31 July 2014

Learn How UX Design can Make Your App More Successful

As a mobile developer, how do you create 5-star apps that your users will not just download, but love to use every single day? How do you get your app noticed, and how do you drive engagement? One way is to focus on excellence in design — from visual and interaction design to user research, in other words: UX design.

If you’re new to the world of UX design but want to embrace it to improve your apps, we've created a new online course just for you. The UX Design for Mobile Developers course teaches you how to put your designer hat on, in addition to your developer hat, as you think about your apps' ideal user and how to meet their needs.

The course is divided into a series of lessons, each of which gives you practical takeaways that you can apply immediately to start seeing the benefits of good UX design.

Without jargon or buzzwords, the course teaches where you should focus your attention to bring in new users, keep existing users engaged, and increase your app's ratings. You'll learn how to optimize your app, rather than optimizing login/signup forms, and how to use low-resolution wireframing.

After you take the course, you'll "level up" from being an excellent developer to becoming an excellent design-minded developer.

Check out the video below to get a taste of what the course is like, and click through this short deck for an overview of the learning plan.

The full course materials — all the videos, quizzes, and forums — are available for free for all students by selecting “View Courseware”. Personalized ongoing feedback and guidance from Coaches is also available to anyone who chooses to enroll in Udacity’s guided program.

If that’s not enough, for even more about UX design from a developer's perspective, check out our YouTube UXD series, on the AndroidDevelopers channel: http://bit.ly/uxdplaylist.


30 July 2014

Google I/O 2014 App Source Code Now Available

By Bruno Oliveira, Tech Lead of the I/O app project

The source code for the 2014 version of the Google I/O app is now available. Since its first release on Google Play a few weeks before the conference, the I/O app was downloaded by hundreds of thousands of people, including on-site attendees, I/O Extended event participants and users tuning in from home. If one of the goals of the app is to be useful to conference attendees, the other primary goal is to serve as a practical example of best practices for Android app design and development.

In addition to showing how to implement a wide variety of features that are useful for most Android apps, such as Fragments, Loaders, Services, Broadcast Receivers, alarms, notifications, SQLite databases, Content Providers, Action Bar and the Navigation Drawer, the I/O app source code also shows how to integrate with several Google products and services, from the Google Drive API to Google Cloud Messaging. It uses the material design approach, the Android L Preview APIs and full Android Wear integration with a packaged wearable app for sending session feedback.

To simplify the process of reusing and customizing the source code to build apps for other conferences, we rewrote the entire sync adapter to work with plain JSON files instead of requiring a server with a specific API. These files can be hosted on any web server of the developer's choice, and their format is fully documented.

Storing and syncing the user's data (that is, the personalized schedule) is crucial part of the app. The source code shows how user data can be stored in the Application Data folder of the user's own Google Drive account and kept in sync across multiple devices, and how to use Google Cloud Messaging to trigger syncs when necessary to ensure the data is always fresh.

The project includes the source code to the App Engine app that can be reused to send GCM messages to devices to trigger syncs, as well as a module (called Updater) that can be adapted to read conference data from other backends to produce the JSON files that are consumed by the I/O app.

We are excited to share this source code with the developer community today, and we hope it will serve as a learning tool, a source of reusable snippets and a useful example of Android app development in general. In the coming weeks we will post a few technical articles with more detailed information about the IOSched source code to help bring some insight into the app development process. We will continue to update the app in the coming months, and as always, your pull requests are very welcome!

29 July 2014

Grow with Google Play: Scaled Publishing and New App Insights

By Kobi Glick, Google Play team

If you're growing your business on Google Play, the Google Play Developer Console is one of the most important tools at your disposal. At Google I/O, we introduced a number of new changes that give you valuable insight into how your app is performing. Here's an overview of some of the improvements you can now take advantage of.

Publishing API for scaling your app operations

Today we're happy to announce that the Google Play Developer Publishing API is now available to all developers. The API will let you upload APKs to Beta testing, Staged rollout and Production, and integrate publishing operations with your release processes and toolchain. The Publishing API also makes it easier for you to manage your in-app products catalog, provide tablet-specific screenshots, and localize your store listing text and graphics. The Publishing API will help you focus on your core business, with less time managing your releases, even as your business grows to more apps and markets.

Actionable insights at the right time

Email notifications for alerts

Recently, we added Alerts in the Developer Console to let you know when there are sudden changes in important stats like app installs, ratings, and crashes. You can now turn on email notifications for Alerts so that, even while you’re not in the Developer Console, you’ll be informed of relevant events before they can have a broader effect on your app. You can turn on email notifications for one or more of your apps under Email Preferences in the Developer Console settings.

New Optimization Tips

You’ll now see new Optimization Tips with instructions when we detect opportunities to improve your app. For example, we’ll let you know when updated versions of APIs you use are available — such as new Google Play in-app billing or Google Maps APIs. For games developers, we’ll also surface opportunities to use Google Play game services that can help improve users’ gaming experience and drive engagement. To see what tips we suggest for you, go to your app in the Developer Console and click on Optimization Tips.

Better data to inform your business decisions

Enhanced revenue statistics

To help you better understand your commercial success, we’ve enhanced revenue statistics in the Finance section of the Developer Console. We now let you see the average revenue per paying user (ARPPU) and give you more ways to analyse buyer data, such as comparing returning buyers (i.e., those who also made purchases in the past) to new buyers.

Bulk export of reviews

You can already engage with your users by reading and replying to reviews in the Developer Console and we’ve now added bulk export of reviews so you can download and analyze your app’s reviews en masse. This is particularly useful if you receive a large volume of reviews and want to perform your own sentiment analysis.

Improved stats for beta releases and staged rollouts

Since last year’s launch, you’ve used beta testing to release alpha and beta versions of your app, and staged rollout to gradually launch your app to production. To help you make the most of this feature, we’re now improving the way alpha, beta and staged rollout specific stats are displayed. When viewing your app and crash statistics you can now filter the app version by alpha, beta, or staged rollout to better understand the impact of your testing.

Improved reporting of native crashes

If you develop in native code, we’ve improved the reporting and presentation specifically for native crashes, with better grouping of similar crashes and summarizing of relevant information.

Deep-linking to help drive engagement

Finally, we’ve also added website verification in the Developer Console, to enable deep-linking to your app from search results. Deep-linking helps remind users about the apps they already have. It is available through search for all apps that implement app indexing. For example, if a user with the Walmart Android app searches for “Chromecast where to buy”, they’ll go directly to the Chromecast page in the Walmart app. The new App Indexing API is now open to all Android developers, globally. Get started now.

We hope you find these features useful and take advantage of them so that you can continue to grow your user base and improve your users’ experience. If you're interested in some other great tools for distributing your apps, check out this blog post, or any of the sessions which have now been posted to the Google Developers Channel.

21 July 2014

KNOX Contribution to Android: Accelerating Android in the Workplace

Srikanth Rajagopalan, PM Director and Workplace aficionado

Recently at Google I/O, we announced a comprehensive set of new features that will allow IT organizations to easily deploy and manage Android devices in enterprise environments. These features will be built into the upcoming Android L release.

Samsung, with its KNOX technology, has been a thought leader in the enterprise mobility space. In order to accelerate Android adoption in the enterprise, we have partnered with Samsung to bring key KNOX functionality into Android, for the benefit of the entire Android ecosystem. We thank Samsung for their contributions. These new capabilities will make it easy for IT organizations to allow employees to bring their own Android devices to work (BYOD) and use them on the corporate network or to simply issue new Android devices to their employees. IT administrators will be able to manage a wide range of Android devices from many manufacturers, using third-party Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solutions that are built on top of the new enterprise APIs launching with Android L release.

Google and Samsung together designed the new enterprise APIs around three major concepts:

  • Device and data security
  • Support for IT policies and restrictions
  • Mobile application management

Device and data security

At the core of the expanded enterprise capabilities being introduced in Android ‘L’ lies a set of technologies that are designed to keep personal and corporate data both separate and safe. We achieve the data separation by building on the existing multi-user support in Android: personal and corporate applications will run as two separate Android users. Data is kept safe by using block-level disk encryption as well as verified boot technology. For those of you familiar with KNOX, this is analogous to KNOX Workspace. EMMs will be able to take advantage of new Android SDK APIs to enable the creation of a managed profile, which is where all corporate applications and data will reside.

Support for IT restrictions and policies

EMMs can use new Android SDK APIs , which have evolved from KNOX APIs, to allow IT admins to enforce a wide set of policies, ranging from system settings and certificate provisioning to application-specific (e.g. Chrome) configurations and restrictions.

Mobile application management

EMMs will be able to use new backend APIs, adapted from KNOX APIs and built around strong security principles for on-device app deployment, to allow IT admins to curate the corporate application catalog and to remotely deploy applications to the managed profile on the employees’ devices.

We encourage developers interested in the new Enterprise APIs to download and test the Android L Developer Preview. For developers who have already built applications using Samsung KNOX APIs, Samsung will be providing a KNOX Compatibility Library that will let such applications run on all Android L devices.

You can read more about this collaboration on the Samsung KNOX blog. Stay tuned for additional details.

17 July 2014

Porting Your Android Wear Developer Preview Code to the Latest Support Library

Today’s post on #AndroidWear is from +Wayne Piekarski.

Now that the full Android Wear SDK is available, it’s time to port your existing wearable-enabled notification code from the Developer Preview. In the process, you’ll switch to using the latest Android support library, and there are some small API changes that will require you to update your code. This article will show you how to update my previous code samples that were released earlier for stacks and pages, which you can use to guide the conversion of your own code as well.

To get started with an existing project in Android Studio, you should update to the 0.8 or later release. You also need to make sure you’ve downloaded the Google Support Library version 20 or later from the SDK Manager. Since this is only a notification-based example, there’s no need to download the full Android Wear SDK, which is only needed if you want to create an APK to run on the wearable device.

Unix diff output is used to show the necessary changes in an easy to understand way. Do not copy the + or - symbols at the start of each line, and ignore the lines starting with @@ which are used to indicate the line number that changed. For the curious, I used the following command to generate the diff output from the last commit in my GIT repository (the -U1 shows one line of context to keep the output simple):

git show HEAD -U1

Gradle changes

To add the new support-v4 library, you need to edit your build.gradle file like so:

@@ -24,2 +24,3 @@ dependencies {
     compile 'com.android.support:appcompat-v7:19.+'
+    compile 'com.android.support:support-v4:20.0+'
 }

Make sure you remove the wearable-preview-support.jar that was provided with the Developer Preview from your libs directory and build.gradle file, since these features are now in the standard support library.

Package imports

Since the APIs and package names have changed, the import statements at the top of MainActivity.java need to be adjusted like this:

@@ -7,3 +7,2 @@ import android.view.MenuItem;
-import android.support.v4.app.NotificationCompat;
 import android.app.Notification;
@@ -13,4 +12,9 @@ import android.graphics.Bitmap;
 import android.graphics.BitmapFactory;
-import android.preview.support.v4.app.NotificationManagerCompat;
-import android.preview.support.wearable.notifications.WearableNotifications;
+import android.support.v4.app.NotificationCompat;
+import android.support.v4.app.NotificationManagerCompat;
+
+// Extra dependencies needed for the pages example
+import java.util.ArrayList;
+import java.util.List;
+import android.support.v4.app.NotificationCompat.BigTextStyle;

Stacking notifications

Since the preview SDK, we have simplified how notifications are implemented. The existing NotificationCompat.Builder() was extended to support groups directly, instead of a separate WearableNotifications class. The steps are a lot simpler, as can be seen with the following changes to showStackNotifications():

@@ -63,3 +67,3 @@ public class MainActivity extends ActionBarActivity {
         // Group notification that will be visible on the phone
-    NotificationCompat.Builder builderG = new NotificationCompat.Builder(this)
+    Notification summaryNotification = new NotificationCompat.Builder(this)
             .setContentTitle("2 Pet Notifications")
@@ -67,5 +71,5 @@ public class MainActivity extends ActionBarActivity {
             .setSmallIcon(R.drawable.ic_launcher)
-                .setLargeIcon(bitmapMila);
-    Notification summaryNotification = new WearableNotifications.Builder(builderG)
-            .setGroup(GROUP_KEY_MESSAGES, WearableNotifications.GROUP_ORDER_SUMMARY)
+                .setLargeIcon(bitmapMila)
+            .setGroup(GROUP_KEY_MESSAGES)
+            .setGroupSummary(true)
             .build();
@@ -76,3 +80,3 @@ public class MainActivity extends ActionBarActivity {
             PendingIntent.getActivity(this, notificationId+1, viewIntent1, 0);
-    NotificationCompat.Builder builder1 = new NotificationCompat.Builder(this)
+    Notification notification1 = new NotificationCompat.Builder(this)
             .addAction(R.drawable.ic_action_done, "Treat Fed", viewPendingIntent1)
@@ -81,4 +85,3 @@ public class MainActivity extends ActionBarActivity {
                     + "Can we have steak?")
-                .setSmallIcon(R.drawable.ic_launcher);
-    Notification notification1 = new WearableNotifications.Builder(builder1)
+            .setSmallIcon(R.drawable.ic_launcher)
             .setGroup(GROUP_KEY_MESSAGES)
@@ -89,3 +92,3 @@ public class MainActivity extends ActionBarActivity {
             PendingIntent.getActivity(this, notificationId+2, viewIntent2, 0);
-    NotificationCompat.Builder builder2 = new NotificationCompat.Builder(this)
+    Notification notification2 = new NotificationCompat.Builder(this)
             .addAction(R.drawable.ic_action_done, "Water Filled", viewPendingIntent2)
@@ -93,4 +96,3 @@ public class MainActivity extends ActionBarActivity {
             .setContentText("Can you refill our water bowl?")
-            .setSmallIcon(R.drawable.ic_launcher);
-        Notification notification2 = new WearableNotifications.Builder(builder2)
+            .setSmallIcon(R.drawable.ic_launcher)
             .setGroup(GROUP_KEY_MESSAGES)

Page notifications

Page notifications have also changed to use a WearableExtender() class instead of the WearableNotifications class, as can be seen here in showPageNotifications():

@@ -151,3 +153,3 @@ public class MainActivity extends ActionBarActivity {
             PendingIntent.getActivity(this, notificationId+1, viewIntent1, 0);
-    NotificationCompat.Builder builder1 = new NotificationCompat.Builder(this)
+    Notification notification1 = new NotificationCompat.Builder(this)
             .addAction(R.drawable.ic_action_done, "Returned", viewPendingIntent1)
@@ -155,5 +157,4 @@ public class MainActivity extends ActionBarActivity {
             .setContentText("You have " + numOverdue + " books due at the library")
-            .setSmallIcon(R.drawable.ic_launcher);
-    Notification notification1 = new WearableNotifications.Builder(builder1)
-            .addPages(extras)
+                .setSmallIcon(R.drawable.ic_launcher)
+            .extend(new NotificationCompat.WearableExtender().addPages(extras))
             .build();

Conclusion

If you want to download the final source code of showStackNotifications() and showPageNotifications(), you can download the MainActivity.java file. You can build this file easily by creating a new project in Android Studio, adding the support library, and then copying in this MainActivity.java.

As you can see, porting this previous code over to the latest Android Wear SDK is really easy! It should take you hardly any time at all to get your experimental applications ported over and ready for publishing on the Google Play!

15 July 2014

Learn to Think Like an Android Developer

By Reto Meier, Head of Scalable Developer Advocacy

Today I’m proud to announce the latest resource for learning to develop Android apps: Developing Android Apps: Android Fundamentals.

Android Fundamentals is an online training course featuring Google Developer Advocates Reto Meier, Dan Galpin, and Katherine Kuan, working with the team at Udacity that’s advanced and technical enough for experienced developers who are new to Android — maybe even new to mobile — but not new to programming.

The course offers step-by-step training in which you’ll build an Android app, and learn best practices of mobile development in general and Android development in particular.

The full course materials — all the videos, quizzes, and forums — are available for free for all students by selecting “View Courseware”. Personalized ongoing feedback and guidance from Coaches is also available to anyone who chooses to enroll in Udacity’s guided program.

This guided course, along with UX Design for Mobile Developers and Mobile Web Development, complement our existing material—including documentation, samples, and videos — to offer a solid grounding in developing great experiences for people using mobile devices. Check out the trailer below for an overview of what's in the course.

Mobile devices are the platform that will bring the next five billion people online. With Android expanding rapidly into emerging markets, and growing beyond phones and tablets into wearables, auto, and TV, learning the fundamentals behind Android development represents an opportunity to affect and improve the lives of billions of people.

We look forward to seeing what the next wave of Android developers build, and we’ll keep exploring new ways to help you become better developers.


10 July 2014

New Cross-Platform Tools for Game Developers

By Ben Frenkel, Google Play Games team

There was a lot of excitement at Google I/O around Google Play Games, and today we’re delighted to share that the following tools are now available:

  • Updated Play Games cross-platform C++ SDK
  • Updated Play Games SDK for iOS
  • New game services alerts in the Developer Console

Here's a quick look at the cool new stuff for developers.

Updated Play Games C++ SDK

We've updated the Google Play Games C++ SDK with more cross-platform support for the new services and experiences we announced at I/O. Learn more»

The new C++ SDK now supports all of the following:

Cocos2D-x, a popular game engine, is an early adopter of the Play Games C++ SDK and is bringing the power of Play Games to their developers. Additionally, the Cocos2D-x team created Wagon War, a prototype game showcasing the capabilities of the Cocos2D-x engine with Play Games C++ SDK integration.

Wagon War is also a powerful reference for developers — it gives you immediately usable code samples to accelerate your C++ implementations. You can browse or download the game sources on the Wagon War page on GitHub.

Updated Play Games iOS SDK

The Play Games iOS SDK is now updated with support for Quests and Saved Games, enabling iOS developers to integrate the latest services and experiences with the Objective-C based tool-chains they are already familiar with. Learn more»

The new Play Games SDK for iOS now supports all of the following:

  • Quests and Events. Learn more»
  • Saved Games. Learn more»
  • Game Profile and related Player XP APIs — the SDK now also provides the UI for Game Profile and access to Player XP data for players.

New types of games services alerts

Last, you can now see new types of games services alerts in the Developer Console to learn about issues that might be affecting your users' gameplay experiences. For example, if your app implements Game Gifts, you'll now see an alert when players are unable to send a gift; if your app implements Multiplayer, you'll now see an alert when players are unable to join a match. Learn more»