Monthly Archives: June 2014

New in Android: L Developer Preview and Google Play Services 5.0

By Jamal Eason, Product Manager, Android

Earlier today, at Google I/O, we showed a number of projects we’ve been working on to the thousands of developers in the audience and the millions more tuning in on the livestream. These projects extend Android to the TV (Android TV), to the car (Android Auto) and to wearables (Android Wear), among others.

At Google, our focus is providing a seamless experience for users across all of the screens in their lives. An important component to that is making sure that you as developers have all of the tools necessary to easily deploy your apps across to those screens. Increasingly, Android is becoming the fabric that weaves these experiences together, which is why you’ll be excited about a number of things we unveiled today.

Android L Developer Preview

For the first time since we launched Android, we’re giving you early access to a development version of an upcoming release. The L Developer Preview, available starting tomorrow, lets you explore many of the new features and capabilities of the next version of Android, and offers everything you need to get started developing and testing on the new platform. This is important because the platform is evolving in a significant way — not only for mobile but also moving beyond phones and tablets. Here are a few of the highlights for developers:

  • Material design for the multiscreen world — We’ve been working on a new design language at Google that takes a comprehensive approach to visual, motion, and interaction design across a number of platforms and form factors. Material design is a new aesthetic for designing apps in today’s multi-device world. The L Developer Preview brings material design to Android, with a full set of tools for your apps. The system is incredibly flexible, allowing your app to express its individual character and brand with bold colors and a variety of responsive UI patterns and themeable elements.
  • Enhanced notifications — New lockscreen notifications let you surface content, updates, and actions to users at a glance, without unlocking. Visibility controls let you manage the types of information shown on the lockscreen. Heads-up notifications display content and actions in a small floating window that’s managed by the system, no matter which app is in the foreground. Notifications are material themed and you can express your brand through accent colors and more.
  • Document-centric Recents — Now you can organize your app by tasks and present these concurrently as individual “documents” in the Recents screen. Users can flip through Recents to find the specific task they want and then jump deep into your app with a single tap.
  • Project Volta — New tools and APIs help your app run efficiently and conserve power. Battery Historian is a new tool that lets you visualize power events over time and understand how your app is using battery. A job scheduler API lets you set the conditions under which your background tasks and other jobs should run, such as when the device is idle or connected to an unmetered to a charger, to minimize battery impact.
  • BLE Peripheral Mode — Android devices can now function in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) peripheral mode. Apps can use this capability to broadcast their presence to nearby devices — for example, you can now build apps that let a device to function as a pedometer or health monitor and transmit data to another BLE device.
  • Multi-networking — Apps can work with the system to dynamically scan for available networks with specific capabilities and then automatically connect. This is useful when you want to manage handoffs or connect to a specialized network, such as a carrier-billing network.
  • Advanced camera capabilities — A new camera API gives you new capabilities for image capture and processing. On supported devices, your app can capture uncompressed YUV capture at full 8 megapixel resolution at 30 FPS. The API also lets you capture raw sensor data and control parameters such as exposure time, ISO sensitivity, and frame duration, on a per-frame basis.
  • New features for game developers — Support for OpenGL ES 3.1, gives you capabilities such as compute shaders, stencil textures, and texture gather for your games. Android Extension Pack (AEP) is a new set of extensions to OpenGL ES that bring desktop-class graphics to Android. Games will be able to take advantage of tessellation and geometry shaders, and use ASTC texture compression across multiple GPU techonolgies.
  • Android Runtime (ART) — The L Developer Preview introduces the Android Runtime (ART) as the system default. ART offers ahead-of-time (AOT) compilation, more efficient garbage collection, and improved development and debugging features. In many cases it improves performance of the device with no action required by the developer.
  • 64-bit support — The L Developer Preview adds support for 64-bit ABIs, for additional address space and improved performance with certain compute workloads. Apps written in the Java language can run immediately on 64-bit architectures with no modifications required. To support apps using native code, we’re also releasing an updated NDK that includes 64-bit support.

Watch for more details coming out tomorrow (26 June) on what’s in the L Developer Preview and how to get it.

Google Play Services 5.0

Along with the L Developer Preview, we also announced a new version of Google Play services that brings new capabilities and the latest optimizations to devices across the Android ecosystem. Google Play services ensures that you can build on the latest features from Google for your users, with the confidence that those services will work properly everywhere. The latest version has begun rolling out and here are some of the highlights:

  • Services for Android wearables — Your apps can more easily communicate and sync with code running on Android wearables through an automatically synchronized, persistent data store and a reliable messaging interface.
  • Play Games services — Build a great gaming experience with Quests, which allow event-based challenges for players to complete for rewards, Saved Games (a snapshot API allow synchronization of game data along with a cover-image and description), and Game Profile (providing experience points for players).
  • App Indexing API — Surface deep content in your native mobile applications on Google search and drive additional user engagement.
  • Google Cast — Use media tracks to enable closed-caption support for Chromecast.
  • Drive — Sort query results, create offline folders, and select any mime type in the file picker by default.
  • Wallet — Build a "Save to Wallet" button for offers directly into your app; use geo-fenced in-store notifications to prompt the user to show and scan digital cards. Split tender allows payment to be split between Wallet Balance and a credit/debit card in Google Wallet.
  • Analytics — Get insights into the full user journey and understand how different user acquisition campaigns are performing with Enhanced Ecommerce, letting you measure product impressions, product clicks, and more.
  • Mobile Ads — Use improved in-app purchase ads and integrations for the Play store in-app purchase API client.
  • Dynamic Security Provider — Offers an alternative to the platform's secure networking APIs that can be updated more frequently, for faster delivery of security patches.

We expect the rollout of Google Play services 5.0 to take several days, after which time you’ll be able to get started developing with these new APIs.

Join us at the Google I/O sessions

If you’d like to learn more, join us for sessions on Android development, material design, game development, and more. You’ll find the full session list on the Google I/O 2014 site, and you can filter the schedule to find livestreamed sessions of interest.

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Removal of Quickoffice from Google Play and App Store

With the integration of Quickoffice into the Google Docs, Sheets and Slides apps, the Quickoffice app will be unpublished from Google Play and the App Store in the coming weeks. Existing users with the app can continue to use it, but no features will be added and new users will not be able to install the app.

Release track:
Rapid release and Scheduled release

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Integration of Quickoffice into Google Sheets mobile apps for Android and iOS

Quickoffice will be integrated into the Google Sheets app, allowing for seamless editing of Microsoft Excel files. This is available now on Android and is coming soon on iOS. Release track:
Rapid release and Scheduled release (Note: the update will gradually roll out to users over the coming days) For more information: Google Drive blog postHelp Center articleGet the Google Sheets app on Google Play

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Integration of Quickoffice into Google Docs mobile apps for Android and iOS

Quickoffice will be integrated into the Google Docs app, allowing for seamless editing of Microsoft Word files. This is available now on Android and is coming soon on iOS. Release track: Rapid release and Scheduled release (Note: the update will gradually roll out to users over the coming days)
For more information: Google Drive blog postHelp Center articleGet the Google Docs app on Google Play
Get the Google Docs app in the App Store

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Google Slides mobile app for Android & iOS, with PowerPoint editing

As previously announced, the new Google Slides mobile app is now ready for launch on Android (with iOS coming soon), making it easier for you to quickly find, edit and create presentations on the go -- online or offline. The Slides app includes support for editing PowerPoint via Quickoffice, so you don’t have to worry about file compatibility, it all just works. This is available now on Android and is coming soon on iOS. Release track: Rapid release and Scheduled release For more information: Google Drive blog postHelp Center article
Get the Google Slides app on Google Play

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Suggested edits in Google Docs

Now in Google Docs, any user with "can comment" access to a document will be able to make suggested edits to the document. The suggested edits will appear in the document along with a comment explaining the edit. Those with "can edit" permission will be able to accept or reject those suggested edits. Those with "can view" access will not be able to see suggested edits (until they are accepted). Viewers will also no longer be able to see regular comments, which is a change from today.

Release track:
Rapid release, with Scheduled release coming soon

For more information:
Google Drive blog post

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Introducing Google Apps Vault for Drive

Vault’s robust functionality now includes another data source—Drive—so that organizations can find even more business-critical content. Vault for Drive comes at no additional cost for Vault customers and works with existing Drive content in users’ accounts. Postini customers transitioning to Vault will also be able to use Vault for Drive at no additional cost once the transition is complete.

With Vault for Drive, organizations can search for specific users’ Drive files (including both Google documents and other stored files), preview search results in Vault to make sure customers find just what they need and create copies of search results and export them for future use.

Setting retention policies, creating holds, and conducting domain-wide searches for Drive content are not available at this time.

Release track:
Rapid release and Scheduled release

For more information:
https://support.google.com/vault/answer/6049740

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Activity view, link sharing and more in the new Google Drive mobile apps

The Google Drive mobile apps for Android and iOS now have a cleaner design, more responsive animations, and faster background syncing. Sharing your files is also simpler and faster. Key features include:

  • Activity view: a stream of changes to your files and folders, accessible through the details panel
  • Link sharing: easily share files and folders directly from the mobile app using a link
The new version of the app is available now on Android and iOS. Release track: Rapid release and Scheduled release For more information: Get the Google Drive app on Google Play
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A faster, redesigned Google Drive

Google Drive will have a new look and speedier performance on the desktop, making organizing and sharing files faster and easier than ever. Users can now right click on a file to see recent activity, set sharing permissions, and enable files to be accessed while offline. When selecting multiple files, users can take actions on the entire group in three ways—right click on the selection, use the menu above the file area, or simply drag the group to move to a new folder location.

This new version is rolling out progressively to rapid release domains, who can opt-in and try the new features and interface. Scheduled release domains will be able to opt-in soon. The plan is to rollout the new Drive interface to everyone in the near future.

Release track:
Rapid release, with Scheduled release coming soon

For more information:
Learn how to opt-in

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Games at Google I/O ’14: Everyone’s Playing Games

By Greg Hartrell, Product Manager, Google Play games

With Google I/O ‘14 here, we see Android and Google Play as a huge opportunity for game developers: 3 in 4 Android users are playing games, and with over one billion active Android users around the world, games are reaching and delighting almost everyone.

At Google, we see a great future where mobile and cloud services bring games to all the screens in your life and connect you with others. Today we announced a number of games related launches and upcoming technologies across Google Play Games, the Android platform and its new form factors.

Google Play Games

At last year’s Google I/O, we announced Google Play Games -- Google’s online game platform, with services and user experiences designed to bring players together and take Android and mobile games to the next level.

Google Play Games has grown at tremendous speed, activating 100 million users in the past 6 months. It’s the fastest growing mobile game network, and with such an incredible response, we announced more awesome enhancements to Google Play Games today.

Game Profile

The Play Games app now gives players a Game Profile, where they earn points and vanity titles from unlocking achievements. Players can also compare their profile with friends. Developers can benefit from this meta-game by continuing to design great achievements that reward players for exploring all the content and depth of their game.

Quests and Saved Games

Two new game services will launch with the next update for Google Play Services on Android, and through the Play Games iOS SDK:

  • Quests is a service that enables developers to create online, time-based goals in their games without having to launch an update each time. Now developers can easily run weekend or daily challenges for their player community, and reward them in unique ways.
  • Saved Games is a service that stores a player’s game progress across many screens, along with a cover image, description and total time played. Players never have to play level 1 again by having their progress stored with Google, and cover images and descriptions are used in Play Games experiences to indicate where they left off and attract them to launch their favorite game again.

We have many great partners who have started integrating Quests and Saved Games, here are just a few current or upcoming games.

More tools for game developers

Other developer tools are now available for Play Games, including:

  • Play Games Statistics — Play Games adopters get easy effort game analytics through the Google Play Developer console today, including visualization of Player & Engagement statistics. What’s new is aggregated player demographic information for signed-in users, so you can understand the distribution of your player’s ages, genders and countries.
  • Play Games C++ SDK is updated with more cross-platform support for the new services and experiences we announced. Cocos2D-x, a popular game engine, is an early adopter of the Play Games C++ SDK bringing the power of Play Games to their developers.

Game enhancements for the Android Platform

With the announcement of the developer preview of the Android L-release, there are some new platform capabilities that will make Android an even more compelling platform for game development.

  • Support for OpenGL ES 3.1 in the L Developer Preview — Introducing powerful features like compute shaders, stencil textures, and texture gather, enables more interesting physics or pixel effects on mobile devices. Additional API and shading language improvements improve usability and reduce overhead.
  • Android Extension Pack (AEP) in the L Developer Preview — a new set of extensions to OpenGL ES that bring desktop class graphics to Android. Games will be able to take advantage of tessellation and geometry shaders, and use ASTC texture compression.

    We're pleased to be working with different GPU vendors to adopt AEP including Nvidia, ARM, Qualcomm, and Imagination Technologies.

  • Google Gamepad standards — We recently published a standard for gamepad input for OEMs and partners who create and enable these awesome input devices on Android. The standard makes this input mechanism compatible across Google platforms on Android, Chrome and Chromebooks. You can learn more here: Supporting Game Controllers.

Play Games on Android TV

And Google's game network is a part of the Android TV announcement — so think of Android on a TV, with a rich interface on a large screen, and fun games in your living room! Players will be able to earn achievements, climb leaderboards and play online with friends from an Android TV. This is only available through the developer preview, so game developers seeking a hardware development kit (the ADT-1) can make a request at http://developer.android.com/tv.

Updates rolling out soon

That’s a lot of games announcements! Our Play Games changes will roll out over the next few weeks with the update of Google Play Services and the Play Games App, and Android L-release changes are part of the announced developer preview. This gets us a big step closer to a world where Android and our cloud services enable games to reach all the screens in your life and connect you with others.

Greg Hartrell is the lead product manager for Google Play Games: Google's game platform that helps developers reach and unite millions of players. Before joining Google, he was VP of Product Development at Capcom/Beeline, and prior to that, led product development for 8 years at Microsoft for Xbox Live/360 and other consumer and enterprise product lines. In his spare time, he enjoys flying birds through plumbing structures, boss battles and pulling rare objects out of mystery boxes.

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