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.

 

 

Introducing Android Q

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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!

Backing Away From The Back Button

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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!

 

 

I/O 2019 Is Upon Us

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I/O 2019 Is Upon Us

Mark your calendars, Google 1/0 2019 has been announced!  The company’s annual developer conference will be kicking off May 7th and run though the 9th.  Google tweeted about the event yesterday, and as usual it looks like there are some exciting things on the agenda.

Flash Back To 2018:

Last year’s I/O was a particularly exciting one, and there were a few core themes behind it.  While buzz-wordy, the event revolved around the ideas of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.  We got to see demonstrations of Google’s Duplex making a phone call, as well as learning about what Android P brought to the table.  It offered improved battery life, brightness, and app suggestions to refine the mobile experience for users.

Up This Year:

Last year had a lot of interesting concepts, and this year is sure to be even more impressive.  It’s far too early to say everything that will be taking place in this year’s reveals, but there are a few things we can be certain are on the agenda.  The first of these is of course a new version of Android.  Following it’s alphabetical trend, Q is next on the roster.

We’ve talked a little about Q here before but very little has been revealed thus far.  Rumors have it that the new version will be featuring an expansive Dark Theme for battery saving and, well because dark themes are all the rage right now.  There is also discussion about a change to the android activity life cycle to include a multi-resume.  This could allow for easier interaction with multiple apps at the same time when using split screen on your phone.

Watch and Learn:

Many believe we are about to see the reveal of a Pixel Watch.  iOS has definitely been the dominant culture when it comes to accessories for your primary device, but that’s all the more reason for Google to try and match it.  No leaks have come yet regarding what it will look like but news that Google bought $40 million of smartwatch technology and researchers from Fossil is a definite hint that big things are coming.

There are also bound to be Google Assistant improvements this year, an we could see these play a big role in how the watch functions for things like speech-to-text. Duplex was demoed last year but we haven’t seen to much of it in the real world up until the last few months either.  I would predict the artificial intelligence of the Assistant opens up a few new doors this year.

Fuchsia is the Future:

And of course there is the ever prevalent mystery that is Fuchsia in development.  Said to be Android’s replacement, Fuchsia is on the rise and will likely be utilized in some demos this year.  It’s a ways off from being the new OS for smartphones, but it’s been development for a few years now and it is starting to make it’s way into the limelight.

For the fourth consecutive year the event will be held at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California.  What are you most excited about for Google I/O 2019?  Do you have any predictions about what we may see this year?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

Android Q for Quick Release

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Android Q for Quick Release

You may think we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, but Android Q is already on the horizon.  Yes, we just finished covering the release of Pie a few months ago.  But it looks as though rollouts are starting to pick up more speed in the Android community.  Android Q’s full scale release is slated for 2019, and last week it was hinted that it will be available on a wider scale than we’ve seen before.

Android’s History:

Unless you own a pixel device chances are there’s been a time where you were waiting for your phone to have the newest software.  While Android is an amazing operating system, it’s notorious for rolling out very slowly.  Many phones just updated to Oreo as Pie was already being released.  In July Oreo was only active on 12.1% of devices.  This is somewhat understandable since Google is not the only player in the Android user experience But people still want what’s new, and that’s never going to change.

Last week at Android Dev Summit Hung-Ying Tyan, an engineer for Google’s Project Treble team, hinted that Q may be coming out on a trial basis sooner than we thought.  He said “We are also exploring ways to make future GSI available earlier than the release of next Android version.  So you will be able to try out next Android version earlier over GSI, and at the same time, we can get early feedback from you, so the benefit is mutual.”  GSI stands for Generic System Image and is a version of Android based on the Android Open Source Project.

What will Q have to offer?

Things are of course mostly speculation at this point, but predictions exist for a reason.  One such prediction is that the software is going to develop to match the ever-expanding tablets and foldable smartphones.  With increased screen size and split screen functionality users are bound to want to use multiple apps at the same time.  Enter Multi-resume.  I don’t know about you, but I find it incredibly frustrating when I’m trying to use split screen but one app pauses once I interact with the other.  Depending on the app, this could render the whole feature pointless.  Split screen is an amazing tool, but it needs to be perfected still.

In the Android activity lifecycle there are different states an app can be in.  Currently when an app is no longer the forefront of attention in split screen it goes into a paused state.  Then when a user interacts with it again it enters the resumed state.  In Q we may see a multi-resume where two apps can both be “resumed” at the same time.  It’s also speculated that Q will have features like multi-monitor support, but only time will tell what all is on the table.

Coming Soon to a Phone Near You:

Android Q source code will be shared with users and app developers for testing before the version officially launches.  The long term goal of this is to make users and developers more acquainted with the upcoming version.  Increased comfort equals an increased adoption rate.  I’m currently enjoying and exploring Pie, but as with the rest of you I’m looking towards the future!  What are your thoughts on Android Q?  Is there a feature it desperately needs?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

 

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