Once upon a time, the screen to the left of the homescreen on Google's Nexus phones and tablets was called Google Now, and it was a genuinely useful feed full of contextual information about things like your commute, upcoming calendar appointments, package deliveries, and so on. This eventually went away as the screen, now Google Discover, was turned into a news feed. There's now a way to get it back, but it's unfortunately limited to those using Xposed on a rooted device.
Since its introduction during I/O 2019, Jetpack Compose was obviously destined to become the prescribed method of Android UI development. After more than two years in public development, it has hit the milestone many developers have been waiting for: an official 1.0 release. Alongside a stable release of Android Studio Arctic Fox, Jetpack Compose is ready for use in production code.
From the evidence we could gather, Google has been working on adding a lot more gaming features to its Pixel phones. While we've already seen first UI experiments for a game mode, we almost forgot about another intriguing feature that was first rumored a long time ago — an option that lets you start playing games as they're still being downloaded from the Play Store. Google announced during its Google for Games Developer Summit that it would bring just that feature to Android 12.
There are loads of evidence that Google is working on a game mode for Android 12, and although the company hasn't fully enabled it in the beta just yet, it's now all but official. During its Google for Games Developer Summit, the company revealed that its new game mode is called "game dashboard." It's coming to "select devices" and will have a handful of neat features in tow.
If you're still using an Android phone from the first half of the last decade, it might be time to upgrade. If not for all the many already-obvious reasons, then for one more today: Google has just discontinued Play Services updates for all phones running Android 4.1-4.3 Jelly Bean after August 2021. As part of the news, Google has also revealed that Jelly Bean phones now account for less than 1% of active devices as of July 2021.
Google isn't only regularly releasing monthly system updates to Android phones, it's also pushing so-called Google Play system updates to devices. They're independent from full system releases and have been created as part of Project Mainline, an effort to speed up updates to certain parts of the Android system. As reported by XDA Developers, the process has received a small makeover as part of the latest update, with a new percentage bar now showing the installation progress on the boot screen on Pixel phones running the Android 12 Beta.
Google first introduced app bundles a few years back, allowing developers to distribute their software by splitting up the individual components of their apps, and then having the Play Store only send users those parts that their specific phones or tablets actually need. The feature has managed to drastically reduce download sizes, and now Google is about to require developers to support app bundles for newly-published applications.
In the past, Google Photos felt like magic on Android. Your photos were kept in sync automatically without any manual interference. But that changed with Android 11 and the introduction of Scoped Storage, which aims to keep your files safer by siloing off what apps have access to and asking you to confirm when an app wants to make changes to certain files. The latter is a problem for apps like Photos, which now need to ask you for permission before just deleting or updating an image — hence, the introduction of the "Review out-of-sync changes" prompts. Google seems to recognize this problem and aims to fix it.
When Apple announced that it was bringing widgets to iOS, it was hard not to be a little bit jealous as an Android user. Yes, we've had widgets since the beginning, but they've been so badly neglected for so long that most of them look awful — even Google's own — and there's no consistency in the way work. iPhone widgets are much more rigid and they look a lot better for it. Thankfully, Google is finally giving widgets the attention they've long needed.
Chromebooks have had Linux support for such a long time by now, you'd be forgiven if you forgot that Linux has only ever been in beta testing for all these years. At I/O 2021, Google has announced that that's about to change with the next version of Chrome OS, 91. Linux is finally losing its beta moniker.