There should be no doubt, Google is getting ready to make a lot of announcements at I/O. If we've learned anything from past experiences, Google starts packing its apps full of surprises in the weeks leading up to the big show. The latest update to Play Services started rolling out yesterday and it has grown by a whopping 4 MB, almost 30% larger than the previous version. There's obviously a lot of stuff to look at, so let's just jump right in.
The presence of Google+ is definitely growing as it continues to become a significant part of how we interact with many of Google's services. Early this year, the social network branched out to become a sign-in solution for virtually any kind of app or website. With an announcement yesterday, Google+ is now set up to accept sign-ins from Google Apps users and accounts without an actual Google+ profile. If that weren't good enough, the permission system has been greatly improved to support "incremental auth," which allows apps and websites to request only vital permissions to begin using them, and then ask for new permissions once the user is logged in.
App Ops showed up in Android 4.3 and made it possible to revoke permissions on a per-app basis. It wasn't exposed in the main system settings, but it was easy to access. Then Android 4.4 made it quite a bit harder to get to, and now it appears to be completely missing in 4.4.2. What gives? Well, Android engineer Dianne Hackborn has indicated App Ops was never meant to be a user-facing feature in the first place.
The Android faithful have been eagerly awaiting the release of Contra: Evolution, but there were some irksome issues when the game finally launched last week. You could only install it on phones, and when you did, the list of permissions was a little bonkers. Well, both of those points have been addressed in a new update.
Contra: Evolution can now be installed on virtually any Android device. It was a little bizarre that it didn't allow tablet installations seeing as a number of the phones it supported were higher resolution than some tablets.
Android 4.3 has a hidden feature! It's called "App Ops" and it lets you selectively disable some permissions for your apps. Is some misbehaving app constantly pinging your location and draining your battery in a few hours? You can fix that now.
Update! Optional permissions at install
I'm working on my full 4.3 teardown, but I just ran across this and had to add it here:
<string name="grant_confirm_question">Do you want to grant the following permissions?
Have you ever refused to install an app because it wants too many permissions? Yeah, a lot of people have, and we don't blame them. A little too much trust can lead to stolen information, mysterious charges on your cellular bill, or worse. Thanks to developer M66B, we've got a simple way to lock down potentially misbehaving software. His new mod, XPrivacy, can block several types of activities and queries, despite the permissions granted at installation.
It's been over four months since Google officially announced Android 4.2 and slightly less time since the initial round of new Nexus devices running it went up for order. Much like the gunshot that kicks off the 100-meter tortoise race, that launch signaled the silent contest to see which manufacturer could get out a non-Nexus update first. Today, we have our winner: ASUS, with a shiny new version of Jelly Bean for the Transformer Pad (TF300T).
Going above and beyond their promise to save "time and annoyance" when screening, placing, or receiving calls, CallApp recently released their namesake app (a TechCrunch Disrupt 2012 finalist) to Google's Play Store.
CallApp – in what may be the biggest understatement of the week – bills itself as a "super caller ID," increasing call productivity with a set of handy interactive tools and quick informational displays for everyone that calls (or initiates a call with) you.
Theme Hospital was a hit when it came out on the PC in 1997. Fans of the game are free to begin celebrating now that the game has been ported to Android as a free app by a one man UK developer called Armed Pineapple. The developer is working from the CorsixTH free software project, but it looks like someone has taken the code he's released and has started selling it on Google Play.