With the introduction of Tiles, it will be possible to pick from an assortment of new screens that appear in a swipeable carousel from the watch face. Tiles can be arranged in whatever order you like, but the current list is fairly short, adding up to just six. I’m not entirely sure what Google’s future plans for Wear OS are. I wear a Wear OS smartwatch every day, but it’s an older model with limited performance – I’d love to get something newer, but there simply aren’t any. Most of them still use Qualcomm’s terrible 2100 SoC, and while some do use the newer 3100 SoC, it’s barely a step up and simply not worth the price of admission. Google’s Wear OS is held hostage by a disinterested Qualcomm, which in turn means Google isn’t really doing a whole lot to advance the platform either. Either Qualcomm gets off its butt, or Google develops its own SoC. If not, Wear OS will continue to languish.
Following the changes we made to comply with the European Commission’s ruling last year, we’ll start presenting new screens to Android users in Europe with an option to download search apps and browsers. These new screens will be displayed the first time a user opens Google Play after receiving an upcoming update. Two screens will surface: one for search apps and another for browsers, each containing a total of five apps, including any that are already installed. Apps that are not already installed on the device will be included based on their popularity and shown in a random order. This all seems very similar to the browser choice window Microsoft displayed in Windows for a while. It will be available to both new and existing Android users within the EU.
There’s a new(ish) smartphone operating system aimed at folks who want to be able to run Android apps, but want additional security and privacy features. It’s called GrapheneOS, and it comes from Daniel Micay, the former lead developer of another security-based Android fork called CopperheadOS. After the founders of Copperhead had a falling out last year, Micay turned his attention to the Android Hardening Project, which he recently renamed GrapheneOS to better reflect what the project has become. Official images are currently available for Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 3, but source code is available if you’re interested in installing it on another device with an unlocked bootloader.
It’s now possible to run Android applications in the same graphical environment as regular Wayland Linux applications with full 3D acceleration. Running Android has some advantages compared to native Linux applications, for example with regard to the availability of applications and application developers. For current non-Android systems, this work enables a path forward to running Android applications in the same graphical environment as traditional non-Android applications are run. Running Android applications safely – as in, containerised, like this approach achieves – inside a regular Linux distribution seems like such an obvious feature. I would love to run a proper Twitter client and the YouTube application on my Linux desktop.
Google just dropped the second Android Q beta for all three generations of Google Pixel smartphones, but they also released system images that will allow for any Project Treble-compatible smartphone to flash Android Q! Yes, Google has finally released generic system images (GSIs) of the latest Android version. That means non-Pixel smartphones can test the latest Android version, too. Finally a benefit of Treble is showing up. A small benefit though, because these GSIs only work for devices that launched with Android 9 Pie.
Google’s Android security team has published its yearly report on the state of Android security, and it’s filled with detailed information. The broadest statistic for measuring device hygiene is how frequently a full-device scan detects Potentially Harmful Applications (PHAs). Google Play Protect, Android’s built-in defense mechanism, is incredibly effective at keeping PHAs out of Google Play, but malicious apps can still be downloaded from other sources. These apps endanger not only the device but also threaten the sanctity of the Android environment. This is why Google Play Protect scans all apps installed on a device regardless of the source. In 2018 only 0.08% of devices that used Google Play exclusively for app downloads were affected by PHAs. In contrast, devices that installed apps from outside of Google Play were affected by PHAs eight times more often.Compared to the previous year, even those devices saw a 15% reduction in malware due to the vigilance of Google Play Protect. Over the years, I’ve come to accept that tech media is easily fooled by security stories – in the olden days, when the desktop reigned supreme, it was baseless story after baseless story about macOS and security (usually sponsored and/or pushed by antivirus peddlers), and now that mobile reigns supreme, they aim their FUD at iOS and Android. Don’t fall for it. With normal use, iOS and Android are incredibly safe operating systems to use.
After the Commission’s July 2018 decision, we changed the licensing model for the Google apps we build for use on Android phones, creating new, separate licenses for Google Play, the Google Chrome browser, and for Google Search. In doing so, we maintained the freedom for phone makers to install any alternative app alongside a Google app. Now we’ll also do more to ensure that Android phone owners know about the wide choice of browsers and search engines available to download to their phones. This will involve asking users of existing and new Android devices in Europe which browser and search apps they would like to use. Low effort initiative that will only serve to annoy users. I don’t think this addresses the core issue of the power large megacorporations have, but what do I know.
If you’re setting an app to be your default browser or email client, you probably trust it with your data. However, you still have to manually grant it permission for everything. Starting with Android Q, apps set as defaults will be automatically granted permissions based on what they are the default for. Android Q introduces a new function called ‘Roles’, which “allows the OS to grant apps elevated access to system functions based on well-understood use cases”. I’m not entirely sure this is a great idea. I can easily see scammers trying to trick people into setting a malware app as default, granting it easier access to their device.
Today we’re releasing Beta 1 of Android Q for early adopters and a preview SDK for developers. You can get started with Beta 1 today by enrolling any Pixel device (including the original Pixel and Pixel XL, which we’ve extended support for by popular demand!). Please let us know what you think! Read on for a taste of what’s in Android Q, and we’ll see you at Google I/O in May when we’ll have even more to share. The first beta for Android Q includes a ton of privacy improvements, support for foldable devices, a new share sheet that isn’t slow as molasses, improvements to ART, and much more.
LineageOS, the successor to CyanogenMod, has released version 16 of their custom Android ROM. This new release is based on Android Pie, and will serve as the base for countless other ROMs. The project was first launched to the public with LineageOS 14.1, which was based on Android 7.1 Nougat and, by itself, was not much more than just a fork of the existing CyanogenMod 14.1 source code. It then started evolving and taking a slightly different path with LineageOS 15.1, based on Android 8.1 Oreo, maintaining their premise of a community-centered project above everything while adding a number of useful, widely-requested features such as a system-wide dark mode as well as privacy-focused improvements like the Trust interface. Today, that evolution continues with LineageOS 16.0, the newest and latest version of the incredibly-popular custom ROM, as announced on the team’s blog post. As is the norm, with a version number change comes a big platform update. LineageOS has been re-based on the latest Android Pie source code. And with this comes all of Android Pie’s new features and improvements, including the renewed Material Theme redesign, the new navigation gestures, and more. While initially LineageOS 16 officially supports about 24 devices, unofficial support will cover more devices, and over the coming weeks and months, more and more devices will become officially supported.
MWC Barcelona 2019 is well underway, and among the big companies such as Samsung, Huawei, LG, and Xiaomi are smaller start-ups. One of those start-ups is the UK-based F(x)tec, a company which intends to bring back well-loved features from the smartphones of old. The F(x)tec Pro 1 is their first device, and it features a sliding QWERTY keyboard inspired by the Nokia E7 and N950. I got to meet the team and get hands-on time with the device to gather my thoughts on it. Meet the F(x)tec Pro 1, a slider phone with a QWERTY keyboard that will launch in July. This Android device ticks so many boxes, yet it’s the price that has me concerned. The starting price of $649 isn’t actually that steep when compared to the devices Samsung and Apple put on the market, but for lower prices you can get comparable and better-specced phones from OnePlus or PocoPhone. I’m not sure if I’m comfortable spending that much money on an unproven company with possible update issues.
On Monday, Google and the FIDO Alliance announced that Android has added certified support for the FIDO2 standard, meaning the vast majority of devices running Android 7 or later will now be able to handle password-less logins in mobile browsers like Chrome. Android already offered secure FIDO login options for mobile apps, where you authenticate using a phone’s fingerprint scanner or with a hardware dongle like a YubiKey. But FIDO2 support will make it possible to use these easy authentication steps for web services in a mobile browser, instead of having the tedious task of typing in your password every time you want to log in to an account. Web developers can now design their sites to interact with Android’s FIDO2 management infrastructure. Good move.
Samsung first teased its foldable phone back in November, and at the company’s Galaxy Unpacked event today it’s further detailing its foldable plans. Samsung’s foldable now has a name, the Samsung Galaxy Fold, and the company is revealing more about what this unique smartphone can do. Samsung is planning to launch the Galaxy Fold on April 26th, starting at $1,980. There will be both an LTE and 5G version of the Galaxy Fold, and Samsung is even planning on launching the device in Europe on May 3rd, starting at 2,000 euros. The technology is definitely amazing and futuristic, but this device is clearly more of a very expensive tech demo than a real, mass-market product. There’s nothing wrong with that – I like having crazy technology available, even if it’s at high prices – but a monumental shift in the market this is not. Yet.
Samsung has been very slowly rolling out its Android 9 update to a very small selection of its phones, and with it, the company is introducing a fairly radical redesign of the user interface it slaps on top of Android. It’s called One UI, and it seems like people are… Actually really positive about it? Since I – and many others with me – have treated Samsung’s UIs and skins as a punching bag for almost a decade now, it seems only fair to also highlight when they seem to be doing something right. First, Dieter Bohn at The Verge: I’ve been testing One UI on a Galaxy S9 for the past week or so and thus far I really like it. In some ways, I like it better than what Google itself is shipping on the Pixel 3. If it weren’t for the fact that I don’t yet trust Samsung to deliver major software updates quickly, I would be shouting about One UI from the rooftops. As it is, I just want to point out that it’s time for us to stop instinctively turning our noses up at Samsung’s version of Android. There are still some annoying parts of One UI, but they don’t ruin what is otherwise a full-featured, coherent, and (dare I say) thoughtful version of Android. This is not the conventional wisdom about Samsung software. Second, Abhay Venkatesh at NeoWin: Samsung’s One UI is a huge step in the right direction. The fresh, fluid UI makes it a joy to use, and the addition of smart UI elements, dark mode, and other nifty improvements make for a great experience. The navigation system combines the best of either world and in true Samsung fashion, provides users with an abundance of options. The company’s efforts to continually improve its software and strike a balance between excess customization and usability is evident. However, a lot of the remnants remain from the years that have passed, and it will be interesting to see how Samsung moves the design language forward. I’m glad to see Samsung improve its software, since that will benefit a lot of people all over the world, and it’s always refreshing to have your preconceived notions challenged.
Adiantum is a new form of encryption that we built specifically to run on phones and smart devices that don’t have the specialized hardware to use current methods to encrypt locally stored data efficiently. Adiantum is designed to run efficiently without that specialized hardware. This will make the next generation of devices more secure than their predecessors, and allow the next billion people coming online for the first time to do so safely. Adiantum will help secure our connected world by allowing everything from smart watches to internet-connected medical devices to encrypt sensitive data. (For more details about the ins and outs of Adiantum, check out the security blog.) Encryption should be available on every single Android phone, not just the high-end, expensive models only the lucky few in the world can afford. Good move.
Over the weekend, four commits were posted to various parts of Android’s Gerrit source code management, all entitled “Carrier restriction enhancements for Android Q.” In them, we see that network carriers will have more fine-grained control over which networks devices will and will not work on. More specifically, it will be possible to designate a list of “allowed” and “excluded” carriers, essentially a whitelist and a blacklist of what will and won’t work on a particular phone. This can be done with a fine-grained detail to even allow blocking virtual carrier networks that run on the same towers as your main carrier. I’m sure carriers won’t abuse this functionality at all.
It’s all being blown way out of proportion. The Fossil deal is not going to fix Wear OS. This is not the acquisition that will lead to a Pixel Watch. In reality, the deal was probably too small to really matter. Let’s pour some cold water on all this optimism. Wear OS is still doomed. I wouldn’t call Wear OS “doomed” per se, but to say it’s not doing particularly well is a massive understatement.
The early Android Q leaked build we have obtained was built just this week with the February 2019 security patches, and it’s up-to-date with Google’s AOSP internal master. That means it has a ton of new Android platform features that you won’t find anywhere publicly, but there are no Google Pixel software customizations nor are there pre-installed Google Play apps or services so I don’t have any new information to share on those fronts. Still, there’s a lot to digest here, so we’ve flashed the build on the Pixel 3 XL to find out what’s new—both on the surface-level and under-the-hood. This article will focus on all the surface-level changes we’ve found in Android Q. There’s a lot of good stuff in here, most notably a complete redesign of the permissions user interface, as well as even stricter limitations on what applications can do, such as only granting certain permissions while the application in question is in use. There’s also a system-wide dark mode, hints of a DeX-like desktop mode, and a lot more.
64-bit CPUs deliver faster, richer experiences for your users. Adding a 64-bit version of your app provides performance improvements, makes way for future innovation, and sets you up for devices with 64-bit only hardware. We want to help you get ready and know you need time to plan. We’ve supported 64-bit CPUs since Android 5.0 Lollipop and in 2017 we first announced that apps using native code must provide a 64-bit version (in addition to the 32-bit version). Today we’re providing more detailed information and timelines to make it as easy as possible to transition in 2019. Important information for Android developers regarding requirements around 64bit support.
With Android 6 (Marshmallow), Google has introduced Doze mode to the base Android, in an attempt to unify battery saving across the various Android phones. Unfortunately, vendors (e.g. Xiaomi, Huawei, OnePlus or even Samsung..) did not seem to catch that ball and they all have their own battery savers, usually very poorly written, saving battery only superficially with side effects. Naturally users blame developers for their apps failing to deliver. But the truth is developers do the maximum they can. Always investigating new device specific hacks to keep their (your!) apps working. But in many cases they simply fall short as vendors have full control over processes on your phone. This is a legitimate problem on my OnePlus 6T. I enjoy using this phone, but the aggressive non-standard application cycle management definitely leads to issues with not receiving notifications or login procedures being restarted as you leave an application. It doesn’t happen often enough to truly bother me, but I can definitely see how people who make more extensive use of their phone than I do run into this issue every day.