Android Archive

12L and new Android APIs and tools for large screens

There are over a quarter billion large screen devices running Android across tablets, foldables, and ChromeOS devices. In just the last 12 months we’ve seen nearly 100 million new Android tablet activations–a 20% year-over-year growth, while ChromeOS, now the fastest growing desktop platform, grew by 92%. We’ve also seen Foldable devices on the rise, with year on year growth of over 265%! All told, there are over 250 million active large screen devices running Android. With all of the momentum, we’re continuing to invest in making Android an even better OS on these devices, for users and developers. So today at Android Dev Summit, we announced a feature drop for Android 12 that is purpose-built for large screens, we’re calling it 12L, along with new APIs, tools, and guidance to make it easier to build for large screens. We also talked about changes we’re making to Google Play to help users discover your large-screen optimized apps more easily. Read on to see what’s new for large screens on Android! Android 12 isn’t even really in anyone’s hands, and we’ve got the next release waiting around the corner already. The improvements coming in 12L seem quite welcome, since Android and tablets haven’t exactly been a match made in heaven, something made all the more obvious when you run Android applications on Chromebooks. I hope developers will tap into these new APIs and tools, but as with every Google promise for Android, seeing is believing.

Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro have big screens, big ambitions, and small prices

After many leaks, official teases, and months of waiting, Google has finally given its latest Pixel phones a formal launch. The new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are the latest high-end phones from the company that hasn’t traditionally been able to make much of a dent in the high-end phone market. Both are available for preorder starting today, October 19th, and will begin shipping on October 28th. Google says all the major US carriers, plus retailers such as the Google Store, Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart, Costco, and others, will be selling the phones. There are a lot of things to cover with the new Pixels, but the most important place to start is this: $599 and $899. Those are the starting prices for the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, respectively. That pricing is aggressive compared to similar iPhones, Samsungs, or even OnePlus phones, especially when you consider that Google is providing 128GB of storage in both base models. (The 6 can be equipped with up to 256GB, the 6 Pro has options up to 512GB.) Ars Technica has more on the new Tensor SoC by Google that powers these new Pixels. I’d love to say more about these new Pixels, but Google refuses to actually sell them anywhere, so I’m not even sure Pixel phones even exist in the first place. I’m not into conspiracy theories, but until Google sells these things in more than like 3 countries, I’ll just keep calling them an elaborate hoax.

Android 12 source code released

Today we’re pushing the source to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) and officially releasing the latest version of Android. Keep an eye out for Android 12 coming to a device near you starting with Pixel in the next few weeks and Samsung Galaxy, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Tecno, Vivo, and Xiaomi devices later this year. The first Android 12 reviews have rolled out too, and the conclusion seems to be that this new release focuses heavily on overhauling the look and feel of Android, without disrupting how you actually use your phone all that much. Android 12 isn’t an update that’s trying to change how you use your phone — not that it needed to be. Instead of just tacking on dozens of new features, Google just wanted to shake things up in the design department for the sake of it. It’s an upheaval of some of Android’s smallest details. It amounts to a more customizable experience, which in turn lets your phone look and feel more unique. If that gets you excited, you probably won’t regret installing. But I wouldn’t buy a Pixel just to experience Android 12. And if you can’t get the update today, I wouldn’t fret too much until more features are added. I’m definitely excited to experience the new look and feel, but it will be a while before any of my devices gets the update.

Fairphone 4 has an incredible 5-year warranty, aims for 6 years of updates

Fairphone is unique in the world of smartphones. It’s pretty much the only company trying to build a sustainable device that isn’t glued together and hostile to the repair community. Today, Fairphone is announcing a brand-new flagship: the Fairphone 4, which brings an updated design and better specs while still shipping with all the modularity you would expect. A lot of welcome upgrades to this unique smartphone, but the lack of a headphone jack is a bit of a headscratcher.

Android 12.1 leak shows off iPad-style dock, dual-pane system UI

Like the good (and quickly abandoned) Android tablet interfaces of yore, Android 12.1 sees Google return to dual-pane layouts for various bits of the OS interface. The settings screen is back to a dual-pane configuration, which has the top-level settings list on the left and each individual page of settings on the right. The notification panel takes a similar approach, with the quick settings on the left and the normal list of notifications on the right. Google’s leaked dock interface is here, too. The screenshots all have a pinned black bar at the bottom of the screen, making for a hybrid of the iPad’s new dock UI and the old Honeycomb bar. Of course, everything could change eventually, but for now, the icons at the bottom just seem to be your recent apps. Being able to pin apps to this bar would be nice, too. The dock, assuming it doesn’t auto-hide, will cut into the vertical real-estate apps have access to. Vertical space is currently a big problem for apps on foldables, especially when you aren’t in side-by-side app mode. Some interesting changes here, which are definitely sorely needed for Android tablets and tablet-like devices.

Android to take an “upstream first” development model for the Linux kernel

The Linux Plumbers Conference is this week, and since Android is one of the biggest distributors of the Linux kernel in the world, Google software engineer Todd Kjos stopped by for a progress report from the Android team. Android 12—which will be out any day now—promises to bring Android closer than ever to mainline Linux by shipping Google’s “Generic Kernel Image” (GKI) to end-users. This is a big issue, and I’m glad Google and the Android team are addressing it. Hopefully, we will eventually end up in a situation where the Android kernel and the mainline Linux kernel are far, far closer to each other than they are now.

South Korea fines Google, allows Android forks

The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) said on Tuesday Google’s contract terms with device makers amounted to an abuse of its dominant market position that restricted competition in the mobile OS market. Under the AFA, manufacturers could not equip their handsets with modified versions of Android, known as “Android forks”. That has helped Google cement its market dominance in the mobile OS market, the KFTC said. Under the ruling, Google is banned from forcing device makers to sign AFA contracts, allowing manufacturers to adopt modified versions of Android OS on their devices. Good. This particular kind of paper restrictions need to die in a fire.

Android 12 is ‘just a few weeks away’ as release candidate Beta 5 lands

Android 12 Beta 5 is here. For those that haven’t been following along at home, this is the last expected release before it hits stable and is ready for the masses — a so-called “release candidate” version that should be almost good to go. This latest version also picks up support for the brand new Pixel 5a, and it’s your last chance to get those beta-testing toes wet before Android 12 is released. On that note, Google also gives us a hint about its schedule, promising that Android 12 is “just a few weeks away.” Well, a few weeks away for a very small number of phones. For most users, this release is months away, at best, and infinity away, at worst.

Samsung confirms it’s removing ads from its stock apps later this year

Samsung has confirmed that it will stop showing ads in default apps including Samsung Weather, Samsung Pay, and Samsung Theme. It follows comments made by its mobile chief TM Roh in an internal town hall meeting reported by Yonhap. “Samsung has made a decision to cease the advertisement on proprietary apps including Samsung Weather, Samsung Pay, and Samsung Theme,” the company said in a statement given to The Verge. “The update will be ready by later this year.” I never got any of these ads on my Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, but I’d be absolutely livid if I did. I’m not going to commend Samsung for doing the absolutely bare minimum here and not show ads on €1000 devices. Dear lord.

Google drops supports for Google services for Android 2.3.7 and lower

As part of our ongoing efforts to keep our users safe, Google will no longer allow sign-in on Android devices that run Android 2.3.7 or lower starting September 27, 2021. If you sign into your device after September 27, you may get username or password errors when you try to use Google products and services like Gmail, YouTube, and Maps. Android 2.3.7 was released on 21 September, 2011. That’s ten years of support. I think that’s fair.

Google unveils Pixel 6, with Google’s own SoC

Google is announcing the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro today, though it might be better to call it a preview or a tease. Rather than releasing all the details on its new Android phones, Google is instead putting the focus on the new system on a chip (SoC) that will be inside the new Pixels. It’s called the Tensor SoC, named after the Tensor Processing Units (TPU) Google uses in its data centers. Tensor is an SoC, not a single processor. And so while it’s fair to call it Google-designed, it’s also still unclear which components are Google-made and which are licensed from others. Two things are definitely coming from Google: a mobile TPU for AI operations and a new Titan M2 chip for security. The rest, including the CPU, GPU, and 5G modem, are all still a mystery. Less mysterious: the phones themselves. I spent about an hour at Google’s Mountain View campus last week looking at the phone hardware and talking with Google’s hardware chief Rick Osterloh about Tensor. After all that, my main takeaway about the new Pixel 6 phones is simple. Google is actually, finally trying to make a competitive flagship phone. This looks like a really premium product, and it will most definitely have a price to match. Google finally switching over to its own SoC, after years of relying on Qualcomm, which is technically great for competition, but much as with Apple’s chips, it’s not like anyone else is really going to benefit from this. Assuming Google plans on selling this new Pixel in more than three countries, and assuming the claims about the cameras are backed up my real-world reviews, this will definitely be my next phone, since my current smartphone is ready for replacement. And what a surprise – smartphone camera quality suddenly matters now that I have a kid.

Android and Play Store get privacy labels for apps

Today, we’re announcing additional details for the upcoming safety section in Google Play. At Google, we know that feeling safe online comes from using products that are secure by default, private by design, and give users control over their data. This new safety section will provide developers a simple way to showcase their app’s overall safety. Developers will be able to give users deeper insight into their privacy and security practices, as well as explain the data the app may collect and why — all before users install the app. Ultimately, all Google Play store apps will be required to share information in the safety section. We want to give developers plenty of time to adapt to these changes, so we’re sharing more information about the data type definitions, user journey, and policy requirements of this new feature. This basically means Android and the Play Store are getting the same kind of privacy labels as Apple introduced in iOS and the App Store. This is competition at work, and it’s great that both platforms will soon offer this feature.

Google will update very few devices to Wear OS 3

Google has provided a few more details about the upcoming release of Wear OS 3, which combines Samsung’s Tizen with Google’s Wear OS. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, pretty much no existing Wear OS devices will be updated to Wear OS 3. Wear OS devices that will be eligible for upgrade include Mobvoi’s TicWatch Pro 3 GPS, TicWatch Pro 3 Cellular/LTE, TicWatch E3 and follow on TicWatch devices, as well as Fossil Group’s new generation of devices launching later this year. It would seem existing devices simply aren’t powerful enough, so the four existing Wear OS users – I’m one of them – are shit out of luck.

OnePlus commits to 3 years of Android updates by merging OxygenOS with Oppo’s ColorOS

After announcing that OnePlus and Oppo would be merging more teams behind the scenes, the inevitable has happened. OnePlus has just announced that OxygenOS and ColorOS will come closer together, though with the benefit of OnePlus devices getting three years or more of Android updates. In a forum post today, OnePlus explains that the sub-brand of Oppo is “working on integrating the codebase of OxygenOS and ColorOS.” Apparently, the change will go unnoticed because it is happening behind the scenes. OnePlus’ OxygenOS has always been the darling among Android fans, because not only is it very close to stock Android, it also has great performance and (usually) a good update schedule. Oppo’s ColorOS, on the other hand, is none of that. I’m very skeptical of this merger turning out for the better for OnePlus users.

Google sunsets the APK format for new Android apps

For as long as Android has been around, Android apps have been launched in the APK format (which stands for Android Package). However, in 2018, Google introduced a new format called Android App Bundles, or AAB (with the filename *.aab). Google touted that this new format would result in smaller app file sizes and easier ways to control various aspects of apps. Of the millions of apps on the Google Play Store, thousands of them already use the AAB system. Today, Google announced that the AAB format will now officially replace Android APKs. This means that starting in August of this year, all new apps submitted to the Google Play Store must come in the AAB format. Apps that are currently APKs can stay that way — at least for now. Alright, where’s the catch? There’s going to be a catch, right? Unlike APKs, Android App Bundles cannot exist outside of Google Play and cannot be distributed outside of it. This means that developers switching from APK to App Bundles can no longer provide the exact same package or experience on other app sources unless they opt to maintain a separate APK version. This naturally puts third-party app stores at a disadvantage, but Google will most likely play up the Play Store’s security as a major reason to avoid those sources anyway. There it is! Of course any technological step forward in the modern monopolised world of technology has to come with anti-consumer features or limitations that take control away from users. It’s like a law.

Android 12 Beta 2 released

Usually, when Google announces Android previews or betas, the company focuses on developer-oriented details like new APIs. But, as Android 12 Beta 2 rolls out today, Google is hyping up long-awaited user-facing changes, like the new Privacy Dashboard, the microphone and camera access indicators it’s been working on in various forms since 2019 (plus quick settings toggles for both), and a new “connectivity experience” that makes it easier to switch between data sources. It’s unusual for early Android betas to include so many end user features. I hope this means the development process is farther along than usual as well, so OEMs can get started on the update process sooner, too.

Huawei officially replaces Android with HarmonyOS, which is also Android

So to recap: yesterday, Huawei was shipping smartwatches using LiteOS, and today, it’s shipping smartwatches with “HarmonyOS,” which is based on LiteOS. Yesterday, it was shipping phones and tablets using a forked version of Android without Google services. Today, Huawei is shipping “HarmonyOS” on phones and tablets, which is forked Android without Google services. Did anything actually change here? That about sums it up. We were promised a brand new operating system, but in reality, all they gave us is yet another Android fork, of which there are countless.

Google unveils Material You, a massive overhaul of Android’s user interface

At Google I/O today, Google unveiled more about Android 12, and the biggest change is a complete visual overhaul of the operating system. It’s called Material You, and it’s radically different from what Android looks and feels like today. Every visual and animated aspect of the operating system seems to have been changed. Some examples: Wallpaper-based theming — or “color extraction” as Google calls it — brings bold color combinations to every corner of the OS. It automatically decides which hues in your wallpaper are good for the dominant and complementary colors and applies them in all of Android’s screens, menus, and even first-party apps. Apple likely lit a fire under Google when it added widgets to iOS, and the Mountain View company has responded with a much-needed refresh of its first-party widget designs. Expect to see new clocks, new weather widgets, new shortcuts to oft-used contacts, and easier access to your favorite chats. As well as a refresh of the static design elements, Material You will also breathe new life into animations. We’re going to get more fluid motion, better feedback, and generally much smoother performance. Google says that its work under the hood will reduce the CPU time taken up by core system services by up to 22%, which will be reflected in the user experience. I think it definitely looks new and fresh, and less edgy and harsh than the current Material Design sometimes feels. Of course, everyone will hate these changes at first – as is tradition – but I’m very curious to see this in action on my own phone, and something like this is sure to get me to take a serious look at the next crop of Pixel phones as my possible next phone, just to get my hands on the new look and feel. Aside from the massive visual overhaul, Google is also continuing its improvements on the privacy front, but Android being a Google product, I always feel a tad bit skeptical about this particular effort. We’ll see how long it will take for OEMs to actually ship Android 12 – and how badly they will butcher Material You – and as always, that wait may be long.

Google and Samsung merge Wear OS and Tizen

Today, we’re sharing the biggest update to Wear ever – built with your preferences in mind. We’ve been hard at work in three areas: building a unified platform with Samsung, delivering a new consumer experience and providing updates to your favorite Google apps. WearOS definitely needs a lot of love, and this is a big sign Google is taking the platform seriously. Merging with Samsung’s incompatible Tizen efforts makes sense, and adding Google’s acquisition of FitBit into the mix is a no-brainer, too. I’m one of the few people who actually likes WearOS – warts and all – so I’m excited to see what the future brings here.