The Android Studio team has been kicking out preview builds at a fevered pace since the first 2.0 preview hit the scene near the end of November, and it's finally paying off as the first real Beta is now rolling out. (The first beta has an issue, so this is actually labeled Beta 2). The jump from v1.5 to v2.0 is enough to suggest that this could be the most ambitious update to the IDE since it was launched, but the feature list confirms it. We've already covered some of the biggest features: instant run, GPU profiling, and a massively faster and more functional emulator.
If you're an avid gamer on Android, get ready to see quite a bit fewer of those pesky Google+ sign-in prompts. Google is rearranging things a bit in the Games API to cut back on permission dialogs and authorization requests so users have an easier time getting straight into the action. The changes should also allow game developers to take advantage of Google's Games API and services like cloud sync without asking users to trust them with account details and potentially sensitive information.
With the new model, users will only be asked to sign in once per account—just to set it up—and every subsequent new game that runs can sign in automatically.
Some of the most interesting additions to Android often come from unofficial sources. Maligned though they may be, Google has incorporated many features previously only found in manufacturer skins into AOSP, and custom ROM developers add new features more or less as they feel like it, some of which are quite useful. For example, the CyanogenMod development team is working on a new integrated system for handling "locked" apps, applications that can't be accessed by the user without a password or other validation mechanism.
If you've never heard of OpenCV, it's a popular open source "computer vision" library designed for efficient, real-time processing. This is a great platform for live object tracking, photo capture, image manipulation, and more.
Android's rapid rise to the top of the mobile market was accompanied by a number of legal battles, and perhaps none of them was so central and so contentious as Oracle versus Google. The fight over the legality of patents and copyrights in some of the portions of Android that used allegedly proprietary Oracle-owned Java software has been raging since 2010, eventually being considered for review by the US Supreme Court before being bounced back to the lower appeals court. The fight was a constant, and sometimes dramatic, part of legal software news at one point.
Apparently Google is as tired of dealing with the legal headache as we are of writing about it, because the company has confirmed that Android will do away with the remaining Java APIs starting with Android N, which will probably be released sometime in 2016.
A couple of days ago, we pointed out a free eBook giveaway from Packt Publishing that involved a copy of the Android NDK Game Development Cookbook. Another great book just turned up and we wanted to give another shout out so everybody could jump on it before the offer was gone. Today's freebie is Android Database Programming by Jason Wei, first released in 2012. It's targeted at developers that already know something about database development, but focuses on building and optimizing a data-driven mobile app with SQLite and Google App Engine.
To score a free copy of Android Database Development, make sure you're logged into Packt's website (accounts are free), then go to the Free Learning promotion page and hit the big button to claim your copy.
If you're reading this, chances are you know more about the topic than I do. I am not a developer, and although I have always wanted to dabble a bit with app and game development (at least when it comes to the basics), I can almost never find a single free minute in the day for me to do that. But I'll do my best to explain what this book and deal are all about.
Packt, a publisher of technology related ebooks, is giving away one free eBook each day until January 3rd. I suppose it's part of the holiday spirit.
Now that Android Studio is faring quite well for its core necessities, the tools team is tackling some of the bigger challenges. A couple of weeks ago, they featured a new ability to deploy a limited set of changes to apps without fully restarting them. This week they're shooting to take on one of the longest and most requested items on the list: a faster and more useful emulator.
The biggest boost to speed can be seen while running Android 6.0 on the new emulator. This comes from newly added support for Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP), which allows the emulator to take full advantage of multiple processor cores on a computer.
Every developer has gone through a long afternoon of making a bunch of tiny changes to their app, rebuilding and running it, then repeating the same steps just to get back to a point where they can test the changes they just made. Forget it, those days are done! Android Studio 2.0 just hit the Canary channel and its headlining feature allows you to push changes from your computer to an app while it's running and see results right away. Also joining the latest release is a brand new GPU Profiler tool that can make OpenGL ES development significantly easier.
The Instant Run feature has been mentioned previously during Google I/O 2015, but it has been under wraps until now.
Google's Chrome development team regularly implements new APIs to extend the possibilities for web apps to behave more like their native counterparts. The most recent addition to the Chrome dev channel allows web developers to use Bluetooth to communicate with nearby hardware. This could be used for things like an online fitness tracker that gets data from a heart rate monitor or for a controller to drive a Sphero, all without installing a native app.
These things are possible with the new Web Bluetooth API. Still in the early stages of development, this allows a web application to query for Bluetooth devices based on their capabilities, then pass messages back and forth with little or no friction.