The time has finally come to say a fond farewell to Gingerbread. In a manner of speaking, that is. Back in November, Google announced Play services v10.0 would be the last release to support Android 2.3. In fact, Honeycomb was simultaneously deprecated as the minimum supported version was elevated to API level 14, also known as Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. As Play services v10.2 completes its wide rollout to Android devices, that time has officially come. Google posted a list of changes to Play services v10.2 and featured the news about leaving Gingerbread behind. Read More
Google rolled out the Verify Apps framework many years ago to scan apps as they were installed. Then, in 2014 it added the ability to constantly scan apps to watch for malicious behavior. You were sort of taking Google at its word as a user that Verify Apps was indeed rummaging around to keep tabs on things. Now you can see some of what it's doing—the settings menu now shows which apps have recently been scanned. Read More
The mobile hotspot on your phone can be super useful, but it's also a little tedious to get it set up when you need it. There's a new feature rolling out as part of Google Play Services 10.2 that makes it much easier. It's essentially automatic with a feature called Instant Tethering. Not everyone will have it right away, though. Read More
The recent rollout of Google Play services v10.2 came with a cool new Instant Tethering feature that automatically enables a small set of devices to sip on a shared cellular signal when they're in need. Aside from a couple of minor tweaks, that appears to be the only major functional change we're supposed to access at this time. However, that doesn't mean there aren't a few other things waiting to be revealed. Fresh additions to the APK reveal new data types coming to the Google Fit API. There's also support baked in for the new FIDO Alliance U2F tokens for secure authentication. Read More
Android 2.3 Gingerbread, according to Google, still runs on approximately 1.3% of devices hitting the Play Store every month. But with Google Play Services 10.0.x, Google is placing an end-marker for the OS's support of the Play Services package going forward, which signals what is essentially the final death of the platform as far as Google is concerned. When Play Services 10.2 arrives, it will leave behind Android's crunchiest iteration. Read More
As we close in on the end of the year, Google's developers are lining things up for possible late-2016 launches or preparing to test features they plan to launch next year. With the rollout of Google Play services v10.0, a couple of those things stand out as current projects. There are signs final testing has begun for Instant Apps, Google's way to give users a way to use apps without actually installing them. It also looks like some progress has been made towards enabling Android Pay to work through Android Wear. Read More
If the people in your home get regular use of a Chromecast, you're probably more than aware of just how inconvenient it is when the Casting device isn't handy. Sure, you can always pick up your phone or tablet and track down the Google Home app (formerly named Google Cast), but that takes a lot of taps – and most people don't have it installed or even realize it has player controls. The latest update to Google Play services takes care of this little issue by adding a long overdue and oft-requested feature: it pops up a notification with player controls anytime a Cast session is active. Read More
Google's Safe Browsing feature has been around since 2007, and has protected millions of people from harmful threats on the internet. It's a blacklist of harmful websites, such as those distributing malware and phishing scams, that Google actively updates every day. The database is used by Chrome, Firefox, and even Safari to ensure users can be as safe as possible online.
Back at Google I/O, Google announced they would make an official API for applications to check a given website in the Safe Browsing database. Starting with Google Play Services 9.4, developers can finally use the API in their apps.
The Safe Browsing API uses the latest version of the Safe Browsing Network Protocol, meaning it's designed to be as quick (and use up as little cellular data) as possible. Read More
Computer vision is easily one of the current "magical" features merging in smartphones. It's not that object recognition has hit the mainstream yet, but faster processors and high quality cameras in smartphones have made it very accessible. Google has done its part by opening up the Mobile Vision API, enabling developers to quickly give their apps the ability to read barcodes and identify orientation and basic facial details. Google Play services v9.2 takes this a step further with a new Text API developers can use to add optical character recognition (OCR) in their apps.
The Mobile Vision Text API currently supports Latin characters used in languages like English, Spanish, and French. Read More