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Google Playtime 2018 event focuses on building better apps in smaller bundles

Google's yearly invitation-only event for app and game developers took place today in Berlin and San Francisco today, and the key message was about reducing the size of app bundles. This new way of dynamically delivering Android apps was introduced this summer and support was added to Android Studio 3.2. Here are the main takeaways from Playtime 2018.

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Google Assistant redesign is official: bigger visuals, fresh controls, and new tools for developers

As some of you may have noticed, the Google Assistant on phones started receiving some visual tweaks in recent weeks. The new look has been rolling out to select users, including fresh material design elements and much bolder cards. Google has now officially announced these Assistant updates and published two blog posts outlining the changes.

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[Update: Google Photos API generally available] Google launches Google Photos partner program

Google introduced a program today that will allow developers to integrate Google Photos into their services. The program includes an API that lets third-party services use some of the features Google Photos offers, such as the platform's powerful search functionality.

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[Update: Registration now open] Google announces Android Dev Summit on November 7-8 in Mountain View

Google I/O was just a few months back, but Google has another developer-focused event coming up later this year. The Android Dev Summit will be a smaller event that eschews the flashy demos and giveaways that attract non-devs to I/O. It's happening at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View on November 7-8.

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Firebase announces new in-app messaging capabilities, enhancements to the console and Crashlytics services, and more

A big new set of services began rolling out to Firebase users today. Google's mainstream service for push messaging and other app services just announced an assortment of new capabilities. The big addition in this update is a new in-app messaging feature that enables quick announcements and offers to users, and can be tied to certain user behaviors. There are also big revisions to the management console and statistics tracking views, upgrades to the Crashlytics services, a new history view for Remote Config, and more.

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TensorFlow 2.0 announced with a new focus on usability, preview coming later this year

Most of our audience is at least familiar with seeing the name TensorFlow appear in our coverage. For the uninitiated, Tensor Flow is a machine learning framework/library created by Google that allows developers to leverage the emerging technology for their own uses. Although v1.0 only landed last year, the team behind the project has continued its work, just recently announcing that a preview for v2.0 of the platform would be coming later this year. This update could break compatibility with v1.0 APIs, but with its "focus on ease of use," developers shouldn't run into too much trouble updating.

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Android 9 Pie puts an end to third-party call recording apps

Call recording is a bit of a thorny issue when it comes to privacy. There are also different rules in different places, making it hard for Google to implement a standard in Android without falling foul of the law in certain jurisdictions. Android's official call recording API was removed in Android 6.0 Marshmallow, so third-party app developers have had to be creative since then. As of Android 9 Pie, it looks like Google has put a stop to it altogether.

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Play Store beats App Store in downloads for Q2 2018 by 160% but loses in spending by almost half according to App Annie

For a while now, App Annie has been offering its metrics to interested parties so developers can better understand their place in the app economy. Careful examination and integration of data like this, paired with the knowledge of a target audience, can influence where a developer's time can be best spent. And according to App Annie's latest report, Play Store downloads are up significantly, with a 20% rise year-over-year, and 160% higher than Apple's Play Store. On the other hand, consumer spending is still 80% higher on iOS. 

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Some Android developers see huge drops in app installs after Google 'enhances' Play Store algorithms

Last August, Google announced an enhancement to its Play Store search and discovery algorithms, all in the pursuit of a better consumer experience. This was a natural next step after the company said it began tuning its algorithms "to optimize for user engagement, not just downloads" at its Developer Day at the Game Developers Conference in February 2017. In part, these moves appeared to be shots across the bow aimed at getting developers in line. But in recent weeks, it seems we've approached a sort of endgame, and some smaller developers are losing — big time.

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