Tag Archives: Android

Android and Google Play Security Rewards Programs surpass $3M in payouts

Posted by Jason Woloz and Mayank Jain, Android Security & Privacy Team

Our Android and Play security reward programs help us work with top researchers from around the world to improve Android ecosystem security every day. Thank you to all the amazing researchers who submitted vulnerability reports.

Android Security Rewards

In the ASR program's third year, we received over 470 qualifying vulnerability reports from researchers and the average pay per researcher jumped by 23%. To date, the ASR program has rewarded researchers with over $3M, paying out roughly $1M per year.

Here are some of the highlights from the Android Security Rewards program's third year:

  • There were no payouts for our highest possible reward: a complete remote exploit chain leading to TrustZone or Verified Boot compromise.
  • 99 individuals contributed one or more fixes.
  • The ASR program's reward averages were $2,600 per reward and $12,500 per researcher.
  • Guang Gong received our highest reward amount to date: $105,000 for his submission of a remote exploit chain.

As part of our ongoing commitment to security we regularly update our programs and policies based on ecosystem feedback. We also updated our severity guidelines for evaluating the impact of reported security vulnerabilities against the Android platform.

Google Play Security Rewards

In October 2017, we rolled out the Google Play Security Reward Program to encourage security research into popular Android apps available on Google Play. So far, researchers have reported over 30 vulnerabilities through the program, earning a combined bounty amount of over $100K.

If undetected, these vulnerabilities could have potentially led to elevation of privilege, access to sensitive data and remote code execution on devices.

Keeping devices secure

In addition to rewarding for vulnerabilities, we continue to work with the broad and diverse Android ecosystem to protect users from issues reported through our program. We collaborate with manufacturers to ensure that these issues are fixed on their devices through monthly security updates. Over 250 device models have a majority of their deployed devices running a security update from the last 90 days. This table shows the models with a majority of deployed devices running a security update from the last three months:

Manufacturer Device
ANS L50
Asus ZenFone 5Z (ZS620KL/ZS621KL), ZenFone Max Plus M1 (ZB570TL), ZenFone 4 Pro (ZS551KL), ZenFone 5 (ZE620KL), ZenFone Max M1 (ZB555KL), ZenFone 4 (ZE554KL), ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro (ZD552KL), ZenFone 3 (ZE552KL), ZenFone 3 Zoom (ZE553KL), ZenFone 3 (ZE520KL), ZenFone 3 Deluxe (ZS570KL), ZenFone 4 Selfie (ZD553KL), ZenFone Live L1 (ZA550KL), ZenFone 5 Lite (ZC600KL), ZenFone 3s Max (ZC521TL)
BlackBerry BlackBerry MOTION, BlackBerry KEY2
Blu Grand XL LTE, Vivo ONE, R2_3G, Grand_M2, BLU STUDIO J8 LTE
bq Aquaris V Plus, Aquaris V, Aquaris U2 Lite, Aquaris U2, Aquaris X, Aquaris X2, Aquaris X Pro, Aquaris U Plus, Aquaris X5 Plus, Aquaris U lite, Aquaris U
Docomo F-04K, F-05J, F-03H
Essential Products PH-1
Fujitsu F-01K
General Mobile GM8, GM8 Go
Google Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 2, Pixel XL, Pixel
HTC U12+, HTC U11+
Huawei Honor Note10, nova 3, nova 3i, Huawei Nova 3I, 荣耀9i, 华为G9青春版, Honor Play, G9青春版, P20 Pro, Honor V9, huawei nova 2, P20 lite, Honor 10, Honor 8 Pro, Honor 6X, Honor 9, nova 3e, P20, PORSCHE DESIGN HUAWEI Mate RS, FRD-L02, HUAWEI Y9 2018, Huawei Nova 2, Honor View 10, HUAWEI P20 Lite, Mate 9 Pro, Nexus 6P, HUAWEI Y5 2018, Honor V10, Mate 10 Pro, Mate 9, Honor 9, Lite, 荣耀9青春版, nova 2i, HUAWEI nova 2 Plus, P10 lite, nova 青春版本, FIG-LX1, HUAWEI G Elite Plus, HUAWEI Y7 2018, Honor 7S, HUAWEI P smart, P10, Honor 7C, 荣耀8青春版, HUAWEI Y7 Prime 2018, P10 Plus, 荣耀畅玩7X, HUAWEI Y6 2018, Mate 10 lite, Honor 7A, P9 Plus, 华为畅享8, honor 6x, HUAWEI P9 lite mini, HUAWEI GR5 2017, Mate 10
Itel P13
Kyocera X3
Lanix Alpha_950, Ilium X520
Lava Z61, Z50
LGE LG Q7+, LG G7 ThinQ, LG Stylo 4, LG K30, V30+, LG V35 ThinQ, Stylo 2 V, LG K20 V, ZONE4, LG Q7, DM-01K, Nexus 5X, LG K9, LG K11
Motorola Moto Z Play Droid, moto g(6) plus, Moto Z Droid, Moto X (4), Moto G Plus (5th Gen), Moto Z (2) Force, Moto G (5S) Plus, Moto G (5) Plus, moto g(6) play, Moto G (5S), moto e5 play, moto e(5) play, moto e(5) cruise, Moto E4, Moto Z Play, Moto G (5th Gen)
Nokia Nokia 8, Nokia 7 plus, Nokia 6.1, Nokia 8 Sirocco, Nokia X6, Nokia 3.1
OnePlus OnePlus 6, OnePlus5T, OnePlus3T, OnePlus5, OnePlus3
Oppo CPH1803, CPH1821, CPH1837, CPH1835, CPH1819, CPH1719, CPH1613, CPH1609, CPH1715, CPH1861, CPH1831, CPH1801, CPH1859, A83, R9s Plus
Positivo Twist, Twist Mini
Samsung Galaxy A8 Star, Galaxy J7 Star, Galaxy Jean, Galaxy On6, Galaxy Note9, Galaxy J3 V, Galaxy A9 Star, Galaxy J7 V, Galaxy S8 Active, Galaxy Wide3, Galaxy J3 Eclipse, Galaxy S9+, Galaxy S9, Galaxy A9 Star Lite, Galaxy J7 Refine, Galaxy J7 Max, Galaxy Wide2, Galaxy J7(2017), Galaxy S8+, Galaxy S8, Galaxy A3(2017), Galaxy Note8, Galaxy A8+(2018), Galaxy J3 Top, Galaxy J3 Emerge, Galaxy On Nxt, Galaxy J3 Achieve, Galaxy A5(2017), Galaxy J2(2016), Galaxy J7 Pop, Galaxy A6, Galaxy J7 Pro, Galaxy A6 Plus, Galaxy Grand Prime Pro, Galaxy J2 (2018), Galaxy S6 Active, Galaxy A8(2018), Galaxy J3 Pop, Galaxy J3 Mission, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy Note Fan Edition, Galaxy J7 Prime, Galaxy A5(2016)
Sharp シンプルスマホ4, AQUOS sense plus (SH-M07), AQUOS R2 SH-03K, X4, AQUOS R SH-03J, AQUOS R2 SHV42, X1, AQUOS sense lite (SH-M05)
Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium, Xperia XZ2 Compact, Xperia XA2, Xperia XA2 Ultra, Xperia XZ1 Compact, Xperia XZ2, Xperia XZ Premium, Xperia XZ1, Xperia L2, Xperia X
Tecno F1, CAMON I Ace
Vestel Vestel Z20
Vivo vivo 1805, vivo 1803, V9 6GB, Y71, vivo 1802, vivo Y85A, vivo 1726, vivo 1723, V9, vivo 1808, vivo 1727, vivo 1724, vivo X9s Plus, Y55s, vivo 1725, Y66, vivo 1714, 1609, 1601
Vodafone Vodafone Smart N9
Xiaomi Mi A2, Mi A2 Lite, MI 8, MI 8 SE, MIX 2S, Redmi 6Pro, Redmi Note 5 Pro, Redmi Note 5, Mi A1, Redmi S2, MI MAX 2, MI 6X
ZTE BLADE A6 MAX

Thank you to everyone internally and externally who helped make Android safer and stronger in the past year. Together, we made a huge investment in security research that helps Android users everywhere. If you want to get involved to make next year even better, check out our detailed program rules. For tips on how to submit complete reports, see Bug Hunter University.

Notifying your users with FCM

Posted by Jingyu Shi, Developer Advocate, Partner Devrel

This is the second in a series of blog posts in which outline strategies and guidance in Android with regard to power.

Notifications are a powerful channel you can use to keep your app's users connected and updated. Android provides Notification APIs to create and post notifications on the device, but quite often these notifications are triggered by external events and sent to your app from your app server.

In this blog post, we'll explain when and how to generate these remote notifications to provide timely updates to users and minimize battery drain.

Use FCM for remote notifications

We recommend using Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM) to send remote notifications to Android devices. FCM is a free, cross-platform messaging solution that reliably delivers hundreds of billions of messages per day. It is primarily used to send remote notifications and to notify client applications that data is available to sync. If you still use Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) or the C2DM library , both of which are deprecated, it's time to upgrade to FCM!

There are two types of FCM messages you can choose from:

  • Notification Messages, which simplify notification handling and are high priority by default.
  • Data Messages, for when you want to handle the FCM messages within the client app.

You can set the priority to either high or normal on the data messages. You can find out more about FCM messages and message handling in this blog post on Firebase Blog.

FCM is optimized to work with Android power management features. Using the appropriate message priority and type helps you reach your users in a timely manner, and also helps save their battery. Learn more about power management features in this blog post: "Moar Power in P and the future".

To notify or not?

All of the notifications that you send should be well-structured and actionable, as well as provide timely and relevant information to your users. We recommend that you follow these notification guidelines, and avoid spamming your users. No one wants to be distracted by irrelevant or poorly-structured notifications. If your app behaves like this, your users may block the notifications or even uninstall your app.

The When not to use a notification section of the Material Design documentation for notifications highlights cases where you should not send your user a notification. For example, a common use case for a normal priority FCM Data Message is to tell the app when there's content ready for sync, which requires no user interaction. The sync should happen quietly in the background, with no need for a notification, and you can use the WorkManager1 or JobScheduler API to schedule the sync.

Post a notification first

If you are sending remote notifications, you should always post the notification as soon as possible upon receiving the FCM message. Adding any additional network requests before posting a notification will lead to delayed notifications for some of your users. When not handled properly, the notifications might not be seen at all, see the "avoid background service" section below.


⚠️ Avoid adding any additional network requests before posting a notification

Also keep in mind that, depending on the state of the device, user actions, and app behavior, one or many power saving features could be restricting your app's background work. As a result, your app's jobs and alarms might be delayed, and its ability to access the network might be restricted.

For all of these reasons, to ensure timely delivery of the notification, you should always show the notification promptly when the FCM message is received, before any other work like network fetch or scheduling jobs.

FCM message payload is your friend

To post a notification upon the receipt of an FCM message, you should include all the data needed for the notification in the FCM message payload.

The same applies to data sync--we recommend that your app send as much data as possible in the FCM payload and, if needed, load the remainder of the data when the app opens. On a well-performing network, there's a good chance that the data will be synced by the time the user opens the app so the spinner won't be shown to the user. If network connectivity is not good, a notification will be sent to the user with the content in the FCM payload to inform the user in a timely manner. The user can then open the app to load all the data.

You can also encrypt FCM messages end-to-end using libraries like Capillary. The image below shows a general flow of how to handle FCM messages.

Need more data?

As convenient as FCM message payload is, it comes with a 4KB maximum limit. If you need to send a rich notification with an image attachment, or you want to improve your user experience by keeping your app in sync with media content, you may need more than the 4KB payload limit. For this, we recommend using FCM messages in combination with the WorkManager 1 or JobScheduler API.

If you need to post a rich notification, we recommend posting the notification first, with some of the content in the FCM message. Then schedule a job to fetch the remainder of the content. Once the job is finished, update the notification if it is still active. For example, you can include a thumbnail or preview of the content in the FCM payload and post it in the notification first. Then schedule a job to fetch the rest of the media files. Be aware that if you've scheduled jobs from the FCM message handler, it is possible that when the user launches the app, the scheduled job won't have finished yet. You should handle this case gracefully.

In short, use the data in the FCM message payload to post a notification and keep your app content updated first. If you still need more data, then schedule jobs with APIs like WorkManager 1 or JobScheduler API.

Avoid background services

One common pitfall is using a background service to fetch data in the FCM message handler, since background service will be stopped by the system per recent changes to Google Play Policy (Starting late 2018, Google Play will require a minimum target API level ).

Android 9 Pie will also impose background execution limits when battery saver is on. Starting a background service will lead to IllegalStateException from a normal priority FCM message. High priority messages do grant you a short whitelist window that allows you to start a background service. However, starting a background service with a network call will put the service at risk of getting terminated by the system, because the short execution window is only intended to be used for posting a notification.

You should avoid using background services but use WorkManager 1 or JobScheduler API instead to perform operations in the background.

Power & message priority

Android 6 Marshmallow introduced Doze. FCM is optimized to work with Doze, and you can use high priority FCM messages to notify your users immediately. In Doze mode, normal priority messages are deferred to a maintenance window. This enables the system to save battery when a device is idle, but still ensure users receive time-critical notifications. Consider an instant messaging app that sends users messages from friends or incoming phone calls or a home monitoring app sends users alarm notifications. These are some of the acceptable examples where you can use high priority FCM messages.

In addition, Android 9 Pie introduced App Standby Buckets and App Restrictions.

The table below shows how various power-management features affect message delivery behaviors.

High priority message delivery Normal priority message delivery
App in Foreground Immediate, unless app is restricted (see below) Immediate, unless app is restricted (see below)
App in Background
Device in Doze (M+) and Doze "on the go" (N+) Immediate Deferred until maintenance window
App Standby Buckets (P+) May be restricted No restriction
App Restrictions (P+) All messages dropped (see below) All messages dropped (see below)
Battery Saver No restriction No restriction


★ Note: Starting January 2019, App Restrictions (in Battery Setting) will include restrictions on FCM messages. You can find out if your app is in the restricted state with the isBackgroundRestricted API. Once your app is in the restricted state, no FCM messages will be delivered to the app at all. This will apply to both high and normal priority FCM messages and when app is in either foreground or background.

App Standby Buckets impose different levels of restrictions based on the app's standby bucket. Based on which bucket your app belongs to, there might be a cap for the number of high priority messages you are allowed to send per day. Once you reach the cap, any subsequent high priority messages will be downgraded to normal priority. See more details in the power management restrictions.

High priority FCM messages are designed to send remote notifications or trigger actions that involve user interactions. As long as you always use high priority messages for these purposes, your high priority messages will be delivered immediately and remote notifications will be displayed without delay. In addition, when a notification from a high priority message causes a user to open your app, the app gets promoted to the active bucket, which exempts it from FCM caps. The example below shows an instant messaging app moving to the active bucket after the user taps on a notification triggered by a high priority FCM message.

However, if you use high priority messages to send notifications to the blocked notification channels or tasks which do not involve user interactions, you will run the risk of wasting the high priority messages allocated in your app's bucket. Once reaching the cap, you won't be able to send urgent notifications anymore.

In summary, you should only use high priority FCM messages to deliver immediate, time-critical notifications to users. Doing so will ensure these messages and subsequent high priority messages reach your users without getting downgraded. You should use normal priority messages to trigger events that do not require immediate execution, such as a notification that is not time-sensitive or a data sync in the background.

Test with Android 9!

We highly recommend that you test your apps under all of the power management features mentioned above. To learn more about handling FCM messages on Android in your code, visit the Firebase blog.

Thank you for helping move the ecosystem forward, making better Android apps, and saving users' batteries!

Acknowledgements: This blog posts is in joint collaboration with FCM and Android teams.

1 WorkManager is the recommended solution for background processing once it's stable.

Moar Power in Android 9 Pie and the future

Posted by Madan Ankapura, Product Manager, Android

This is the first in a series of blog posts that outline strategies and guidance in Android with regard to power.

Your users care a lot about battery -- if it runs out too quickly, it means they can't use your apps. Being a good steward of battery power is an important part of your relationship with the user, and we're continuing to add features to the platform that can help you accomplish this.

As part of our announced Play policy about improving app security and performance, an app's target API level must be no more than one year older than the current Android release. Keeping the target API level current will ensure that apps can take advantage of security and performance enhancements offered in the latest platform releases. When you update your app's target API level, it's important that you evaluate your background and foreground needs, which could have a significant impact on power & performance.

Past releases of Android included a number of features that helped manage battery life better, like:

  • Job Scheduler in Android 5.0 Lollipop, which allows deferring work
  • Doze and App Standby in Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which disables network access and suspends syncs and background work - when device or apps are unused for a prolonged period.
  • Doze improvements in Android 7.0 Nougat, which applies a subset of Doze restrictions when the screen is off and not stationary.
  • Background limits in Android 8.0 Oreo, which prevent background services and throttle location updates.

In Android 9 Pie, we made further improvements based on these three principles:

  1. Developers want to build cool apps
  2. Apps need to be power-efficient
  3. Users don't want to be bothered to configure app settings

This means that the OS needs to be smarter and adapt to user preferences while improving the battery life of the device. To address these needs, we have introduced App Standby Buckets, Background Restrictions, and improved Battery Saver. Please test your app with these features enabled on a device running Android 9 Pie.

Battery Saver and Doze operate on a device-wide level, while Adaptive Battery (app standby buckets powered by a Deepmind ML model) and background restrictions operate on a per-app basis. The diagram below helps understand when a scheduled work will run.

As you update your apps to target Oreo or above, please review this checklist and follow the below table for background work

Currently Using Porting to Oreo
JobScheduler JobScheduler
Firebase JobDispatcher Firebase JobDispatcher
Background Service Jobscheduler
Foreground Service Foreground Service with action to STOP service

Note: when the WorkManager API becomes stable, we will be recommending WorkManager for most of these use cases

We recommend the following strategy given the importance for app developers to invest in the right design patterns and architecture:

  1. Do the needed work when the user is actively using the app
  2. Make any work/task that is done in the background deferrable
  3. Use foreground services but provide an action in the notification so user can stop the foreground service

Similarly, other OS primitives like alarms, network, and FCM messages also have constraints that are described in the developer documentation on power-management restrictions. You can learn more about each of these features via Google I/O presentation, DevByte and additional power optimization developer documentation.

We will be publishing a series of design pattern guidances in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned.

Acknowledgements: This series of blog posts is in joint collaboration with Android Framework and DevRel teams.

Making it easier to set up Android devices as company-owned

When employees set up their phones and tablets as company-owned devices, they give your organization full control over those devices—allowing you to apply policies regarding app installation, network settings, security options, and more. This helps protect your users and your corporate data.

If you have advanced mobile device management but don’t register your company-owned devices in the Admin console, your users must choose to set up their devices as company-owned.

To encourage more users to make this choice, we’ll start showing the screen below to all users who add their G Suite account to a new Android device before adding their personal account.

This change will start rolling out on September 19th, 2018; please note that it may take several weeks for it to take effect for all users.


Starting on September 19th, users will be asked if they own the device they’re setting up. Unless they explicitly state that they own the device personally, ownership will be auto-assigned to your organization.

Currently, your users only see this choice if your organization has Device Owner mode enabled. That option will disappear from the Admin console on September 19th.

Note that users will only see the screen and option above on new (and recently factory-reset) devices running Android 6.0 or higher.

Allowing users to install any app from the managed Google Play store

In addition to the change outlined above, we’re making it easier to install apps on company-owned Android devices and work profiles.

Currently, you have to actively whitelist apps to make them available to your users. Starting on September 19th, users with company-owned Android devices and work profiles will be allowed to install any app from the managed Google Play store by default. If you don’t want your users to do this, you can choose to restrict app availability to whitelisted apps.

Launch Details
Release track:
Launching to both Rapid Release and Scheduled Release on September 19th, 2018

Editions:
Available to all G Suite and Cloud Identity Premium editions

Rollout pace:
Extended rollout (potentially longer than 15 days for feature visibility)

Impact:
All end users

Action:
Change management suggested/FYI

More Information
Help Center: Set up Android devices your company owns


Launch release calendar
Launch detail categories
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Staged releases allow you to bring new features to your users quickly, safely and regularly.

Posted by Peter Armitage, Software Engineer, Google Play

Releasing a new version of your app is an exciting moment when your team's hard work finally gets into the hands of your users. However, releasing can also be challenging - you want to keep your existing users happy without introducing performance regressions or bugs. At Google I/O this year, we talked about staged releases as an essential part of how Google does app releases, allowing you to manage the inherent risks of a new release by making a new version of your app available to just a fraction of your users. You can then increase this fraction as you gain confidence that your new version works as expected. We are excited that starting today staged releases will be possible on testing tracks, as well as the production track.

We will take a closer look at how staged releases work, and how you can use them as part of your release process.

Advantages of a staged release

The first benefit of a staged release is that it only exposes a fraction of your users to the new version. If the new version contains a bug, only a small number of people will be inconvenienced by it. This is much safer than releasing a new version to all of your users at once.

Another benefit is that if you discover a bug, you can halt the rollout, preventing any new users from downloading that version. Instead, they will receive the previous version.

These capabilities should relieve a lot of the uncertainty of rolling out a new version. And that will allow you to do it more often. We encourage releasing versions of a server more often because it reduces the number of changes between each release, allowing you to more easily test and troubleshoot. The same principle applies to apps, though there will be a delay before most of your users upgrade to the latest version.

Staged releases as part of your normal release process

Let's look at a typical release process for an app with 100,000 users.

  1. Every Monday the developer builds a new version of the app from the latest version of the code that passes the automatic tests. They push the new release to Google Play's internal test track, and their QA team immediately starts testing it manually. Any bugs they find can be fixed and a new version can be built and pushed for them to re-check.
  2. On Tuesday, if the QA team have approved the latest release, it can be promoted to the app's alpha track. All the employees at the company have opted in to testing. Once the new release is pushed to the alpha track, the employees can download the new version. They can do this manually, or they may have auto-updates enabled, in which case they will probably update within a few hours.
  3. On Wednesday, if there are no reported issues with the release, they can promote the release to the production track and start a rollout at 10%. This means 10,000 users will have the opportunity to upgrade. Some will upgrade immediately, others will wait. The 10% of users that receive the app first are randomly selected, and the users will be randomly chosen each week.
  4. On Thursday, the developer checks the Play Console to see their crash reports, Android vitals, and feedback. If these all look good they can increase the rollout to 100%. All users will be able to upgrade to the new version.
  5. On Friday, the developer doesn't change anything, to ensure a stress-free weekend!

For big apps and small apps

Some apps are just starting out, and although there's no QA team, it's still worth testing the app on a few different devices before releasing it. Instead of having a track for employees, the developer has added their friends and family, who can contact them if they see an issue.

When an app gets larger and uses the open testing track, it may have 5,000 testers. These testers won't give public feedback on the Play store, but will be able to give feedback to the developer directly. If this app has 1 million users, they may first release to 1%, before going to 10%, then 100%.

Once an app becomes very popular, it could have over 100,000 testers. In that case the developer is now able to do a staged release on their testing track.

How to bounce back from issues

Bugs happen, and if you discover a problem with your new version you may want to halt the release. This will stop users from getting the new version, either by upgrading or installing for the first time. However, those who have already got the new version will not downgrade.

If the issue was not in the app itself, but on a server that the app communicates with, it may be best to fix the issue in the server, then resume the release. Resuming it allows some fraction of your users to access the new version again. This is the same set of users that were able to download the release before it was halted.

If the issue was in the app, you will have to fix it and release a new version. Or alternatively, you may choose to rebuild the previous version with a higher version code. Then you can start a staged release to the same set of users that the previous release went to.

API support

Staged releases are supported in v3 of the Play Console API on all tracks. Mark a release as "inProgress" and set a fraction of the population to target. For instance, to start a staged release to 5%:

{
  "releases": [{
      "versionCodes": ["99"],
      "userFraction": 0.05,
      "status": "inProgress"
  }]
}

Alternatively, if you release using the UI, it will suggest a fraction.

What next?

We hope you find these features useful and take advantage of them for successful updates with Google Play. If you're interested in some of the other great tools for distributing your apps, check out the I/O 2018 sessions, and learn more about test tracks and staged updates.

How useful did you find this blogpost?

Make the most of Notifications with the redesigned Wear OS by Google

Posted by Hoi Lam, Lead Developer Advocate, Wear OS by Google

Today we announced that we are evolving the design of Wear OS by Google to help you get the most out of your time - providing quicker access to your information and notifications. Notifications can come from the automatic bridging of the phone's notification or be generated by a local Wear app running on the watch. Whether you are a phone developer, a Wear app developer, or both, there are a few things you will need to know about the new notification stream.

The new notification stream

Until now, each notification took up the entire screen in Wear OS. Although this provided more space to include things like inline action, it also meant it took a long time for the user to go through all their notifications. The new notification stream is more compact, and can display multiple notifications on the same screen. This means users can process their notification streams more quickly.

What this means for developers

  • Concise notification content is even more important. The new unexpanded notification on Wear will show up to three lines of text. Because this is already more information than a single line unexpanded notification on the user's phone, if your notification works on the phone unexpanded, it should be fine on Wear.
  • Brand notification with color. The default title and icon color for notification is white. Developers can now convey their brand identities by customizing the color of the title and icon tint using setColor.
  • Custom notification layout will no longer be supported. Previously developers used setDisplayIntent to inflate a custom activity inside the notification stream. We have found that the custom layout often does not take into account of the device form factor, and is difficult to keep up to date as Wear OS's notification experience evolves. As a result, we will no longer support this in notifications.
  • Inline action is being reviewed. To save space, the new layout no longer display inline action in the stream and setHintDisplayActionInline will be ignored. Users can continue to access notification actions including inline action when they tap to expand the notification. Our design team is reviewing whether we should include inline action in a future release. As a result, before a decision is made, we are not deprecating the related APIs. We will keep the developer community updated in due course.

As always, the current best practices for notification still apply. In particular, for messaging apps developers, we strongly encourage the use of MessagingStyle notification and enabling on-device Smart Reply through setAllowGeneratedReplies.

We will start rolling these changes out in the next month, so watch for updates on your Wear OS by Google smartwatch!

Verifying your Google Assistant media action integrations on Android

Posted by Nevin Mital, Partner Developer Relations

The Media Controller Test (MCT) app is a powerful tool that allows you to test the intricacies of media playback on Android, and it's just gotten even more useful. Media experiences including voice interactions via the Google Assistant on Android phones, cars, TVs, and headphones, are powered by Android MediaSession APIs. This tool will help you verify your integrations. We've now added a new verification testing framework that can be used to help automate your QA testing.

The MCT is meant to be used in conjunction with an app that implements media APIs, such as the Universal Android Music Player. The MCT surfaces information about the media app's MediaController, such as the PlaybackState and Metadata, and can be used to test inter-app media controls.

The Media Action Lifecycle can be complex to follow; even in a simple Play From Search request, there are many intermediate steps (simplified timeline depicted below) where something could go wrong. The MCT can be used to help highlight any inconsistencies in how your music app handles MediaController TransportControl requests.

Timeline of the interaction between the User, the Google Assistant, and the third party Android App for a Play From Search request.

Previously, using the MCT required a lot of manual interaction and monitoring. The new verification testing framework offers one-click tests that you can run to ensure that your media app responds correctly to a playback request.

Running a verification test

To access the new verification tests in the MCT, click the Test button next to your desired media app.

MCT Screenshot of launch screen; contains a list of installed media apps, with an option to go to either the Control or Test view for each.

The next screen shows you detailed information about the MediaController, for example the PlaybackState, Metadata, and Queue. There are two buttons on the toolbar in the top right: the button on the left toggles between parsable and formatted logs, and the button on the right refreshes this view to display the most current information.

MCT Screenshot of the left screen in the Testing view for UAMP; contains information about the Media Controller's Playback State, Metadata, Repeat Mode, Shuffle Mode, and Queue.

By swiping to the left, you arrive at the verification tests view, where you can see a scrollable list of defined tests, a text field to enter a query for tests that require one, and a section to display the results of the test.

MCT Screenshot of the right screen in the Testing view for UAMP; contains a list of tests, a query text field, and a results display section.

As an example, to run the Play From Search Test, you can enter a search query into the text field then hit the Run Test button. Looks like the test succeeded!

MCT Screenshot of the right screen in the Testing view for UAMP; the Play From Search test was run with the query 'Memories' and ended successfully.

Below are examples of the Pause Test (left) and Seek To test (right).

MCT Screenshot of the right screen in the Testing view for UAMP; a Pause test was run successfully. MCT Screenshot of the right screen in the Testing view for UAMP; a Seek To test was run successfully.

Android TV

The MCT now also works on Android TV! For your media app to work with the Android TV version of the MCT, your media app must have a MediaBrowserService implementation. Please see here for more details on how to do this.

On launching the MCT on Android TV, you will see a list of installed media apps. Note that an app will only appear in this list if it implements the MediaBrowserService.

Android TV MCT Screenshot of the launch screen; contains a list of installed media apps that implement the MediaBrowserService.

Selecting an app will take you to the testing screen, which will display a list of verification tests on the right.

Android TV MCT Screenshot of the testing screen; contains a list of tests on the right side.

Running a test will populate the left side of the screen with selected MediaController information. For more details, please check the MCT logs in Logcat.

Android TV MCT Screenshot of the testing screen; the Pause test was run successfully and the left side of the screen now displays selected MediaController information.

Tests that require a query are marked with a keyboard icon. Clicking on one of these tests will open an input field for the query. Upon hitting Enter, the test will run.

Android TV MCT Screenshot of the testing screen; clicking on the Seek To test opened an input field for the query.

To make text input easier, you can also use the ADB command:

adb shell input text [query]

Note that '%s' will add a space between words. For example, the command adb shell input text hello%sworld will add the text "hello world" to the input field.

What's next

The MCT currently includes simple single-media-action tests for the following requests:

  • Play
  • Play From Search
  • Play From Media ID
  • Play From URI
  • Pause
  • Stop
  • Skip To Next
  • Skip To Previous
  • Skip To Queue Item
  • Seek To

For a technical deep dive on how the tests are structured and how to add more tests, visit the MCT GitHub Wiki. We'd love for you to submit pull requests with more tests that you think are useful to have and for any bug fixes. Please make sure to review the contributions process for more information.

Check out the latest updates on GitHub!

Exclusive new organic acquisition insights on the Google Play Console

Posted by Tom Grinsted, Product Manager, Google Play

We've updated the Play Console acquisition reports to give new insights into what users do on the Play Store to discover your app. It's a great way to super-charge your App Store Optimization (ASO) and onboarding experience.

One of the things every developer wants to know is how people discover their app or game. User acquisition reports in the Google Play Console are a great way to understand this. For many apps and games, a stand-out source is Organic traffic — it's usually the largest or second largest source of store listing visits and installs.

Organic traffic is made up of people who come to your store listing while exporting or searching the Play Store. These visitors might find your app in a seasonal collection, from featuring, or while searching for a specific use case or term.

Until recently, this traffic has been bundled together with no breakdown of data into user behavior. With our latest updates we have changed this by introducing new and exclusive acquisition insights to the Google Play Console. These enable you to understand what people in the Play Store do to discover your app or game. They reveal how many people discover your app through exploring the store, and how many search to find your app, and even the search terms they use!

App Store Optimization (ASO) is vital to driving your organic traffic and this update enables you to do this with more data and better understanding.

A new data breakdown

When you visit the user acquisition report, the first change you'll notice is that organic traffic is broken down. This breakdown means you can see how people arrive at your store listing by searching or exploring (actions that aren't search like browsing the homepage, visiting a category list, or viewing related apps).

This change has been of immediate benefit to developers, enabling their growth teams to optimize acquisition strategies. For example, Scopely found that:

"Isolating [explore] from search and then a deeper dive into search gives the whole organic picture. It allows us to focus on acquisition areas that really matter." Dorothee Pinlet, VP Partnerships, Scopely


Click through for more insights

From the new search row, you can click-through to see the aggregate number of people using different search terms to find your store listing, and which of those lead to the most installs. This breakdown is a view into the Play Store that has not been available before.

Our pilot partners, who helped us refine the feature ahead of launch, were very happy with how this data has helped them make more informed decisions.

For example, at Fun games for free:

"We were impressed by the relevance of the long tail searches."
Guilherme Major, Head of Organic Distribution and Business Development, Fun Games for Free

While Evernote found that the breakdown:

"... offers surprising and actionable insights about the effectiveness of search terms in driving installs and retained users."
May Allen, Product Manager, Evernote

Some partners changed their in-app onboarding experience to highlight features that reflected the search terms that were driving installs, to better meet user expectations. While others evaluated if their influencer marketing was having an impact by looking for their advocates' names in the search results after adding them to descriptions.

Better coverage

The new organic data also includes information about when people visiting the Play Store saw previews of your listings, not just when they visited your full page. People see these previews when they make certain searches, such as searching directly for a brand or app name. As well as more generally in some markets. This new information gives you more visibility into where people see your assets. It helps you decide how to optimize these assets, for instance by ensuring that your screenshots are impactful. And when you come to do that, you've got Store Listing Experiments.

This change means that your total reported visits and installs are likely to increase as of July 30, 2018. This increase is because previews will be counted as listing views, previously they were included in the category "Installs without store listing visits".

Putting the data to work

The developers who had the opportunity to test Organic breakdowns have given feedback that they loved them. They've also been kind enough to share some insights into how they plan to use the data. Perhaps these thoughts on how to use the data will spark some ideas for your business.

Some developers will be using this new data to evaluate their acquisition strategies by looking at the breakdown between explore and search. They will use this breakdown to evaluate the impact of exploring behaviors, especially around times when the app has been featured on the Play Store.

Using the information about popular search terms, several developers plan to change their app or game's Google Play listing to reflect user interests better. This change involves adjusting the descriptions and screenshots to tie more directly into the top search terms.

Others plan to use the insight provided by search term information to optimize their in-app onboarding. Here they plan to make sure that the onboarding talks about the features related to the most popular searches people made when discovering their app or game, highlighting and reinforcing the benefits.

Final word

Our team is always thinking about the tools we can build to help you optimize the discovery and installation of your app or game from the Play Store. Organic breakdowns is just one of these tools, a new way to help drive your success. Ultimately, your success is what we work towards. Organic breakdowns give you a more comprehensive picture of how people discover you on the Play Store so you can optimize your store presence, turning more visits into installs, and more installs into engaged users.

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Evolution of Android Security Updates

Posted by Dave Kleidermacher, VP, Head of Security - Android, Chrome OS, Play

At Google I/O 2018, in our What's New in Android Security session, we shared a brief update on the Android security updates program. With the official release of Android 9 Pie, we wanted to share a more comprehensive update on the state of security updates, including best practice guidance for manufacturers, how we're making Android easier to update, and how we're ensuring compliance to Android security update releases.

Commercial Best Practices around Android Security Updates

As we noted in our 2017 Android Security Year-in-Review, Android's anti-exploitation strength now leads the mobile industry and has made it exceedingly difficult and expensive to leverage operating system bugs into compromises. Nevertheless, an important defense-in-depth strategy is to ensure critical security updates are delivered in a timely manner. Monthly security updates are the recommended best practice for Android smartphones. We deliver monthly Android source code patches to smartphone manufacturers so they may incorporate those patches into firmware updates. We also deliver firmware updates over-the-air to Pixel devices on a reliable monthly cadence and offer the free use of Google's firmware over-the-air (FOTA) servers to manufacturers. Monthly security updates are also required for devices covered under the Android One program.

While monthly security updates are best, at minimum, Android manufacturers should deliver regular security updates in advance of coordinated disclosure of high severity vulnerabilities, published in our Android bulletins. Since the common vulnerability disclosure window is 90 days, updates on a 90-day frequency represents a minimum security hygiene requirement.

Enterprise Best Practices

Product security factors into purchase decisions of enterprises, who often consider device security update cadence, flexibility of policy controls, and authentication features. Earlier this year, we introduced the Android Enterprise Recommended program to help businesses make these decisions. To be listed, Android devices must satisfy numerous requirements, including regular security updates: at least every 90 days, with monthly updates strongly recommended. In addition to businesses, consumers interested in understanding security update practices and commitment may also refer to the Enterprise Recommended list.

Making Android Easier to Update

We've also been working to make Android easier to update, overall. A key pillar of that strategy is to improve modularity and clarity of interfaces, enabling operating system subsystems to be updated without adversely impacting others. Project Treble is one example of this strategy in action and has enabled devices to update to Android P more easily and efficiently than was possible in previous releases. The modularity strategy applies equally well for security updates, as a framework security update can be performed independently of device specific components.

Another part of the strategy involves the extraction of operating system services into user-mode applications that can be updated independently, and sometimes more rapidly, than the base operating system. For example, Google Play services, including secure networking components, and the Chrome browser can be updated individually, just like other Google Play apps.

Partner programs are a third key pillar of the updateability strategy. One example is the GMS Express program, in which Google is working closely with system-on-chip (SoC) suppliers to provide monthly pre-integrated and pre-tested Android security updates for SoC reference designs, reducing cost and time to market for delivering them to users.

Security Patch Level Compliance

Recently, researchers reported a handful of missing security bug fixes across some Android devices. Initial reports had several inaccuracies, which have since been corrected. We have been developing security update testing systems that are now making compliance failures less likely to occur. In particular, we recently delivered a new testing infrastructure that enables manufacturers to develop and deploy automated tests across lower levels of the firmware stack that were previously relegated to manual testing. In addition, the Android build approval process now includes scanning of device images for specific patterns, reducing the risk of omission.

Looking Forward

In 2017, about a billion Android devices received security updates, representing approximately 30% growth over the preceding year. We continue to work hard devising thoughtful strategies to make Android easier to update by introducing improved processes and programs for the ecosystem. In addition, we are also working to drive increased and more expedient partner adoption of our security update and compliance requirements. As a result, over coming quarters, we expect the largest ever growth in the number of Android devices receiving regular security updates.

Bugs are inevitable in all complex software systems, but exploitability of those bugs is not. We're working hard to ensure that the incidence of potentially harmful exploitation of bugs continues to decline, such that the frequency for security updates will reduce, not increase, over time. While monthly security updates represents today's best practice, we see a future in which security updates becomes easier and rarer, while maintaining the same goal to protect all users across all devices.

Introducing the new Google Fit

There’s a lot of talk out there about how to stay active and healthy: “get your steps in,” “sitting is the new smoking,” “no pain, no gain.” It can feel overwhelming. So we’ve worked with the American Heart Association (AHA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to understand the science behind physical activity and help you get the amount and intensity needed to improve your health.

Activity goals to improve your health

The new Google Fit is centered around two simple and smart activity goals based on AHA and WHO’s activity recommendations shown to impact health: Move Minutes and Heart Points.

When it comes to your health, it’s important to move more and sit less. Earn Move Minutes for all of your activity and get motivated to make small, healthy changes throughout your day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or catching up with a friend over a walk instead of a coffee.

Activities that get your heart pumping harder result in even greater health benefits. Heart Points give you credit for these activities. You’ll score one point for each minute of moderate activity, like picking up the pace while walking your dog, and double points for more intense activities like running or kickboxing. It takes just 30 minutes of brisk walking 5 days a week to reach the AHA and WHO’s recommended amount of physical activity, which is shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, improve sleep, and increase overall mental well-being.

However you move, make it count

When you’re walking, running or biking throughout the day, Google Fit will automatically detect these activities using your phone or watch sensors—like the accelerometer and GPS—to estimate the number of Heart Points you earn. If you’re into a different type of exercise, you can choose other activities like gardening, pilates, rowing or spinning, and Google Fit will calculate the Heart Points and Move Minutes achieved during your workout. Google Fit also integrates with other fitness apps like Strava, Runkeeper, Endomondo and MyFitnessPal, so you get credit for every Move Minute and Heart Point you earn. You’ll get tips and help to adjust your goals over time based on your activity. Your journal will show your activities, achievements and goal progress across all of your apps.

If you already use Google Fit on Android phone or Wear OS by Google watch, you’ll see these changes on your phone or smartwatch beginning this week. If you’re new to Google Fit, learn more at google.com/fit and join us on our way to a healthier and more active life. 

Source: Android