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.
Kotlin has been emerging as a programming language to keep a close eye on. It started as an internal project at JetBrains back in 2011 and was released early the next year. Taking inspiration from both classic C-based languages and a number of modern alternatives like Scala, Kotlin is branded as a "pragmatic" language and modeled to encourage smarter coding and easier readability. JetBrains has been tiptoeing up to an official v1.0 release for a few months, and today, it's finally here.
While it's still a fledgling language, Kotlin has earned some enthusiastic supporters among the Android development community, even a few Googlers have discussed using it in projects.
As if Amazon doesn't have its collective hands in enough projects, Amazon Web Services has launched a new 3D game engine and a scalable service to make it easier for developers to build and deploy server-based multiplayer games. The game engine is called Lumberyard, a fully functional game engine based on CryEngine, it comes with a number of improvements and custom integrations. The service goes by the name GameLift and it's built on top of Amazon Web Services (AWS). Together, they are meant to bring new customers to Amazon's EC2 cloud architecture and drive increased usage and engagement on Twitch.
The Android Studio team has been kicking out preview builds at a fevered pace since the first 2.0 preview hit the scene near the end of November, and it's finally paying off as the first real Beta is now rolling out. (The first beta has an issue, so this is actually labeled Beta 2). The jump from v1.5 to v2.0 is enough to suggest that this could be the most ambitious update to the IDE since it was launched, but the feature list confirms it. We've already covered some of the biggest features: instant run, GPU profiling, and a massively faster and more functional emulator.
Google posted a security bulletin with a list of fixes found in this release, and there are a few pretty big ones this month. Five items have been tagged Critical, including two that allowed for remote code execution without any user interaction, and the remaining three could have been used for privilege escalation.
Parse is a service provider that has offered backend tools to mobile app developers who needed help storing data online and pushing information through the web, such as user login information and notifications. Now it's moving on. In a blog post, Parse declared a need to move resources elsewhere and its plan to wind down the service by January 28th, 2017.
If you're an avid gamer on Android, get ready to see quite a bit fewer of those pesky Google+ sign-in prompts. Google is rearranging things a bit in the Games API to cut back on permission dialogs and authorization requests so users have an easier time getting straight into the action. The changes should also allow game developers to take advantage of Google's Games API and services like cloud sync without asking users to trust them with account details and potentially sensitive information.
With the new model, users will only be asked to sign in once per account—just to set it up—and every subsequent new game that runs can sign in automatically.