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Developer Tool Revolution: Google I/O 2014

Google’s 2014 I/O Developers Conference ushered in a new paradigm of contextual data, and an Android experience designed to follow users naturally through their day, providing timely information when they need it, and melting into the background when they don’t. There were several projects revealed throughout the week, and we’d like to share some of our favorite new tools for the android development community.

Meet Android “L”

AndroidAndroid’s newest operating system update, labeled simply “L” at the moment, brings a massive number of new tools for developers to work with. Here are a few we thought might be particularly useful to our friends and colleagues in the Android development community:

The new “material design” scheme opens up vast possibilities for app branding, including new widget functionalities like “card view,” new icons, and icon animations. Touch feedback, transitions, and state animations are baked into the newest version, giving developers an integrated toolset for architecting their users’ visual experience.

Notifications receive a considerable update in the new version of Android. Apps will be able to display notifications on the lock screen based on the new visibility “spheres,” which are broken down into these categories:

Public – no authentication necessary. Anyone who picks up the device can read this type of notification—something like the day’s news, or the weather would be a good example.

Public version – this is a redacted version of the public notification – anyone picking up the device will see what app it came from and what type of message it was, but the contents of the message won’t be displayed until the user has been authenticated.

Private – this simply shows that there was a notification from a particular app, but with no clues as to its contents, or what kind of notification it is.

Secret – secret notifications won’t pop up at all on the lock screen. They appear on the notification bar only after the user has been authenticated.

App developers will be able to choose which of their notifications fit where, and users will be able to determine their desired level of privacy for each type of notification.

Developers will also be given more control over the new status bar. Taking a large step forward from their approach in KitKat, Google is handing the reins over to app creators, giving them the ability to determine the notification bar’s color, and even make it completely transparent.

Speed, stability, and battery life improvements were also headline features of the new Android “L” operating system. The new battery management and analysis features of “Project Volta” allow app creators to see exactly which processes in their apps are creating the most battery drain, and when. With a user base so focused on a balance between high-performance and a device that doesn’t need a recharge halfway through the day, this is a welcome functionality, and fertile ground for a testing environment.

The camera and audio tools were also be given an update in the “L” version, along with an enhanced NFC functionality, the latest OpenGL version, and the new ART (Android Runtime) which will completely replace Dalvik.

Wearables

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Many people considered wearable technology a gimmick in its past iterations, and that may have had a grain of truth to it; however, Google’s new android wear extension could alter that perception. With a new SDK coming available to the creative minds of the worldwide development community, the limits of wearable technology are about to be forgotten. It may start with watches and other obvious choices, but the real innovations are yet to come. Android Wear could be the launchpad for innovative app experiences we’ve yet to dream of.

Tracking wearable devices provides an all-new context that wasn’t really a possibility in the past. The way we’ll be able to draw information from a wearable device will enhance the data pool considerably, and there will no doubt be some creative and exciting implementations of that data from within the dev community. Check out this fictional (but plausible) ad created by a for “Google Gesture” by a team at the Berghs School of Communication in Sweeden:  http://add.berghs.se/case/google-gesture

Google Fit

Contextual information is once again in the forefront here. Adding context regarding someone’s vital signs is an intriguing concept, and could usher in some truly innovative applications.

There will, of course, be a number of fitness apps that take advantage of the upcoming health tracking features, but the other, less obvious paths are the ones that we’re getting excited about. Say, for example, your mood can be roughly determined by sampling your vital signs, which determines the playlist you’ll be hearing for the moment.

Consider the emergency service applications for this technology. Many people with poor health carry products designed to send help at the touch of a button. What if you didn’t even need to touch a button; what if the device you’re wearing could detect a health emergency and call for help itself?

There are so many new features for app and game developers to explore in the new version of Android—we’re barely scratching the surface. You can check out much more of Google’s I/O conference, including the keynote on YouTube or their I/O page.

Android WearAll this new context means some pretty interesting new ways of building tests. Imagine the possibilities of what you could learn, and how much you could improve your users’ experience with this information. We’re already excitedly working on integrating testing functionalities based on the new SDKs so that our friends in the development community can improve their app experience even further. If you’re interested in a preview, email us for a spot in the beta!