The latest factory images for the Nexus family have landed and people are getting their updates. What are they updating to? The changelogs built from developer comments can probably answer that, or at least give some pretty good hints.
Like most of the monthly updates, at least since Google started this practice, March's update focuses on security.
If I were to say that I'm going to flash a new system image to your Nexus phone without attaching a USB cable, you might think I'm a little crazy. Well, I could be a little crazy, but that thing about the cable is definitely coming true in the very near future. Google has added networking support to the fastboot tool. When paired with a phone with a supported bootloader, it will be possible to perform all of the usual fastboot commands wirelessly.
In a recent commit to AOSP, support for the TCP protocol was added to fastboot. The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is one of the basic building blocks of communication on the Internet, used for reliable transmission of data from one point to another.
This involved a rather convoluted interpretation of a vague policy forbidding apps from interfering with third-party apps or services, but it's the official justification Google has used to date. Now, a new update to the Play Store Developer Policy Center (formerly Google Play Developer Program Policies) makes it clear via an example interpretation of said policy: no ad blockers.
Jide Technology is focused on making Android more desktop-like. The company first kickstarted a Microsoft Surface-like tablet, then followed it with a small puck to turn any display into an Android desktop, the Remix Mini. When Michael reviewed the latter, he found the software interesting, but the hardware lacking. The third aspect of Jide's strategy was to release its Remix OS for free for anyone to install and use. Michael also reviewed it and called it promising while still pointing out its current limitations.
There are multiple reasons to leave a review in the Play Store. One is to convey to other users how good or bad an app is. Another is to communicate to the developer.
Google has recently changed up the dashboard that software creators see when they sign into the Developer Console. The new page shows how ratings have changed over the course of days, weeks, and months (pictured above). This overview makes it easy to see if the release of a new update has any effect on user impressions. Developers can also break down ratings by location, language, and other variables.
Microsoft makes a lot of apps for multiple platforms. It also makes a lot of tools that are used by other developers to build apps for multiple platforms. It only makes sense then that the company would be interested in buying Xamarin, one of the leading platform providers for mobile app development.
While you may not have heard of Xamarin, its solution counts as one of the invisible threads that play a role in running the Internet nowadays. The platform helps developers use a shared codebase in C# to build, test, and monitor native apps for iOS, Android, and Windows, all with the same IDE, language, and APIs.
A fresh version of the Android Support Library is now available to developers. This may be one of the biggest updates in quite a while, as some of the changes demand a few significant internal changes. On the plus side, there aren't very many changes that should break existing code, and most of the new features will make it worth the trouble. Here's a quick introduction to some of the new changes.
Vector Drawables and Animated Vector Drawables
Full vector support was first introduced in Android 5.0 Lollipop, allowing developers to distribute apks with easily resizable vector drawings in place of multiple images at various sizes.
Part of me can't help but wonder whether Cyanogen Inc. still lives under the shadow of its forefather, CyanogenMod, especially when announcements like these are made and the company introduces an eerily named "Cyanogen MOD" platform that has nothing to do with the custom ROM every enterprising Android user has known for years.
Instead, MOD is the incarnation of what we've been hearing from Cyanogen for a while now: a platform that opens up Cyanogen OS' Android framework further than any other, allowing deeper integration of apps and services into areas of the software that have otherwise been off-bounds for a long time.
When a manufacturer open sources the code that makes their device work, it's an occasion worth noting. This is one of the strengths of Android, the availability of files that enable developers and tinkerers to create software that can replace the firmware that our devices ship with. It's one of Android's differentiating factors compared to iOS and Windows Phone.