I/O 2017 is now behind us, but we’ll be talking about the important news and updates that came out of it for months to come - from Daydream VR, to Android O, and Google Lens.
It was I/O’s 10th anniversary, so many were expecting grand gestures and big news. But while there might not have been any exciting hardware announcements (like Google Pixel and Google Home, which were announced last October), Google did give us a deeper look into what it’s working on now and what it’s planning for the future - invaluable information for developers today.
Still, with all the updates Google covered at I/O (there were over 100!), it’s easy to miss the important ones that directly affect app developers. To help, we rounded up the top 10 updates relevant for developers.
1. Android in numbers
Google hit some incredible milestones this past year. Android developers rejoice!
- Android surpassed 2 billion monthly active devices
- 82 billion apps were installed on Google Play this year
- The number of Google Play developers with more than 1 million installs grew by 35%
- The number of users buying on Google Play grew by 30%
2. Android O beta is here, and Android O is arriving later this year
Android O is Google’s next version of Android. It’s out in beta for users everywhere, meaning more and more users will be switching to Android O in the coming months.
Google says you should start testing your apps for compatibility, iron out any bugs, and publish an update as soon as possible. Here’s Google’s guide on how to migrate your app to Android O.
Android O comes with dozens of new features for app developers to build into their apps. Here are a few main ones:
- You can build notification channels to help your users organize their push notifications. For example, a messaging app can offer users a notification channel for each chat group they’re in - so users can mute, snooze, prioritize, turn off notifications for specific chats.
- If you enable picture-in-picture (PIP) mode, your users can multitask and have multiple app windows open on their homescreen - like a desktop. It’d be great for music or movie apps, so users can watch videos in one window, and surf Facebook in another.
- Autofill helps users save time filling out forms (like credit cards and logins).
Here’s Google’s hub for everything Android O.
3. Android Go is going to bring the next billion users to Google
Google wants access to users in markets all over the globe - and that includes emerging markets where lower-cost devices are more common. Android Go is what’s going to get them to the next billion users. It’s an Android OS built specifically for Android devices that have 1GB of memory or less.
Android Go will ship in 2018, but Google recommends getting your apps ready for these devices soon by reducing APK size and minimizing battery and memory use.
If you’re not convinced, here are a few reasons why building a lite app is becoming more and more important these days.
4. Android Studio 3 is in preview
Android Studio is the official IDE (integrated development environment) for the Android platform, and offers tools that help app developers build apps for the OS.
There are 20+ main features in Android Studio 3, but here are the main three, according to Google:
- First, a new suite of app performance tools to help developers quickly diagnose performance issues
- Second, support for the Kotlin programming language (many developers were asking for it)
- Third, increased Gradle build speeds for large sized app projects
You can download the Android Studio Preview here.
5. Android Instant Apps are open to all developers
In January, Google announced that its first few Android Instant Apps were ready for testing. But now, nearly half a year later, Android Instant Apps are ready for developers everywhere.
Instant Apps are lightweight native web apps that users can run immediately, without installing your app. The goal is to remove as many friction points as possible.
We covered 3 tips for building them earlier this year.
6. Android Things lets developers create connected devices
It can be overwhelming to enter the Internet of Things (IoT) market - creating prototypes and shipping products isn’t in everyone’s budget. But Android Things hopes to lower the barrier of entry and make it easy for app developers to break into the Internet of Things.
Android Things provides a turnkey hardware solution and an easy-to-use software development platform, which allows developers to get started quickly and build products at scale .
You can get started with the Developer Preview and read more information about Android Things here.
7. Google Play Console is getting a bunch of updates
First launched in 2012, the Google Play Console helps app developers “carry out tasks like running beta tests, analyzing crashes, responding to customer reviews, evaluating A/B experiments on store listings, pulling financial reports, and more.”
New features include:
- An updated Statistics Page. You can compare two different metrics and break them down by dimension, select any date range, see hourly stats, and view a breakdown of all your data.
- A new feature called Android Vitals, so you can monitor and improve your app’s stability (crash rates and App Not Responding rates), battery usage (stuck wake locks and excessive wakeups), and render time (slow rendering and frozen UI frames).
- A new Release Dashboard to track app releases in real-time.
- A new Device Catalog, so you can view installs, ratings, and revenue by device - making it easier to make business decisions based on devices.
- An updated Pre-Launch Support gives you a report before launching so you can fix bugs ahead of time.
- A new User Acquisition Report that tells you where your store listing visitors are coming from, and if they go on to install and purchase IAPs. The report also includes “retained installer data,” revealing which channels and locations drive your most valuable users.
- A new Subscriptions Dashboard shows you how your subscriptions are performing. Google says subscriptions are the fastest growing business on Google Play.
- An updated Reviews Analysis covers more languages, shows you conversation histories with users, and gives you the option to report reviews.
8. Game Loop support and FPS monitoring is available
Google knows that one of the most important stats for app developers to monitor is frames per second (FPS), so they’ve added Game Loop support and FPS monitoring into Test Lab for Android. This way, you can check your game’s frame rate before you launch.
9. Google Payment API make it easy to pay with credit cards
Google unveiled its Google Payment API, which makes it easier for users to switch between their payment cards when paying in-app, even if their cards weren’t saved in Android Pay.
Read more about Google Payment API here.
10. Promote your app on Play Store pages with Universal App Campaigns (UAC)
UAC lets app developers create and distribute ads across all Google properties, including Search, Play, YouTube, and the Google Display Network. AdWords builds the ads using your app’s listing, text ideas you provide, images, and a YouTube video.
Now, Google is opening up new spaces for ads on the home and app listing pages in the Google Play Store - only available through UAC. Like Apple Search Ads, the purpose is to even the playing field and boost app discovery for smaller developers.
You can find the full list of 101 I/O 2017 announcements here. Hopefully, our Top 10 list made it a bit more digestible and easier to know which announcements are worth learning more about. We can expect Google to provide more details about many of these features in the coming weeks. Until then, read up and enjoy!