It has been almost a month since Google Play services 7.8 began rolling out to users, and as of yesterday, it is in wide release to everybody. A previous blog post by Google discussed the big new feature for developers would be the Nearby Messages API, but it turns out there are a couple of other additions worth checking out. In a new post on the Android Developers blog, Google announced a new Mobile Vision API with the ability to detect the presence, orientation, and some details of faces when they are in frame on an active camera.
With the official stable release of Android Studio v1.3 a couple of weeks ago, it's time to begin testing the next string of new features. The first preview release of version 1.4 is now in the Canary channel, and it's sporting some big new features. The Android Tools team has been working on the new theme editor first demonstrated in the I/O session titled What's New in Android Development Tools. There are also new performance monitors for GPU and network activity, a vector asset wizard for turning SVG files into XML vector drawables, and a few new lint checks.
Here is the Google I/O session video cued up to the beginning of the theme editor demo at 36 minutes:
The new theme editor examines the styles in a project and displays visual samples of what controls should look like on a live interface.
Android offers developers a great deal of freedom to experiment with apps and come up with (maybe) the next big thing. Now Google has launched a website where it plans to show off some of the most interesting projects on Android. It's called Android Experiments and there are already 20 apps and demos to check out.
Qualcomm's new Adreno 530 GPU won't be something you'll find in any phone until next year, but nonetheless the newer, better, faster GPU powering the upcoming Snapdragon 820 chipset was detailed (well, lightly detailed) at SIGGRAPH 2015 this week. Qualcomm also confirmed that Snapdragon 820 devices will be available starting in the first half of 2016 - all but ruling out the chip in rumored Nexus devices launching this fall (unless, of course, they're not launching until next year).
While the rest of Snapdragon 820 is still largely under wraps, the new Adreno 530 was described to us in a short presentation, with the major figures to take away being a 40% increase in speed over the Adreno 430, along with a 40% decrease in power consumption under the same workload.
Back in late July, the Qualcomm Corporation - employer of over 30,000 individuals at the time - began the process of telling about 15% of those people (eg, over 4,000 gainfully-employed human beings) they were no longer needed. This was after already cutting another 1500 jobs in late 2014.
The company's stock is currently trading near 2-year lows, and while obviously still a very robust company, Qualcomm can't keep putting in these kinds of numbers if it's going to maintain its position at the tippy-top of the smartphone chipset market.
Qualcomm (QCOM - NASDAQ) stock is down over 10% year-to-date. It is down over 20% from its peak, reached in early 2014.
Game developers have a new player in the game engine market, and it's one most of them already know quite well: Autodesk. At GDC Europe, the software company behind some of the most popular 3D modeling tools in the industry – 3ds Max and Maya – has announced the Stingray game engine to compete with the likes of Unreal, Unity 3d, and others. Alongside Autodesk's other design tools, it offers a seamless solution for game developers and designers to rapidly prototype and build high performance, cross-platform games.
Stingray is based on the Bitsquid game engine acquired by Autodesk last year. It supports testing and deployment to Android, iOS, Windows 7 and 8, Oculus Rift DevKit 2, PS4, and Xbox One.
Google announced an upcoming Chrome feature called Custom Tabs at I/O back in May. Today, that feature is finally launching on the Chrome Beta channel, and we've got the APK.
Custom Tabs are basically a pop-out web-view that apps can utilize to show users web pages in Chrome (where your passwords and other items are saved!) without actually fully leaving the app. This can make apps that require web-based authorization for sign-in or simply have lots of external web links a lot more convenient to use, and avoids having to use a full-on built-in webview mode that lacks all your synced Chrome information.
The new Android platform version distribution numbers are up on Google's developer site, and given no data was published during the month of July, that means we've got two months of change. Lollipop continues to climb - it's up from 12.4% a full 5.7 points, now at 18.1% of all devices. KitKat actually hasn't lost much traction because of that, and actually grew a tenth of a point, now at 39.3% of all devices versus 39.2% two months ago.
Android version stats, August 2015
Previous data (%)
Current data (%)
The real loser is Jelly Bean, down 3.8 points, with Ice Cream Sandwich down 1, Gingerbread down 1, and Froyo hanging steady at 0.3% (diediedie).