Tag Archives: notifications

Getting screen brightness right for every user

Posted by Ben Murdoch, Software Engineer and Michael Wright, Android Framework Engineer

The screen on a mobile device is critical to the user experience. The improved Adaptive Brightness feature in Android P automatically manages the display to match your preferences for brightness level so you get the best experience, whatever the current lighting environment.

Screen brightness in Android is managed via Quick Settings or via the settings app

(Settings → Display → Brightness Level).

In Android Pie, Adaptive Brightness is enabled by default (Settings → Display → Adaptive Brightness).

While enabled, Android automatically selects a screen brightness that's suitable for the user's current ambient light conditions. Prior to Android Pie, the brightness slider didn't represent an absolute screen brightness level, but a global adjustment factor for boosting or reducing the device manufacturer's preset screen brightness curve across all ambient light levels:

* Setting the slider to center resulted in the device using the preset.

* Setting the slider to the left of center applied a negative scale factor, making the screen dimmer than the preset.

* Setting the slider to the right of center applied a positive scale factor, making the screen brighter than the preset.

So, under low ambient light conditions, you might prefer a brighter screen than the preset level and move the brightness slider up accordingly. But, because that adjustment would boost the brightness at all ambient light levels, you might find yourself needing to move the brightness slider back down in brighter ambient light. And so on, back and forth.

To improve this experience, we've introduced two important changes to screen brightness in Android Pie:

  1. Better slider control
  2. Personalization of the brightness level

Better slider control

The slider control now represents absolute screen brightness rather than the global adjustment factor. That means that you may see it move on its own while Adaptive Brightness is on. This is expected behavior!

Humans perceive brightness on a logarithmic rather than linear scale1. That means changes in screen brightness are much more noticeable when the screen is dark versus bright. To match this difference in perception, we updated the brightness slider UI in the notification shade and System Settings app to work on a more human-like scale. This means you may need to move the slider farther to the right than you did on previous versions of Android for the same absolute screen brightness, and that when setting a dark screen brightness you have more precise control over exactly which brightness to set.

Personalization of screen brightness

Prior to Android P, when developing a new Android device the device manufacturer would determine a baseline mapping from ambient brightness to screen brightness based on the display manufacturer's recommendation and a bit of experimentation. All users of that device would receive the same baseline mapping and, while using the device, move the brightness slider around to set their global adjustment factor. To determine the final screen brightness, the system would first look at the room brightness and the baseline mapping to find the default screen brightness for that situation, and then apply the global adjustment factor.

What we found is that in many cases this global adjustment factor didn't adequately capture personal preferences - that is, users tended to change the slider often for new lighting environments.

For Android Pie we worked with researchers from DeepMind to build a machine learning model that will observe the interactions that a user makes with the screen brightness slider, and train on-device to personalise the mapping of ambient light level to screen brightness.

This means that Android will learn what screen brightness is comfortable for a user in a given lighting environment. The user teaches it by manually adjusting the slider, and, as the software trains over time, the user should need to make fewer manual adjustments. In testing the feature, we've observed that after a week almost half our test users are making fewer manual adjustments while the total number of slider interactions across all internal test users was reduced by over 10%. The model that we've developed is updatable and will be tuned based on real world usage now that Android Pie has been released. This means that the model will continue to get better over time.

We believe that screen brightness is one of those things that should just work, and these changes in Android Pie are a step towards realizing that. For the best performance no matter where you are models run directly on the device rather than the cloud, and train overnight while the device charges.

The improved Adaptive Brightness feature is now available on Pixel devices and we are working with our OEM partners now to incorporate Adaptive Brightness into Android Pie builds for their devices.

Notes

Discontinuing support for Android Nearby Notifications

Posted by Ritesh Nayak M, Product Manager

Three years ago, we created Nearby Notifications as a way for Android users to discover apps and content based on what is nearby. Our goal was to bring relevant and engaging content to users - to provide useful information proactively. Developers have leveraged this technology to let users know about free wifi nearby, provide guides while in a museum, and list transit schedules at bus stops.

We've learned a lot building and launching Nearby Notifications. However, earlier this year, we noticed a significant increase in locally irrelevant and spammy notifications that were leading to a poor user experience. While filtering and tuning can help, in the end, we have a very high bar for the quality of content that we deliver to users, especially content that is delivered through notifications. Ultimately, we have determined these notifications did not meet that bar. As a result, we have decided to discontinue support for Nearby Notifications. We will stop serving Nearby Notifications on December 6th, 2018.

What does it mean for Android users

Android users will stop receiving Nearby Notifications.

What does it mean for developers

On December 6th we will stop delivering both Eddystone and Physical Web beacon notifications. You will still continue to have access to the beacon dashboard and can deliver proximity based experiences similar to Nearby Notifications via your own apps using our Proximity Beacons API.

We have two related APIs, Nearby Messages and Connections, that are available for developers to build device-to-device connectivity experiences, and also have Fast Pair, for device discovery and pairing. We will continue to invest in these APIs and support products using these technologies.

We sincerely appreciate the efforts of the Android developer community in supporting and evolving Nearby technology and the feedback that has helped us improve. We look forward to continuing to deliver engaging proximity experiences to users and seeing what developers create within their apps with our APIs.

What’s New in Android: O Developer Preview 2 & More

Posted by: Dave Burke, VP of Engineering

android-o-logo.png
With billions of Android devices around the world, Android has surpassed our wildest expectations. Today at Google I/O, we showcased a number of ways we’re pushing Android forward, with the O Release, new tools for developers to help create more performant apps, and an early preview of a project we call Android Go -- a new experience that we’re building for entry-level devices.
Fluid experiences in Android O
It's pretty incredible what you can do on mobile devices today, and how easy it is to rely on them as computers in our pockets. In the O release we've focused on creating fluid experiences that make Android even more powerful and easy to use, and today we highlighted some of those:
  • Picture-in-picture: lets users manage two tasks simultaneously, whether it’s video calling your friend while checking your calendar, or reading a new recipe while watching a video on a specific cooking technique. We’ve designed PIP to provide seamless multitasking on any size screen, and it’s easy for apps to support it.
  • Notification dots extend the reach of notifications, a new way for developers to surface activity in their app, driving engagement. Built on our unique and highly regarded notification system, dots work with zero effort for most apps - we even extract the color of the dot from your icon. 
  • Autofill with Google simplifies setting up a new device and synchronizing passwords by bringing Chrome's Autofill feature to Android. Once a user opts-in, Autofill will work out-of-the-box for most apps. Developers can optimize their apps for Autofill by providing hints about the type of data expected or add support in custom views. 
  • A new homescreen for Android TV makes it easy for users to find, preview, and watch content provided by apps. Apps can publish one or more channels, and users can control the channels that appear on the homescreen. You’ll be able to get started with creating channels using the new TvProvider support library APIs
  • Smart Text Selection: In Android O, we’re applying on-device machine learning to copy/paste, to let Android recognize entities like addresses, URLs, telephone numbers, and email addresses. This makes the copy/paste experience better by selecting the entire entity and surfacing the right apps to carry out an action based on the type of entity.
  • TensorFlow Lite: As Android continues to take advantage of machine learning to improve the user experience, we want our developer partners to be able to do the same. Today we shared an early look at TensorFlow Lite, an upcoming project based on TensorFlow, Google’s open source machine learning library. TensorFlow Lite is specifically designed to be fast and lightweight for embedded use cases. Since many on-device scenarios require real-time performance, we’re also working on a new Neural Network API that TensorFlow can take advantage of to accelerate computation. We plan to make both of these available to developers in a maintenance update to O later this year, so stay tuned!  
(L) Android O: Picture-in-picture, (R) Android O: Notification dots

Working on the Vitals in Android
We think Android’s foundations are critical, so we’re investing in Android Vitals, a project focused on optimizing battery life, startup time, graphic rendering time, and stability. Today we showcased some of the work we’ve done so far, and introduced new tools to help developers understand power, performance, and reliability issues in their apps:
  • System optimizations: in Android O, we’ve done a lot of work across the system to make apps run faster and smoother. For example we made extensive changes in our runtime - including new optimizations like concurrent compacting garbage collection, code locality, and more. 
  • Background limits: up to now it’s been fairly easy for apps to unintentionally overuse resources while they’re in the background, and this can adversely affect the performance of the system. So in O, we've introduced new limits on background location and wi-fi scans, and changes in the way apps run in the background. These boundaries prevent overuse -- they’re about increasing battery life and freeing up memory.
  • New Android Vitals Dashboards in the Play Console: today we launched six Play Console dashboards to help you pinpoint common issues in your apps - excessive crash rate, ANR rate, frozen frames, slow rendering, excessive wakeups, and stuck wake locks, including how many users are affected, with guidance on the best way to address the issues. You can visit the Play Console today to see your app's data, then learn how to address any issues.
Android Go
Part of Android’s mission is to bring computing to everyone. We’re excited about seeing more users come online for the first time as the price of entry level smart phones drop, and we want to help manufacturers continue to offer lower-cost devices that provide a great experience for these users. Today we gave a sneak peek of a new experience that we’re building specifically for Android devices that have 1GB or less of memory -- Internally we call it “Android Go,” and it’s designed around three things
  • OS: We’re optimizing Android O to run smoothly and efficiently on entry-level devices
  • Apps: We’re also designing Google apps to use less memory, storage space, and mobile data, including apps such as YouTube Go, Chrome, and Gboard. 
  • Play: On entry-level devices, Play store will promote a better user experience by highlighting apps that are specifically designed for these devices -- such as apps that use less memory, storage space, and mobile data -- while still giving users access to the entire app catalog.
The Android Go experience will ship in 2018 for all Android devices that have 1GB or less of memory. We recommend getting your apps ready for these devices soon -- take a look at the Building for Billions to learn about the importance of offering a useful offline state, reducing APK size, and minimizing battery and memory use.

O Developer Preview 2, Now in Public Beta
Today’s release of O Developer Preview 2 is our first beta-quality candidate, available to test on your primary phone or tablet. We’re inviting those who want to try the beta release of Android O to enroll now at android.com/beta -- it’s an incredibly convenient way to preview Android O on your Nexus 5X, 6P, and Player, as well as Pixel, Pixel XL, or Pixel C device.

With more users starting to get Android O on their devices through the Android Beta program, now is the time to test your apps for compatibility, resolve any issues, and publish an update as soon as possible. See the migration guide for steps and a recommended timeline.

Later today you’ll be able to download the updated tools for developing on Android O, including the latest canaries of Android Studio, SDK, and tools, Android O system images, and emulators. Along with those, you’ll be able to download support library 26.0.0 beta and other libraries from our new Maven repo. The change to Maven from SDK Manager means a slight change to your build configuration, but gives you much more flexibility in how you integrate library updates with your CI systems.

When you’re ready to get started developing with Android O, visit the O Developer Preview site for details on all of the features you can use in your apps, including notification channels and dots, picture-in-picture, autofill, and others. APIs have changed since the first developer preview, so take a look at the diff report to see where your code might be affected.

Thanks for the feedback you’ve given us so far. Please keep it coming, about Android O features, APIs, issues, or requests -- see the Feedback and Bugs page for details on where to report feedback.

Engaging users during major events: How The Guardian used innovative notifications

Posted By Tamzin Taylor, Partner Development at Google Play

Major sporting, cultural, political events present an opportunity to re-engage users if you can find a relevant and unique way to serve them information. For example, The Guardian was able to substantially increase user engagement with its mobile app during the recent US election by using new notifications functionality in Android 7.0 Nougat. While notifications themselves are nothing new, The Guardian used innovative techniques and design elements to give their users a rich, real time update on the election results as they happened.
How The Guardian innovated with notifications

Users who opted-in received a single, continuously updating notification which was persistent on their lock screen as results came in on election night. The notification used avatars of the candidates and a progress bar to bring the information to life.




The notification showed the most up-to-date numbers of electoral votes won and states called, an indication of which swing states have been called, and the breakdown of the popular vote between the two leading candidates.

"Having the ability to have a constantly updating notification on screen, allowed us to keep our users engaged throughout election night".
– Rob Phillips from The Guardian

Another important feature was the ability to notify users of major updates with a link to detailed information and analysis. In order to do this, the Guardian allowed the newsroom teams to push notifications of major events, such as when the 270 vote mark was passed.

"Our newsroom could let our readers know in real time when there was a serious milestone, and we were able to deliver 101 unique notifications during the course of the evening. The clear menu options acted as key drivers to our journalism as the news unfolded, and meant we could get our readers connected with our content when they were most receptive".
– Rob Phillips from The Guardian
Results and next steps
The engagement results were impressive:
  • 170K people signed up to see the alert, with 122K users interacting with the alert
  • The average number of interactions was around 620K, or 5.1 per user
  • 74% of users who saw the notification tapped through to the main live blog
  • 25% of users who saw the notification tapped through to our full results content
Finally, perhaps the most impressive statistic is that promoting live updates (via the notification) resulted in 103% increase in daily installs during election week.

"By providing our users with the ability to quickly and easily check information, to highlight major moments and to direct people to where to find more information, we can deliver value to our readers, helping them make sense of the events wherever they are, quickly and succinctly. After all, that's what we're here to do as a news company, and we're delighted that the new functionality on Nougat lets us do that"
– Rob Phillips from The Guardian

On the back of the success of using Android N capabilities for live notifications, the Guardian plans to test the same approach with sports content, and explore how it could be applied more extensively to other major events like The Oscars and the Super Bowl.


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A Google Santa Tracker update from Santa’s Elves

Sam Thorogood, Developer Programs Engineer

Today, we're announcing that the open source version of Google's Santa Tracker has been updated with the Android and web experiences that ran in December 2015. We extended, enhanced and upgraded our code, and you can see how we used our developer products - including Firebase and Polymer - to build a fun, educational and engaging experience.

To get started, you can check out the code on GitHub at google/santa-tracker-weband google/santa-tracker-android. Both repositories include instructions so you can build your own version.

Santa Tracker isn’t just about watching Santa’s progress as he delivers presents on December 24. Visitors can also have fun with the winter-inspired experiences, games and educational content by exploring Santa's Village while Santa prepares for his big journey throughout the holidays.

Below is a summary of what we’ve released as open source.

Android app

  • The Santa Tracker Android app is a single APK, supporting all devices, such as phones, tablets and TVs, running Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) and up. The source code for the app can be found here.
  • Santa Tracker leverages Firebase features, including Remote Config API, App Invites to invite your friends to play along, and Firebase Analytics to help our elves better understand users of the app.
  • Santa’s Village is a launcher for videos, games and the tracker that responds well to multiple devices such as phones and tablets. There's even an alternative launcher based on the Leanback user interface for Android TVs.

  • Games on Santa Tracker Android are built using many technologies such as JBox2D (gumball game), Android view hierarchy (memory match game) and OpenGL with special rendering engine (jetpack game). We've also included a holiday-themed variation of Pie Noon, a fun game that works on Android TV, your phone, and inside Google Cardboard's VR.

Android Wear

  • The custom watch faces on Android Wear provide a personalized touch. Having Santa or one of his friendly elves tell the time brings a smile to all. Building custom watch faces is a lot of fun but providing a performant, battery friendly watch face requires certain considerations. The watch face source code can be found here.
  • Santa Tracker uses notifications to let users know when Santa has started his journey. The notifications are further enhanced to provide a great experience on wearables using custom backgrounds and actions that deep link into the app.

On the web

  • Santa Tracker is mobile-first: this year's experience was built for the mobile web, including an amazing brand new, interactive - yet fully responsive, village: with three breakpoints, touch gesture support and support for the Web App Manifest.
  • To help us develop Santa at scale, we've upgraded to Polymer 1.0+. Santa Tracker's use of Polymer demonstrates how easy it is to package code into reusable components. Every housein Santa's Village is a custom element, only loaded when needed, minimizing the startup cost of Santa Tracker.

  • Many of the amazing new games (like Present Bounce) were built with the latest JavaScript standards (ES6) and are compiled to support older browsers via the Google Closure Compiler.
  • Santa Tracker's interactive and fun experience is enhanced using the Web Animations API, a standardized JavaScript APIfor unifying animated content.
  • We simplified the Chromecast support this year, focusing on a great screensaver that would countdown to the big event on December 24th - and occasionally autoplay some of the great video content from around Santa's Village.

We hope that this update inspires you to make your own magical experiences based on all the interesting and exciting components that came together to make Santa Tracker!

Get the Do’s and Don’ts for Notifications from Game Developer Seriously

Posted by Lily Sheringham, Developer Marketing at Google Play

Editor’s note: We’ve been talking to developers to find out how they’ve been achieving success on Google Play. We recently spoke to Reko Ukko at Finnish mobile game developer, Seriously, to find out how to successfully use Notifications.

Notifications on Android let you send timely, relevant, and actionable information to your users' devices. When used correctly, notifications can increase the value of your app or game and drive ongoing engagement.

Seriously is a Finnish mobile game developer focused on creating entertaining games with quality user experiences. They use push notifications to drive engagement with their players, such as helping players progress to the next level when they’ve left the app after getting stuck.

Reko Ukko, VP of Game Design at Seriously, shared his tips with us on how to use notifications to increase the value of your game and drive ongoing engagement.

Do’s and don’ts for successful game notifications

Do’s

Don’ts

Do let the user get familiar with your service and its benefits before asking for permission to send notifications.

Don’t treat your users as if they’re all the same - identify and group them so you can push notifications that are relevant to their actions within your app.

Do include actionable context. If it looks like a player is stuck on a level, send them a tip to encourage action.

Don’t spam push notifications or interrupt game play. Get an understanding of the right frequency for your audience to fit the game.

Do consider re-activation. If the player thoroughly completes a game loop and could be interested in playing again, think about using a notification. Look at timing this shortly after the player exits the game.

Don’t just target players at all hours of the day. Choose moments when players typically play games – early morning commutes, lunch breaks, the end of the work day, and in the evening before sleeping. Take time zones into account.

Do deep link from the notification to where the user expects to go to based on the message. For example. if the notification is about "do action X in the game now to win", link to where that action can take place.

Don’t forget to expire the notifications if they’re time-limited or associated with an event. You can also recycle the same notification ID to avoid stacking notifications for the user.

Do try to make an emotional connection with the player by reflecting the style, characters, and atmosphere of your game in the notification. If the player is emotionally connected to your game, they’ll appreciate your notifications and be more likely to engage.

Don’t leave notifications up to guess work. Experiment with A/B testing and iterate to compare how different notifications affect engagement and user behavior in your app. Go beyond measuring app opening metrics – identify and respond to user behavior.

Experiment with notifications yourself to understand what’s best for your players and your game. You can power your own notifications with Google Cloud Messaging, which is free, cross platform, reliable, and thoughtful about battery usage. Find out more about developing Notifications on Android.

A new reference app for multi-device applications

It is now possible to bring the benefits of your app to your users wherever they happen to be, no matter what device they have near them. Today we’re releasing a reference sample that shows how to implement such a service with an app that works across multiple Android form-factors. This sample, the Universal Music Player, is a bare-bones but functional reference app that supports multiple devices and form factors in a single codebase. It is compatible with Android Auto, Android Wear, and Google Cast devices. Give it a try and easily adapt your own app for wherever your users are, be that a phone, watch, TV, car, or more!

Playback controls and album art in the lock screen.
On the application toolbar, the Google Cast icon.

screendump-2015-03-09-16:23:54.png
Controlling playback through Android Auto


Controlling playback on an Android Wear watch

This sample uses a number of new features in Android 5.0 Lollipop, like MediaStyle notifications, MediaSession and MediaBrowserService. They make it easy to implement media browsing and playback on multiple devices with a single version of your app.

Check out the source code and let your users enjoy your app from wherever they like.

Posted by Renato Mangini, Senior Developer Platform Engineer, Google Developer Platform Team

The Guardian — Understanding and engaging mobile users

Posted by Leticia Lago, Google Play team

The Guardian is a global news organization with one of the world's largest quality English-speaking news websites, theguardian.com. It has more than 100 million monthly unique browsers and app users, two thirds of which come from outside the UK. With a longstanding reputation for agenda-setting journalism, the publication is most recently renowned for its Pulitzer Prize and Emmy-winning coverage of the disclosures made by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The Guardian’s early adoption of a digital-first policy and continued digital innovation means it has also become a respected name among developers and tech audiences. In the last year, it has launched a redesigned app and new website and been among a handful of publishers to develop its own Glassware.

The Guardian app is taking advantage of unique Google Play and Android features to drive user engagement. Their mobile app readers are now 10 to 20 times more engaged than their average web users. Improving engagement has also helped them lift the rating for their app from 4.0 to 4.4 on Google Play.

Anthony Sullivan, Director of Product, and Tom Grinsted, Product Manager, share some best practices for increasing app engagement in this video.

To learn more, be sure to check out these resources to better engage your users:

  • Convert installs to active users [video] — hear from Matteo Vallone, Partner Development Manager for Google Play, about the best practices for engaging and retaining users through intents, identity, context, and rich notifications as well as delivering a cross-platform user experience.
  • Adding Wearable Features to Notifications [tutorial] — learn how to add notifications to Android Wear devices, including how to make use of the Wear notification features: voice commands, stacks, and pages.
  • Beta testing [help] — discover how to make use of the alpha and beta testing features offered by Google Play, and get feedback from real users.
  • Build your community (of testers) [guide] — get advice on how to build communities on G+ or other social networks, then tap into their skills and enthusiasm to help with testing your app.

Trulia sees 30% more engagement using notifications and further innovates with Android Wear

Posted by Laura Della Torre, Google Play team

Trulia’s mission is to make it as easy as possible for home buyers, sellers, owners and renters to navigate the real estate market. Originally a website-based company, Trulia is keenly aware that its users are migrating to mobile. Today, more than 50 percent of Trulia’s business comes from mobile and growth shows no sign of slowing, so they know that’s where they need to innovate.

In the following video, Jonathan McNulty, VP of Consumer Product, and Lauren Hirashima, Mobile Product Manager, at Trulia, talked about how the company successfully leveraged notifications on Android to increase app engagement by 30 percent and has seen 2x the amount of engagement on Android relative to other platforms:

Trulia continues to focus on improving their mobile experience, using Google’s geo-fencing technology to create Nearby Home Alerts, which lets users know when they walk near a new listing. Combined with Android Wear, Trulia now makes it possible for users to see details and photos about a property and call or email the agent, all directly from their watch.

Find out more about using rich notifications on Android and developing for Android Wear. And check out The Secrets to App Success on Google Play (ebook) which contains a chapter dedicated to the best practices and tools you can use to increase user engagement and retention in your app.