Today's announcements by Google have certainly given us a lot to look at in terms of new hardware and features – and possibly a case of sticker shock. But while the show was mostly dominated by new gadgets and demos of Google assistant, there was a really important addition for developers (and ultimately users) at the tail end of the event. Google intends to turn assistant into a major ecosystem for apps and services by opening up the platform to developers.
The platform is called "Actions on Google" and it will allow developers to deliver custom experiences through Google assistant. Google assistant can already take advantage of many existing capabilities like app indexing, deep linking, and even the Voice Interaction API to provide helpful answers and services.
There's a new version of the Google Play Store rolling out to users right now, but it doesn't appear to be brimming with any big, bold new features. However, there are some interesting bits and pieces floating around inside of the APK that point to some of the things we can look forward to in the future. A teardown of v6.9 points to a built-in app streaming interface and a custom purchasing experience for Cardboard. There are also quite a few odd little tweaks to various other things. We're still looking for more changes, so hit the download link below and take a look around for yourself.
Google has offered the Cast SDK to developers in some capacity for three years, but there have long been some annoyances that made it difficult to implement and maintain in certain apps. Cast SDK v3.0 was announced at I/O 2016 last month, and now it's available to developers. This version of the SDK seeks to simplify several elements of the old one to make developers' lives a little easier.
Android N Developer Preview 4 is out and it marks a very important milestone in Google's release schedule: the API for the next version of Android is officially final and developers can begin posting apps built for it to the Play Store. In fact, this is a first for Android, never before have developers been able to post apps to the Play Store targeting a preview version of Android. Users can now look forward to trying out 3rd-party apps that target Android N without jumping through hoops with individual APKs.
Play publishing You can now publish apps that use API level 24 to Google Play, in alpha, beta, and production release channels.
The Skype for Business App SDK was announced at Build 2016 a couple of months ago, but it's only now available for download. So developers of both Android and iOS apps can finally start working on integrating Skype's messaging, audio calling, and video calling into their own apps.
The first leg of this initial SDK release is "remote advisor," a solution that lets app developers enable the "guest meeting join" capability to let guests start communicating with companies that already have a Skype for Business Server and an active Skype for Business Online service. In other simpler words, companies that are already using Skype for Business can now update their mobile apps to give their users and customers the option to talk to them via said apps.
With last month's release of the Android N Preview, the Tools team launched a preview release of Android Studio 2.1. Not only did the new version add support for the N Preview SDK, but it also brought a few important important and welcomed additions, including adoption and support for many of the language features in Java 8, a semi-official switch to the Jack compiler, an updated New Project wizard, and further improvements to the new and faster Android Emulator. As of today, Android Studio 2.1 has been promoted to Stable and is available to all developers.
The biggest advantage of updating and switching to the Jack compiler, aside from playing with new Android N APIs like Launcher Shortcuts, is probably the addition of Lambda Expressions.
Developers have plenty of great new APIs and features coming with Android N, but perhaps the best thing to look forward to is at the language level itself. Starting with the preview SDK due out today, some of the language features of Java 8 will be supported by the Jack compiler. This will bring things like support for lambdas, default and static methods, streams, and functional interfaces. Google is also declaring that the Jack compiler will also be able to remain more up-to-date with Java language features in the future.
One of the top requests from developers over the last few years has been for a more rapid uptake of new language features for Java, many of which would allow for more efficient use of development time and ultimately easier to read code.
Google began rolling out v8.3 of the Play services framework a few weeks ago, and it looks like it's in a wide release. While this version didn't present with any direct user-facing features and only a few cryptic hints for a teardown, it did bring some definite improvements to the Play services SDK. There are some changes to streamline the sign-in experience for app developers and users alike, along with some additional enhancements that should make it easier for developers to set up new user accounts. New APIs have also been added to make data delivery more efficient between a phone and an Android Wear watch.