Maintaining an app has some similarities with keeping a website up and running. One day everything is fine. The next day, an update goes out that leaves thousands of people unable to do anything. Now they're ranting on Twitter, leaving poor reviews on Google Play, and giving you a massive dose of negativity and rage to encounter when you sit down at your computer.
Yesterday you read about (and maybe understood) the new Java 8 language features coming with the Android N Developer Preview. One of the prerequisites of using these improvements is the latest version of Android Studio. The IDE was briefly mentioned in that article, but we thought it deserved a little more attention for both the improvements and some of the caveats to updating right now.
The Android Studio 2.1 Preview 1 is based on the current 2.0 version in the beta channel. The changelog is basically a roadmap to supporting the new features promised with Android N: support for Java 8, improved support for the Jack compiler, and an updated New Project wizard to generate projects targeting the Android N Preview.
We've known for ages that Google is working on bringing multi-window mode to Android, and it's finally happening in Android N. As part of the new developer preview, you can start playing around with apps in split-screen and picture-in-picture modes. Developers will have to add support by targeting Android N (and later), but it sounds like Android itself will handle all the heavy lifting.
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.
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.
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.
HTC raised more than a few eyebrows when it announced the Vive, a VR headset that ostensibly competes with the more well-known Oculus Rift. But far from being some one-off excursion like the Re Camera, the Vive has gained critical acclaim from those who've had access to its pre-production developer units, and HTC's partnership with Valve gives the company an in with one of the gaming industry's most influential players. At CES 2016, HTC revealed a new model, the Vive Pre, with some very interesting additions to the original.
On top of some ergonomic adjustments for more comfortable wear, the Vive Pre adds a front-facing camera to the design, which allows for easy viewing of the real world without having to remove the headset.
Android's rapid rise to the top of the mobile market was accompanied by a number of legal battles, and perhaps none of them was so central and so contentious as Oracle versus Google. The fight over the legality of patents and copyrights in some of the portions of Android that used allegedly proprietary Oracle-owned Java software has been raging since 2010, eventually being considered for review by the US Supreme Court before being bounced back to the lower appeals court. The fight was a constant, and sometimes dramatic, part of legal software news at one point.
Apparently Google is as tired of dealing with the legal headache as we are of writing about it, because the company has confirmed that Android will do away with the remaining Java APIs starting with Android N, which will probably be released sometime in 2016.
Now that Android Studio is faring quite well for its core necessities, the tools team is tackling some of the bigger challenges. A couple of weeks ago, they featured a new ability to deploy a limited set of changes to apps without fully restarting them. This week they're shooting to take on one of the longest and most requested items on the list: a faster and more useful emulator.
The biggest boost to speed can be seen while running Android 6.0 on the new emulator. This comes from newly added support for Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP), which allows the emulator to take full advantage of multiple processor cores on a computer.