Android Archive

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.

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.