The Android ecosystem –as most of us think of it– is built on more than just an operating system and a marketplace for independent apps. It's largely shaped by dozens of services that have been built by Google, allowing developers to add rich features to their apps without building out expensive infrastructures. The Google Play services package is the core element in this equation, and it's getting a pretty major update to version 7.0 over the next couple of weeks.
December brought us many gifts, not least of which was the official release of Android Studio v1.0. While things have been fairly quiet for developers sticking to Stable releases, the Android Tools team has been busy with a steady stream of updates for those of us on the Canary builds. After two months in development, v1.1 is finally ready to roll out to the masses. This version is mostly dedicated to bug fixes, but there are a few features added in test builds that will feel new to users that are just now receiving the update.
At some point or another, most Android developers will eventually open up the profiling tools to track down bugs and performance issues in a misbehaving application. Let's be honest, the tools included with the Android SDK do leave something to be desired. Facebook has just released one of its internally-developed tools which provides network inspection, database inspection and interaction, and a support for access to the dumpapp output with the use of customizable plugins. The most interesting feature about Stetho is that it runs entirely through the Chrome Developer Tools – the same interface used by web developers everywhere.
Keep in mind, Stetho is not a total debugger replacement.
Google doesn't want developers naming their apps in ways that could imply association with or endorsement from Android, so instead of the Android Music Player, it prefers Music Player for Android. The idea is that this distinction makes it clearer to users that the folks who make Android had nothing to do with the creation of this particular app.
Now the Big G has expanded this guideline to all other brands. Android developers who visit the company's support page on the topic will see a new section dedicated entirely to this.
This change especially affects developers who create apps that integrate with a social network.
With Logitech Harmony, people can control a large number of devices spread throughout their houses from a single remote or Android device. These various electronics, ranging from home entertainment systems to smart light bulbs, all communicate to a single hub.
Now Logitech is launching the Harmony API for third-party developers, so products that communicate with its system can then go on to interact with other ones.
To paint a picture of how this works, imagine the lights dimming automatically when you start a movie, having music start playing when you enter the room, or turning on the TV with a simple command.
Android developers gain a lot of advantages from working on a platform with a wide variety of libraries, open source projects, and other resources to help get their work to the finish line. Unfortunately, if a problem can’t be solved by checking out the SDK samples or reading a few dozen StackOverflow questions, it can be pretty hard to find good alternatives when they are most needed. Before giving up on the tricky problems, or possibly before attempting them, check out Android-Libs.com – a registry of open source code, libraries, handy websites, utilities, and other tools that may be useful to Android developers of all types.
Game developers integrating with Google Play Games have seen a lot of improvements since the service was launched a year and a half ago at Google I/O 2013. There have been a lot of refinements to the experience for both players and developers, and new tools have made many of the tedious and time consuming chores much easier. Google has just launched a new Play Games Publishing API inspired by a similar interface that was added to the Play Store earlier this year. There is also a new Leaderboard feature that should help to prevent falsified scores. Finally, the Unity Plugin and C++ SDK have been updated to support more devices and add additional features.
I'm no Android developer, but I figure if I wanted to get started, I'd check out some videos and pick up a couple of books. That leads to the obvious question: where are these things? Packt, a publisher of both eBooks and good old-fashioned print ones, is currently offering its full catalog of development-oriented works for $5 each (in digital format only). It's also offering a few videos at the same price.
Microsoft has acquired HockeyApp, a service that helps developers test their apps and get feedback from users. The company plans to use the platform, akin to Apple's TestFlight (purchased early this year), to attract app creators to its development tools. The folks at Redmond intend to integrate HockeyApp with the Application Insights service in Visual Studio Online to improve support for Android and iOS.
HockeyApp offers developers integrated crash reporting, information on beta distribution, and a built-in user feedback system. It supports Windows Phone in addition to Apple and Google's mobile operating systems.
Developers can continue to use HockeyApp in its current form, but Microsoft is starting the integration right away, and it plans to release an updated Application Insights SDK for Android and iOS within the coming months.