Android Archive

Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro get a head start on banishing 32-bit Android apps

Change is many things: scary, exciting, inevitable. Android is changing all the time, and for a while now we’ve been anticipating a major shift in terms of software support, one that would see the platform abandon its oldest software — Android will go 64-bit-only, dropping compatibility for old 32-bit apps. The biggest question has been “when?” Would the Pixel Tablet demand 64-bit apps? Could we be sitting around until Android 14 to make the switch? Apparently Google just got tired of waiting, and quietly launched the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro without support for 32-bit apps. The inevitable march of progress. The move to 64bit killed quite a few old games on iOS, and I’m sure the same will happen to Android. However, if an application hasn’t been updated that long, it might be a good idea to search for an alternative, of which there will be many, since application stores are nothing if not filled to the brim with shameless ripoffs.

Android 13 review: plans for the future, but not much to offer today

The Android update treadmill continues with the release of Android 13. It’s one of the smallest Android releases in recent memory, with barely any user-facing features to point to. Keep in mind, though, that this update follows the monster Android 12 release from last year. This is also the second Android OS release this year, the previous one being the tablet-focused Android 12L update that was rushed out the door in March. We would have a bit more meat to work with if Android 12L was part of this release, but as it is, we’re left with a grab bag of features for Android 13. It includes many foundational features for Android tablets and smart displays, but there’s not much here for phones. Even so, there are things to discuss, so let’s dive in. Ars Technica’s usual deep dive into every new Android release, and despite Android 13 being a relatively minor release, there’s still more than enough to cover.

Google gives developers a way to sidestep Android 13’s one-way update

With the rollout of Android 13 to the Pixel 6 and 6a, Google posted an interesting warning on the system image website: Once you flash Android 13, you can never go back to the old version. That’s still the case for anyone wanting a fully functional phone, but now, Google has posted an Android 12 “developer support image” that will let developers roll back their phones even after upgrading. The “developer” branding on the image means it’s not fully functional, but it will be good enough for app testing. Not being able to roll back would be terrible if Android 13 came with some sort of gamebreaking bug, so this is a welcome release.

Google launches cross-device SDK developer preview for building multi-device experiences on Android

Today we’re launching our Developer Preview of the new Cross device SDK for Android. First announced during the Google I/O ‘22 Multi-device development session, our Cross device SDK allows developers to build rich multi-device experiences with a simple and intuitive set of APIs. This SDK abstracts away the intricacies involved with working with device discovery, authentication, and connection protocols, allowing you to focus on what matters most—building delightful user experiences and connecting these experiences across a variety of form factors and platforms. Google intends to expand this tool to non-Android operating systems soon.

Android 13 releases today for Google Pixel smartphones

Today, Google is releasing Android 13 for Google Pixel smartphones, following months of developer previews and beta releases. It’s an update that polishes a lot of the changes that Android 12 brought to the table, while also introducing a ton of small, helpful features across the board that aims to improve privacy, security, and usability. Alongside the update, the company has also announced that Android 13’s source code is now available in AOSP. It’ll be a while before Android 13 lands in most of our hands.

Review of /e/: an Android alternative for mobile phones

The /e/ OS operating system provides a user-friendly alternative to Android for people who want the Android experience without the reliance on Google and associated manufacturer-related applications and telemetry. Compared to LineageOS, /e/ provides a more unified experience out of the box, with a suitable suite of default open source applications and a system-based application store. Despite the fact that /e/ borrowed from various pre-existing open source projects to create its default applications, none looks out of place. It’s a good choice for people looking to de-Google, but the rather lacklustre device support is a big problem, forcing you to buy a new device if you want to give this a go. That’s not really /e/’s fault, of course, but it’s an issue nonetheless.

Google Play Store is bringing back the app permissions list

With the addition of the developer-generated Data safety section this year, Google Play removed the old list of app permissions. The Play Store is now reversing this decision in response to user feedback and will have both coexist. This was a baffling decision to begin with – the Data safety section relied on developers being honest and truthful about their privacy practices and permissions usage, which was never going to work out with the amount of downright scams and sleaziness targeting children that are in the Play Store (and App Store).

Nova Launcher acquired by mobile links and analytics company Branch

Hello Nova Community, I’m Kevin Barry, the creator of Nova Launcher. I’ve made, make and will continue to make Nova Launcher. Today I’m announcing that Branch has acquired Nova Launcher, and hired myself and Cliff Wade (Nova Community Manager). Branch has also acquired Sesame Search and hired the Sesame Crew (Steve Blackwell and Phil Wall). I’ll continue to control the direction and development of Nova Launcher, and that direction is unchanged. Nova focuses on power users and customization. I will be adding some features powered by Branch, they’ll be optional like most features in Nova. This is a tough pill to swallow. I’ve been a dedicated Nova user since… I honestly can’t even remember, and to me, Nova equals Android, and it’s always been clear Nova thoroughly and truly understood what demanding Android users were looking for. I have really never used any other launcher, and it’s the first application I install on all my Android devices. Seeing this vital application bought up by a mobile analytics form of all things is gut-wrenching. Several decades covering this industry have taught me that acquisitions like this pretty much exclusively mean doom, and usually signal a slow but steady decline in quality and corresponding increase in user-hostile features. I’m always open to being proven wrong, but I don’t have a lot of hope. In any event, I guess it’s time to find another launcher.

Developer pulls plug on popular open source Android email client FairEmail

And another great application falls victim to Google’s absolute disdain for Android developers. Marcel Bokhorst has announced that after yet another brick wall interaction with Google, he is ending development of his popular (in the right circles) open source email client FairEmail. All my projects have been terminated after Google falsely flagged FairEmail as spyware without a reasonable opportunity to appeal. There will be no further development and no more support. On XDA, he gives more background. According to Google FairEmail is spyware because it uploads the contact list. My guess is this is because of the usage of favicons, which will use the domain name of email addresses to fetch info. This feature has been removed from the Play store version now. Google has been violating EU regulation 2019/1150 on multiple occasions now by not being transparent about what exactly the problem is, but what can I do? Complain via the EU, wait five years for action while the app is being removed from the Play store? FairEmail obviously isn’t as popular as the Gmail application or Outlook, but it does have more than 500.000 installs on Google Play (it’s als available on F-Droid), and if you care about open source and privacy, there’s very few other places to go for email on Android (whether Google-less or not). It’s incredibly full-featured and was regularly updated. It’s sad to see rare applications like this fall victim to Google’s inscrutable bureaucracy, but I fully understand Bokhorst throwing in the towel.

Google releases Android 13 beta 2

At its Google I/O event on Wednesday, Google released the second beta of Android 13. The search giant highlighted several new aspects to Android 13 including better privacy controls that help users to limit what data apps have access to, an improved Material You theme system that works across more apps, a new Settings & Privacy page that can help you boost your security, swanky music controls that adjust their look based on the music you’re listening to, and the ability to change the language of each app – something that music be quite handy if you are bilingual and prefer certain apps in a particular language. You can really tell we’ve hit a fairly stable feature ceiling for mobile operating systems. New releases don’t really rock the boat anymore, and there’s rarely any major, tent pole features that you’ll miss out on. Still, updates are updates, and they come with more than just new features – security fixes are reason enough phone makers should be forced to support phones with full Android version updates for at least five years, preferably longer.

Android 13’s new sideloading restriction makes it harder for malware to abuse Accessibility APIs

Android’s Accessibility API is an incredibly powerful tool intended for developers to build apps for users with disabilities. The API lets apps read the contents of the screen and perform inputs on behalf of the user, which are essential functions for screen readers and alternative input systems. Unfortunately, these functions are also incredibly useful for malicious apps that want to steal data from users, which is why Google has been cracking down on which apps are allowed to use the Accessibility API. Google has already limited which apps on Google Play can use the Accessibility API, and in Android 13, they’re taking things one step further by heavily restricting API access for apps that the user has sideloaded from outside of an app store. And so, step by step, Google locks down more and more of Android. Some of the most fascinating and unique applications use the Accessiblity APIs, and making it harder for them to do their thing will have a chilling effect on the wild innovation we see in the Android world. For now, this restriction only applies to applications sideloaded outside of application stores (e.g, applications installed through F-Droid are not affected), but I have my doubt slippery slope is suddenly going to even out at this specific point. After all, we must be protected against ourselves at all costs.

Android 13 beta 1 released

It’s already April and we’ve been making steady progress refining the features and stability of Android 13, building around our core themes of privacy and security, developer productivity, as well as tablet and large screen support. Today we’re moving into the next phase of our cycle and releasing the first Beta of Android 13. Android 13 development seems to be ahead of the regular schedule.

The first developer preview of Privacy Sandbox on Android

Today, we’re releasing the first developer preview for the Privacy Sandbox on Android, which provides an early look at the SDK Runtime and Topics API. You’ll be able to do preliminary testing of these new technologies and evaluate how you might adopt them for your solutions. This is a preview, so some features may not be implemented just yet, and functionality is subject to change. See the release notes for more details on what’s included in the release. We’ll see if this initiative will have a material impact on user privacy on Android, but I have my sincerest doubt. Even if does make more applications respect your privacy, I have a feeling this is going to be a classic situation of “rules for thee but not for me” (a phrase far newer and more recent than I realised).

Android 13 deep dive: every change up to DP2, thoroughly documented

Building on the foundation laid by Android 12, described by many as the biggest Android OS update since 2014, this year’s upcoming Android 13 release refines the feature set and tweaks the user interface in subtle ways. However, it also includes many significant behavioral and platform changes under the hood, as well as several new platform APIs that developers should be aware of. For large screen devices in particular, Android 13 also builds upon the enhancements and features introduced in Android 12L, the feature drop for large screen devices. Android 13 is set for release later this year, but ahead of its public release, Google has shared preview builds so developers can test their applications. The preview builds provide an early look at Android 13 and introduces many — but not all — of the new features, API updates, user interface tweaks, platform changes, and behavioral changes to the Android platform. In this article, we’ll document all of the changes that we find so you can prepare your application or device for Android 13. This is a long and detailed article, and both users and developers alike should be able to find some interesting information in here. You might want to set aside a decent amount of time for this one.

Abandoned applications delisted from the Play Store

Starting on November 1, 2022, existing apps that don’t target an API level within two years of the latest major Android release version will not be available for discovery or installation for new users with devices running Android OS versions higher than apps’ target API level. As new Android OS versions launch in the future, the requirement window will adjust accordingly. This is a very welcome move, since finding incredibly old and abandoned applications is not an uncommon occurrence in the Play Store. Clean-ups like this almost make up for Google removing the “last updated on” field in Play Store listings. Almost.

Google Play announces support for third-party ‘User Choice’ app billing, starting with Spotify

Back in 2020, Google announced that it would require all apps in the Play Store to use its billing system but later delayed that to this month. Google will soon allow Android apps to use their own payment system as long as Play Store billing is an option alongside it, with Spotify notably the first “User Choice Billing” partner. Regulatory pressure is mounting, and it’s clear it’s been working. This is a major concession by Google, and a very welcome one. We’ve still got a long, long way to go, but things are, at least, changing for the better. Slowly.

Android 12L released

Android 12L, the big-screen updated version of Android 12, is now rolling out after months of testing, landing as part of today’s Feature Drop update for Pixels and coming soon to other tablets and foldables from companies like Samsung, Lenovo, and Microsoft. If you haven’t followed along with our Android 12L feature coverage, the very short version is that most of the changes were meant to address issues larger devices face when running Android. That includes UI tweaks covering a range from the notification shade to launcher grid sizing, plus some tweaks to multitasking, as well as a new taskbar that behaves a little more like Chrome OS — Google’s unifying its interfaces across compatible screen sizes. Most of the changes are, as said, for devices with larger screens, so most likely there isn’t much in here for people with regular phones.

Samsung appears to be throttling 10,000 Android apps on Galaxy devices, just like OnePlus

Oh, oh, oh Samsung, up to their usual tricks. Samsung phones ship with a Game Optimizing Service app pre-installed as a system app — we confirmed it’s installed on the Galaxy S22+, as pictured below. It cannot be disabled. The app’s exact purpose isn’t described very well anywhere, but its name certainly implies the app is used to improve performance for games. However, as one Twitter user points out, with the backing of a lengthy thread from frustrated Samsung Galaxy owners in Korea (via Android Authority), Samsung seems to be using this app to “optimize” the performance of thousands of non-gaming apps. When an app is in the Game Optimizing Service list, its performance is limited, as demonstrated by a YouTuber who changed the package name of the 3DMark benchmark app to trick Samsung’s software into throttling it, and the results are pretty telling. In and of itself there’s really nothing wrong with managing the performance of various applications in order to preserve battery life. However, it has to be done transparently and openly, so that users can easily see what’s going on and disable any optimisations they’re not interested in. This kind of obfuscation by Samsung is deception, and simply should not be allowed.

Introducing the Privacy Sandbox on Android

Today, we’re announcing a multi-year initiative to build the Privacy Sandbox on Android, with the goal of introducing new, more private advertising solutions. Specifically, these solutions will limit sharing of user data with third parties and operate without cross-app identifiers, including advertising ID. We’re also exploring technologies that reduce the potential for covert data collection, including safer ways for apps to integrate with advertising SDKs. The Privacy Sandbox on Android builds on our existing efforts on the web, providing a clear path forward to improve user privacy without putting access to free content and services at risk. A plan for a plan that aims to please the advertising industry, an industry which at this point means Google, all built by Google. I might be mildly skeptical.

First developer preview of Android 13 released

Today, we’re sharing a first look at the next release of Android, with the Android 13 Developer Preview 1. With Android 13 we’re continuing some important themes: privacy and security, as well as developer productivity. We’ll also build on some of the newer updates we made in 12L to help you take advantage of the 250+ million large screen Android devices currently running. There’s actually quite a few cool features in here, some of which are long overdue – like a standard, system-wide photo and video picker for sharing. Share sheets in Android have become an utter mess, so any cleanup is very welcome here.