Google I/O 2017: What Android Developers Need To Know

Cygnis Media Editor
Google I/O 2017: What Android Developers Need To Know

There is no doubt that the annual Google I/O conference is one of the most action packed technology events. The Google I/O conference has covered so much in a short span of time, from news of Android surpassing 2 billion monthly active devices, to Google’s innovations in virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

In this post, we will be shedding light on the takeaways particularly for Android developers from the Google I/O 2017 conference. Let’s have a look at what Android developers should know about.

Android O

Android O Google OS

The Android O is the new OS that was previewed at the Google I/O 2017. The Public Beta and the Developer Preview of Android O are now available on the Nexus and Pixel devices.

Keynote speaker Dave Burke, outlined two themes in Android O which mobile phone developers should take note of:

1. Fluid Experiences:

Fluid experiences are meant to allow users to do more on a small screen. To create fluid experiences, Google announced three key features:

  • Notification Dots: Prior to the Android O, third party libraries were used to show a notification badge on the app icon in the home screen. This feature, that has been part of the iOS, is now coming to Android as a built-in feature. So now, developers will be considering notification badges on their applications as well to notify users at a glance of any notification that they might have swiped away, and not seen.
  • Auto-fill with Google: Users can now save a lot of time filling out forms with the Auto-fill framework of the Android O which manages the communication between the application and the auto-fill service. If you’re using a certain app on Chrome, the Android O shall use that information and provide you suggestions of the data you would probably have wanted to fill in on a single tap. This interesting feature will eventually impact how the on-boarding experience of Android applications are designed.

Amongst these features was also announced an interesting experience for users, the Picture in Picture through which Android O users will be able to watch a video and continue on another using another app in parallel on their mobile phones.

2. Vitals

To make apps run better and faster, Google unveiled Vitals during the Google I/O keynote. Vitals focuses on making Android more effective, which includes faster app loading and boot times. Factors like battery life, application security and performance are important considerations in the development cycle. To help developers accomplish this and to keep data secure, Google introduced three enhancements in its new OS:

  • OS Optimizations: To optimize performance and battery life, Google emphasized on wise limits. This limits what apps can do in the background in three areas: location updates, services, and implicit broadcasts. Developers will now make use of this to prevent memory thrashing that consumes a lot of battery. With the OS optimizations, the boot time for Android O devices will now be twice as fast which will also allow future apps to launch faster.
  • Developer Tools: Google also announced the new Play Console Dashboards for Android developers to help monitor and identify issues that may compromise app performance, like battery drain, slow UI, and app crashes. It will take developers to exactly where a problem occurred and will provide guidance to fix it. This means, developers will now be creating applications that crash less and provide users an optimized experience.

Google knows very well how important is your phone’s security. And to secure your phone even better, Google announced the Google Play Protect. This suite of services secures applications that are installed on an Android device with PlayStore access. Google’s machine learning system spots if an application’s behavior is unusual and removes it from your device.

Android Go

Android Go

Factors like low connectivity, limited data storage, and hardware limitations of low end mobile phones are obstacles for app developers who create products for users who use devices with these limitations. The launch of Android Go will help developers capture emerging Android markets such as rural areas with low connectivity.

  • Optimized version of the OS: A more optimized version of the Android OS that will run smoothly on entry level devices (low cost devices with limited connectivity and data storage) starting with Android O.
  • Optimized apps: A set of optimized Google apps that use less memory and will be able to run on entry level devices. An example is the new YouTube Go app (yet to be launched) for users with limited data connectivity.
  • A Version of the Play Store: To invite developers to create optimized versions of apps that can run on low end devices.
Instant Apps

Google Instant Apps

An update that will improve app sharing and discovery, Google’s Instant Apps was launched in last year’s I/O event but it’s now available for all developers. This is a pretty big development for Android developers since it will give their apps more exposure than what a few screen shots and a summary can accomplish.

  • App Preview without installation: Allows developers to create instant usable previews that allow users to run their apps immediately.
  • Access through URL: Users can use resources like URLs, social media and other links to access these previews without needing to install the apps.

Would developers need to build two different Android applications now? Not at all. Developers would maintain one project with a single source tree. They would just need to create two builds; an Instant App version and an installable version. The Android Instant Apps use the same project, same APIs, and even the same source code. It just restricts some features that don’t match expectations of a user – for example the services which run in the background.

Kotlin

Kotlin Android Programming Language

Kotlin is a new Programming Language for Android that works seamlessly with Java (similar to how Swift works with Objective C on iOS). In all, the new language aims to improve developer productivity.

  • Easily adoptable: Kotlin can use all libraries and frameworks in Java.
  • Easily learn-able: Kotlin has a readable and intuitive syntax which makes it easy to learn.
  • Open Source: Kotlin is an open source language which means it costs developers nothing to adopt.

Google also plans to partner with JetBrains for new Android developers to create a foundation for Kotlin.

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What’s New In VR & AR Field?

Google AR and VR

  • Samsung S8 will support Daydreams: Last year, Google launched a mobile phone powered VR headset, the Daydream View. In the keynote, the company revealed that the Samsung S8 will be updated to make it Daydream compatible.
  • Google New Standalone Headset for VR: To enhance Daydream experiences, Google plans to launch standalone VR headsets. With everything for VR built right into the headset, Google gives developers the chance to optimize everything from the display to the optics and sensors to give users more realistic virtual experiences.
  • Tango: The second generation of Tango AR devices come with Google’s new VPS (Visual Positioning Service). Just as GPS establishes a user’s location outdoors and guides him to a location, VPS does the same indoors by guiding users to specific location or product indoors. For developers, this creates a lot of possibilities for creating new applications, such as apps that have camera based interfaces.
  • Google Expeditions: Google launched Expeditions two years ago, a VR teaching tool which allowed teachers to take students through virtual reality tours. The launch of AR mode in Expeditions, developers will have more opportunities to create engaging applications for AR environments.
What’s New In AI Field

Google AI

Over the last few years, we have seen a lot of advancements in artificial intelligence regarding image recognition, voice recognition and machine learning. The fact that programs can help computers now understand images and videos as well has profound implications for developers. In its I/O conference, Google launched three innovations to this effect:

  • Image Recognition in Google Lens: Google’s new initiative, Google Lens, is a set of vision based computing capabilities that use image recognition and machine learning to make users understand what they see through mobile phone cameras and take required actions easily.
  • Google Home & Assistant: Assistant capabilities like Hands free calling and Proactive Assistance will now be available for iOS users giving iOS developers chance to take advantage of the new innovation.
  • Tensor Flow Lite: A new version of Tensor Flow (an open source software library for machine learning) Tensor Flow Lite was announced. The new version is optimized for mobile and provides the benefits of machine learning across the Android ecosystem. It’s a good way for Android to bring artificial intelligence into apps.
Wrapping Up

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