Google I/O: Android Studio, Firebase, Play Store, Play Services Win Big Updates

Developers who target Android and other Google services have lots to cheer about. The company showed off a handful of revised developer tools that should improve the app-making experience itself while also improving individual apps' performance. Here's what you need to know. 

Android Studio 2.2 Google's integrated development environment (IDE), used my many Android developers instead of the Eclipse IDE, includes an overhauled layout designer with constraints, making it simpler to see how apps will look on a wide range of handsets. It automatically adjusts for various screen sizes and resolutions so developers can see if/how the design works. Studio 2.2 helps get developers out of XML so they can target the phones, tablets, wearables, and more. The Espresso test recording tool helps developer get to their final builds much more quickly.  While using the tool and tapping around an app, Espresso test code is automatically written as if you hand-wrote it yourself or if you wrote it with Google's cloud-based IDE test labs. The Studio bakes in an APK analyzer, layout inspector, and expanded Android code analyzer. Platform support includes an enhanced Jack compilier with Java 8 support, Expanded C++ support with CMake and NDK-Build, and Firebase. 

Speaking of Firebase...

Google says it has expanded Firebase beyond a mobile backend an included new features, such as mobile analytics, growth tools, and crash reporting. The suite includes 15 separate functions that are designed to help app writers grow their user base and, most importantly, make some money! The mobile analytics tool was rebuilt from the ground up and is now called Firebase Analytics. It is available for free, with unlimited usage. It was conceived through Google Analytics, but was created specifically for mobile apps. Responding to a question about how Facebook threw in the towel on Parse, company executives re-affirmed Google's commitment to investing in the evolution of Firebase during a briefing with Google's Enterprise group (Google At Work, formerly Google Apps).

Google is set to improve the visibility of beta apps in the Play Store. Google said it will begin to populate search results with beta apps. Moreover, Google will simplify the process for end users when it comes to enrolling in beta app programs. Last, beta testers will have a more direct link to the developer to provide feedback. Google will begin bundling apps together in collections, too, to improve the visiblity of apps that are similar to others.

Then there's Google Play Services 9.0. This newest version of Play Services adds several APIs in order to improve the experience for developers and users alike. The rebised Nearby API, for example, lets developer reach out to Android smartphones via low-power beacons for sending messeages. Play Services 9.0 makes improvements to the Player Stats API, providing developers with even more insight about gamer behavior. Last, Play Services refreshes the Ads API, so developers can use ads and ad campaigns more effectively. 

All these tools are available to developers immediately. 

Be sure to read the next Mobile article: Google Awareness API Brings Contextually Aware Apps to Android


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