change is scary.  But if you can get past that, then this could make for an interesting user experience.  If we take it one step further and swipe up in place of the home button, then the entire bottom drawer could cease to exist.  A marginal change, but every centimeter counts when we only have a few to deal with.

These changes have not been confirmed, and I’m still undecided on how I feel.  But I think it’s important to not jump on the bandwagon of “Change is bad”.  Q could bring some really cool things to the Android world, and for all we know in a few years we’ll be looking back at the old ways of navigation and shaking our heads!

What are your thoughts on Q’s possible removal of the back button?  How about the other changes we’ve talked about with Q?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

Starting the Reactive Journey

Share if the site was helpful

Starting the Reactive Journey

If you’re an Android developer, then odds are you’ve heard of RxJava.  It’s a popular library that utilizes the observer pattern.  Rx (ReactiveX) allows us to program reactively, meaning our code can be executed as events happen.  It’s tough to fully wrap your head around it at first, but once you get it your codebase can become more efficient and clean.

The Observer Pattern:

The Observer pattern (and RxJava) revolves around three key concepts.  The three O’s: observables, observers, and operators.  When combined these three allow us to emit information, modify it, and then react to it.  The best way to think about the observable pattern is to consider everything a stream. Data starts at the top of a stream and flows downhill.  On its way down things can happen to it to modify the data, and then at the bottom of the hill we use the data.

This is a high-level view of how the observer pattern works.  Think of observables as the top of the stream, operators changing the data on its way down, and observers as the bottom of the hill.  Ok, maybe this analogy will make a little more sense after you learn a little more about each of these O’s.

Observables:

An observable is something that can be observed.  It is something that emits data that we can react to.  A good example that already exists in Android is a button.  Whenever a button is pressed by the user it emits data. That data is basically just saying “I was pressed”, but it’s still data emitted from an observable!  What we do with that data is our option and none of the observable’s concern (think about the standard Android button; it just knows it was pressed, we write the logic for what it does).

So an observable is…literally something that is observable.  Real life examples could be a movie playing or a singer singing. These are things we could watch happen, but they don’t really impact us until we observe them.  Which brings us to the bottom of the stream.

Observers:

We’ll skip over operators right now and jump straight to observers because they are essential to this paradigm. So we have a movie playing already (the observable), and once we turn on the TV to watch it we have become the observer. The data (movie) is coming to us and we can react to it however we want.  Likewise, with an observer in Android we can write a function to react to the data an observable emits.

In the RxJava world observables don’t always have to emit just one piece of data, that’s the beauty of it.  They can emit thousands and thousands of pieces of data, and then observers can react to each and every piece of data if they see fit.  And just like multiple people can watch one tv, multiple observers can observe one observable.

Wrapping Up:

It’s a lot of “o” words I know, but the concept is pretty simple.  Observables emit data, observers react to it.  We’ll dive into plenty of code in part 2, so stay tuned for that as well as examples of how operators come into the mix!  RxJava takes a little while to get down, but once you do it’s too addictive to quit!

Samsung Leaks Unfold

Share if the site was helpful

Samsung Leaks Unfold

The newest trend in Mobile is upon us.  We’ve seen generation follow generation of smartphones each with more features than the last, and while the software has changes dramatically the physically devices have just changed in size.  2019 is the year that this changes as the world adopts its first foldable phones (again!).

Samsung’s Leak(s)

Samsung announced the arrival of its first foldable phone a few months ago, but other than a few concept picture’s it’s just been floating around.  At their developer conference in November they unveiled the Infinity Flex flexible screen giving us a sneak peek at that idea.  Next week we can expect to see quite a bit more about this concept though.

The Galaxy S10 Unpacked event is scheduled for February 20th, and we have good reason to believe this event will also bring news about the foldable device. Ishan Agarwal, a reputable leaker, posted a GIF on twitter showing a demo of a phone folding.  With it he said

“EXCLUSIVE! Looks like Samsung’s sticking with the name ‘Galaxy Winner’ for the Foldable Phone right now. As far as I can see, the product page for special phone will be live after the event as well! Doesn’t exactly looks like a final name but it is I guess. Welcome Galaxy Winner!”

Winner is the rumored codename for the Galaxy F right now, and if what Ishan posted is true, then we will be seeing two new product pages after the event.

More on the S10:

There’s a lot of hype around the Galaxy F since it’s a revolutionary product, but let’s not forget the S10 is making its debut.  One of Samsung’s biggest leaks ever has just taken place releasing full specs for the three new phones we’ll be seeing soon.  These are the Galaxy S10e, S10, and S10+. It looks like they’ll range in size from 5.8 inches to 6.3, along with a side fingerprint sensor and facial recognition.

There’s no lack of pixels on these screens either.  The S10e weighs in at 2280 x 1080 with 438 ppi, the S10 at 3040 x 1440 with 550 ppi, and the S10+ at 3040 x 1440 with 522ppi.  We have some great displays on their way, and they’ll be running the newest software for a superb user experience.

Why So Sudden?

With the world waiting to see more of the S10 next week, why would Samsung mesh in a release of such a groundbreaking phone at the same event?  Because of healthy competition.  Huawei will likely be unveiling their first foldable handset later this month as well, and if you’re not first you’re last.

I’m sure we’ll see this trend in quite a few phone makers over the next year or two, and I’m particularly interested to see if Google takes any action with a foldable Pixel.  What are your thoughts on foldable devices?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

Magic Leap is Moving into Mobile

Share if the site was helpful

Magic Leap is Moving into Mobile

Augmented reality has been all the rage the past few years.  From headsets to mobile apps we’ve seen it start to infiltrate every piece of technology.  One of the companies behind this infiltration is Magic Leap.  They released their first headset last August after nearly 10 years of development work.  And now it seems their looking to up the ante by bridging the gap between headsets and phones.

Magic Leap’s History:

Magic Leap has been flying under the radar for quite some time now.  Their central product is a head-mounted virtual retina display which superimposes 3D images over real-world objects.  That’s the fancy way of saying AR goggles.  And fancy they are!  The company has raised more than $1.4 billion in investment capital since 2010 and in 2016 was valued at $4.5 billion by Forbes.

So the company has some serious backers, and in 2018 when they released their goggles for the first time they were available only to investors.  I wish I could say I’ve tried them on, but I unfortunately can’t attest to their experience.  CNBC, however, was granted an exclusive trial run of the goggles and the description is quite amazing.

Their tester wrote about how he was able to “place” a tv anywhere in a room to watch an NBA game. What’s more he could also place a 3D rendering of the entire game on the floor and walk around it seeing live gameplay from every angle.  Seriously, just think about this for a second and all the possibilities it holds!

Seeking AR Mobile Developers:

The goggles can already do some pretty sweet things, and when they came out in August they came with a mobile support app.  The main purpose of this was to help users with setup, but it seems now Magic Leap is hoping to go further.  Earlier this month they posted a job description for a senior software engineer with experience in mobile AR.  The description says

“In this role, you will help build a cross-platform framework that enables large scale shared AR experiences between mobile devices (iOS, Android) and Magic Leap devices. Your work will include implementing high-performance, production quality AR and computer vision algorithms, and designing and building the Magic Leap mobile SDK.”

ARKit and ARCore:

It also lists the developer should have experience with ARKit and ARCore, the AR frameworks by Apple and Google respectively.  The company’s CCO spoke on this saying that undoubtedly the whole world will not use Magic Leap’s goggles, but they should all have access to a smaller version of the experience.  Rio Caraeff said “…if there’s a 500 foot tall dragon in Central Park, you know we all want to see the dragon, not just the people with Magic Leap. And so we need an interoperability solution.”

Regardless of if you’re interested in Magic Leap as a company, the simple fact that AR is penetrating every corner of our world is undeniable.  That being said, the sooner you get in on the action the more likely you are to ride the wave up!  What are your thoughts on Magic Leap’s goggles?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

en English