September 18, 2014 By: Tomek Kondrat
Google has now changed its policies regarding paid app developers. Every developer who opened the developer console today was greeted with a message stating that a physical address must be added in account settings. The change will influence primarily developers who distribute paid apps or allow in-app-purchases.
Developers were shown the following message stating the required changes:
Add a physical contact address Beginning September 30, 2014, you need to add a physical address to your Settings page. After you’ve added an address, it will be available on your app’s detail page to all users on Google Play. If your physical address changes, make sure to update your information on your Settings page.
If you have paid apps or apps with in-app purchases, it’s mandatory to provide a physical address where you can be contacted. If you don’t provide a physical address on your account, it may result in your apps being removed from the Play Store.
Essentially, this means that app devs will soon have to provide a full physical address or their applications will be pulled from the Play Store after September 30th. The notification system itself is rather strange, though. Google didn’t send an Email informing developers about the policy change, therefore developers who aren’t too active may see their applications pulled without formal notice beforehand.
It remains unknown whether indie developers will accept the policy change or not. Rule changes will not be a problem to big developer studios, but might be an important factor for those smaller developer who want to monetize their work.
[via Android Police]
September 11, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
As we’ve by now become accustomed, the beginning of the month marks when Google updates its Android Developer Dashboard website with updated Platform Distribution Stats. These numbers, which show the current state of Android ecosystem fragmentation both in terms of version/API adoption and graphics capabilities, become an incredibly valuable resource for Android application developers looking to better target their development efforts.
When we took a look at the Android Platform Stats back in August, we were pleased to see that KitKat was finally over 20% market share. Android 4.4.x KitKat was up to 20.9% from 17.9% the month before, resulting in a 16.8% relative growth. Just like what we’ve seen in previous months, Android 2.x had been hovering in at over 10% of end user devices. However, for the first time in recent memory, this number has dropped somewhat significantly to 12.1%. Perhaps we can finally conclude that (some of) these people who are still running extremely old devices are no longer seemingly as content with slow and outdated devices.
Now, we are continuing to see a positive growth in KitKat market share. And for the first time in several months, the rate of adoption has actually grown (slightly) from the previous month. This is likely due to a last, final push by OEMs and carriers to roll out KitKat updates before Android L is officially released in the coming month or so. This month, Android 4.4.x KitKat saw a 17.2% relative growth, leading to a total of 24.5% of active installs. And as we mentioned before, Android 2.x is hanging strong at 12.1%. This is down from 14.3% last month, and it represents a 15.4% relative drop. And for those who remember last month’s anomaly where 2.x actually “grew,” this is more than welcome progress in the right direction.
Now that we’ve been watching KitKat’s adoption grow over time, we can safely conclude that as always, KitKat is on the rise. We first saw a rather meteoric rise, which tempered off for a few months as a higher percentage of devices that would receive the update actually received it. Now, that decline in growth rate has leveled off, leaving us with slightly higher relative growth this month than last month. Android 2.x is still holding strong, but for the first time in quite a long time, we actually see a noticeable 15.4% relative drop in adoption down to 12.1%. Hopefully this trend continues and this is not some kind of sampling artifact. Android 4.x Ice Cream Sandwich and 4.1-4.3 Jelly Bean saw somewhat noticeable declines as well.
In addition to version stats, the Android Developer Dashboard also reports information regarding screen size and resolution, as well as max supported OpenGL version. This can be seen below:
This month, we are happy to report progress both in terms of Android 4.4 growth and Android 2.x decline. It’s great to see the latest (official) versions of Android make their way to more and more devices. But folks, remember that we are just a month or two away from the official release of Android L, when this cycle will undoubtedly repeat once again.
Do you think Android L adoption will mirror what we’ve seen in the past, or will Google’s focus on optimizing resources help it reach older devices? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!
[Source: Android Developer Dashboard]
September 10, 2014 By: Faiz Malkani
When Google launched Hangouts last year, it was marketed as a messaging and a video calling service, which allowed you to quickly send a message anywhere in the world or start a group video call at no cost. The service caught on quickly, complemented by its ease of use and the growth of Google+. And since then, it has accumulated a large user base as it stands. Over time, it went on to integrate SMS functionality as well, a step closer to the unification of all of the company’s communication services.
Earlier today, Google announced Hangouts v2.3, which takes the service even closer to the goal of unification by integrating free voice calls. The calls work over the Internet using VoIP, and will be available on Android, iOS, and the Web. The calls integration is complemented by the addition of a dedicated dialer app.
In terms of its user interface, Hangouts has received a large makeover, opting for a colored Action Bar and a traditional tab-based layout to replace its earlier monotone look accompanied by an unorthodox panel. The swipe actions are gone, replaced by traditional long presses and the navigation drawer makes an appearance for account switching. All in all, 2.3 is a rather refreshing redesign.
As always, the new version is currently being delivered via a staged rollout and may not be available on the Play Store for you just yet. However, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the APK right here so that you can install it manually if waiting isn’t your thing.
It appears that the long standing marriage between Samsung and Google may be coming to an end. According to Forbes, the Galaxy line creators will allow its users to download a beta version of Nokia Here Maps in October 2014, when the rounded Samsung Galaxy Gear S hits store shelves, and this might be the beginning of the end for Google’s OS on Samsung devices.
Samsung is pushing hard to replace Android with Tizen, their own, Linux-based operating system, which is as much Google-free as only possible. The adoption of Here Maps is the cherry on top of this rather turbulent relationship. It’s obvious that the whole story between the two companies is about money. Google is pushing OEMs to use its own sets of instructions regarding applications, and its really hard to imagine a situation where a Samsung, Sony, or any other phone is sold without Gmail, Chrome, or Hangouts present. To access Google Services, OEMs must create their own firmware with Google’s influence. The position of Google Search, Gmail, Hangouts is fixed, so companies like Samsung can’t move them. What hurts Samsung the most is not being able to put on their own search engine, ads, and other commercial software–and we know how much OEMs love bloatware.
A few weeks ago, Amazon released their very first smartphone, the Fire Phone. FireOS is nothing more than a skinned Android 4.0.3 without Google services. AOSP is a great thing and we all know how many things can be done with its source code. Good things. The majority of ROMs we see here on XDA are built from source, and some corporations have decided to do the same thing. Google may be a victim of their own strategy, but to be honest, it will never happen. Google is simply too big, too powerful, too greedy, and has the best managers in the world to fall into oblivion and leave the field for other companies.
This leads us to another question: What will happen with Samsung and other OEMs that try to release themselves from Mountain View’s clutches? An answer seems to be interesting. CNN reported that Xiaomi overtook the Samsung’s position in China, the biggest mobile market in the world. This fact may lead to conclusion that Samsung is slowly losing its position as a mobile world leader. We can already see devices from OEMs like Oppo, OnePlus, and other Asian OEMs that play a fair game (*knock, knock Mediatek…*) and find many thousands of buyers. It’s only a matter of time to find these devices in carrier deals–not just in North America, but also other continents. Samsung might be forced to reduce the price of their devices or simply look for another sector of the market to make big money. Leaving Android to Tizen is a reflection of the bad situation the OEM is currently in.
Tizen is a good OS for smartwatches, maybe even better than Android Wear, because it doesn’t require so much energy. Samsung has been working hard to push the Samsung Z, the first Tizen-based phone, to the Russian market. The company didn’t manage to make it yet and we are seeing pretty much the same Bada OS story in new guise. Tizen is much more user friendly than Bada, but this OS is not a threat to Android in any kind. Android will remain as a major force in mobile ecosystem for a long time, because Google will do everything to keep their OS on top.
HTC is having the same problem, as they decided to focus only on premium devices by abandoning the low-end device market. This could also be considered a mistake, because despite their lower profit margin, cheap devices can be sold by the millions. Look what Sony did with Xperia X8 or LG with their L3 models. Samsung is putting too much attention on premium devices, while the Asian market is getting some cheaper alternatives from rising competitors.
It remains unknown whether the decision of pushing the Nokia Maps to Android is a good or a bad move. Google may feel threatened and exclude Samsung from its other programs. But overall, this is simply a shame, because the Samsung Galaxy Nexus was a decent device. The upcoming months should be very interesting and provide us lots of topics to discuss.
What do you think about Samsung and Google’s growing relationship tension? Will they remain pals after all, or will their paths never again cross? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
September 4, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Another Wednesday has come, and in most parts of the world gone. As is more often than not the case, the day was marked with a few Google first party Android app updates. Today’s updates come in the form of a massive visual makeover for Chrome (Stable), bringing it to major version parity with July’s Chrome Beta update, as well as a minor update for Google Camera.
Although today’s updates aren’t too numerous, they’re still certainly exciting. Starting off today’s updates, we have Chrome Stable 37.0.2062.117. Similar to the beta channel update we saw a little over a month ago, today’s update to Chrome (stable) 37 brings us the Material Design UI elements and feel that we now know and love. This consists of that new start page, cleaner iconography, improved spacing, and more.
In addition to the rather significant update to Chrome stable, we also have a minor bugfix update to Google Camera, bringing us to version 2.3.020 (up from 2.3.017 about two months ago). As one would expect from such a minor version number bump, there’s not much in the way of changed features. However, it can reasonably be assumed that there are some under-the-hood bugfixes in there somewhere.
Both of these app updates will make their way out to consumer devices through the Play Store via a staged rollout. Naturally, not every device will be in initial wave. However, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the APKs over on our Google Drive for your sideloading pleasure:
[Many thanks to XDA Portal Supporter MihirGosai for the heads up!]
August 27, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Although Google has somewhat gotten out of the habit of their previously unrelenting Update Wednesday sessions, the middle of the week is still prime time for first party Android application updates. Today, we have been graced by not one, but two updates. And surprisingly, one of the two is for an app that hasn’t received a formal app update in… well… ever.
The first update, which actually started making its way out to devices yesterday afternoon, is for Google News and Weather. For those who don’t remember, this application has essentially remained unchanged ever since the Android 2.x days. Although over the years it received a minor color scheme update, its core functionality has been unchanged since its inception.
Now, Google News and Weather version 2 (up from 1.3) has made its debut in the Google Play Store, and it brings essentially an entirely new user experience. For starters, there’s now a slide-out “hamburger menu” available from any screen, which lets you shift between news categories. Sliding left and right still takes you through the categories, though there’s no longer a tabbed indicator up top. There’s also a new main screen, complete with top stories and a better weather indicator. The app also gives a new information screen when opened the first time to show you all of the new features. Finally, the UI itself has been fully updated to make use of the now nearly ubiquitous Material Design-styled colors that Google’s first party Android apps are starting to follow.
In addition to the massive Google News and Weather update, we have a minor update to Google Maps. Coming in at version 8.3.1 (up from 8.2.0), this is primarily a bugfix update from what we can see.
The Google News and Weather update is available for all supported devices straight on Google Play, but for some reason it doesn’t appear to be available in all regions and for all devices. As such, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored both APKs on our Google Drive for your early access, sideloading pleasure:
[Many thanks to XDA Portal Supporter MihirGosai for the APKs and info!]
August 12, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
We’re one day shy of Google’s traditional Update Wednesday, but despite this, the first party app updates for the week have already started rolling in. So far, we have a rather substantial update to the Google+ app, as well as minor incremental updates to Chrome beta, Search, and YouTube. And like always, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the APKs for your sideloading pleasure.
First off, we have the most significant update, Google+. Today’s update brings us to version 188.8.131.52928916 (up from 184.108.40.206642489 just over two months ago). As you would expect in a jump from 4.4 to 4.5, today’s update packs quite a bit of new functionality. Most notably, today’s update brings the ability to cast a feed of your circles’ photos, videos, and more directly to your TV using the Google Chromecast. This playback feed can then be controlled (paused, advanced, returned) by the client app on your phone or tablet. The ability to Cast your Stream seems to be account based, so not everyone who updates to 4.5 will have the option. But since the APK is now rolling out via the Play Store, we can’t imagine that it’ll be too long before all accounts have the ability to do so.
In addition to the massive Google+ update, we have some relatively minor updates to Chrome Beta, Google Search, and the YouTube app. These bring the apps up to Chrome Beta 37.0.2062.71, YouTube 220.127.116.11, and Search 18.104.22.1687016 (ARM only). Chrome Beta’s update brings a small menu animation tweak and address bar completion arrows, and the YouTube update appears to have solved an issue when used in conjunction with certain GAPPs packages. Search just appears to be simple bugfix updates based on version number changes and lack of user-facing feature changes, but as always, any new update is better than none.
As always, these updates are gradually making their way out to consumer devices via Google Play Store. But of course, not every device will get the updates in the initial wave. Luckily, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the updates on our Google Drive account for your early access, sideloading pleasure:
[Many thanks to XDA Portal Supporter MihirGosai for the tip, APKs, and info on what's changed!]
August 6, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
It’s Wednesday, and you know what that (most likely, but not always) means. It’s time for another Google Update Wednesday. Although we had no formal Google Update Wednesday last week, the fine folks over at Mountain View haven’t forgotten about us. Today, we receive two moderately sized updates to Google Play music and YouTube, as well as a minor update to Google Hangouts.
First up, we have the update to YouTube, which actually started making its way out to consumer devices late last night. Coming in at version 22.214.171.124 (up from 5.7), today’s update brings a few new tricks to the table. Given the rather large version number jump, one would expect a major increase in user-facing features. This, however, is unfortunately not the case. That said, there are tweaks to Playlist handling, including a new “View All” playlists button in the “hamburger” slide-out menu that takes you to all of your playlists. Once there (or anywhere else with a playlist), you can now click on the three button context menu for that playlist and either save or share it.
Next, we have Google Play Music. Today’s update takes us to version 5.6.1616P.1323377, up from version 5.5 from a few months back. This update packs a bit more meat than the YouTube update, bringing several user-facing changes. Perhaps most noteworthy, version 5.6.1616P.1323377 brings major changes to the application’s widgets. There’s a new 1×1 “I’m Feeling Lucky” widget that corresponds with the music player app’s similarly named option. In addition, there is a new 3×1 widget with a cleaner and more aesthetically appealing color scheme, which can also be resized to 4×4 to display album art in addition to controls. Finally, the Download Queue area has been renamed to Manage Downloads, and it displays your free storage space in the top.
Finally, we have a minor update to Google Hangouts, which takes us to version 2.1.317 (up from 2.1.311 released two months ago). This update, unlike the first two, appears to be just a minor bugfix release. As such, there are no user-visible changes that can be seen. That said, an update’s an update, and we’ve got your fix as well.
All of these app updates will make their way out to consumer devices through the Play Store via a staged rollout. Naturally, not every device will be in initial wave. However, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the APKs over on our Google Drive account for your sideloading pleasure:
[Many thanks to XDA Portal Supporter MihirGosai for the APKs!]
July 24, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
With Android L on the horizon, it’s no surprise that Google’s preparing itself for the upcoming major changes to its mobile platform. Undoubtedly, much of these changes are due to Android L’s new UI paradigm, Material Design. Just two days ago, Google issued a rather significant update to the Play Store that brought with it the first traces of Material Design. Now, Google’s given a similar makeover to its Chrome Browser beta channel.
Today’s update brings Chrome Beta to version number 37.0.2062.39 (up from 36.0.1985.81 last month). As one would expect from a major version number change, Chrome Beta 37 brings a few new tricks to the table. According to the official release notes on the Chrome Releases Blog:
This release contains a number of new features including:
- Material Design updates
- Simplified sign-in
- Lots of bug fixes and performance improvements!
This update’s main claim to fame is undoubtedly the first bullet: Material Design. This manifests itself in the form of a lightly tweaked tab switcher interface, reminiscent of the new Recents menu found in the Android L developer preview, as well as a larger omnibar, refreshed action overflow menu, and more open typography. Unfortunately, individual tabs do not yet tie into the Android L Recents feature, as was promised in the Google I/O 2014 keynote. Strangely, the tab selector button no longer shows you how many open tabs you have. And at this time, it’s unclear as to whether this is a limitation of the developer preview or if Chrome simply hasn’t taken advantage of the feature just yet.
Just like what’s always the case with Chrome Beta channel updates, this version should already be live for everyone in the Google Play Store. But since not everyone has access to the Play Store, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the APK for your sideloading pleasure.
July 22, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
It’s not Wednesday yet, but we’ve got a great Google first party Android app update to share. Rather than an app update in the traditional sense, today’s update is actually to the Google Play Store–and this new version packs quite a nice visual makeover that features a new and image-rich UI, as well as a hint of Material Design.
Today’s update to the Google Play Store brings the virtual storefront to version 4.9.13, up from version 4.8.22 that we shared just six days ago. And as you can expect from a relatively significant version number change, 4.9 brings a few very noticeable visual changes. For starters, when you access any particular Play Store entry–be it audio, video, apps, or written content–you are given a new image-rich listing page. This new style, which is seen in the leftmost screenshot, makes it easier to get a sense of your potential app purchase, as well as allow developers to create more enticing listings. In addition, Play Store listings now feature a floating action bar menu that fades into place when scrolling down any entry. This, along with a new and more prominent Google+ section can be seen in the middle screenshot. Finally, an updated “What’s New” section can be seen in the rightmost screenshot. This can be summoned by tapping on the section and dismissed by either clicking the “x” or scrolling up past the content.
The update isn’t complete in its visual transformation, however. When first launching the app, users won’t see any readily apparent changes. At this time, only the listing pages appear to be changed. That said, the update is a good move in the right direction, and we can’t wait to see the rest of the app’s visual makeover–perhaps in time for Android L and Material Design in the Fall.
While Play Store 4.9 has already begun rolling out, it will naturally be some time before everyone receives the update. As such, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the APK for your sideloading pleasure.
[Many thanks to XDA Recognized Developer febycv for the APK!]
July 22, 2014 By: Jimmy McGee
Our international xda:devcon ’14 in Manchester, UK on the weekend of September 26-28 is a celebration of all things mobile. The most popular sect of mobile development is perhaps software development. There are many different ways to develop software. You can use libraries and APIs to help advance your skills, among other things.
Today, we are happy to announce another great speaker that will be at xda:devcon ’14. MaR-V-iN is a computer science student, privacy enthusiast and hacker. MaR-V-iN started coding for Android at the end of Gingerbread era. Since then contributed to numerous Free Open Source Software projects. He is a big fan of penguins around him.
This year, MaR-V-iN’s presentation will be about which APIs are missing on non-Google systems, how they work, with specific focus on Play Services and what developers should do about it. Entitled “The Google in Android™,” this presentation talks about how since the first release of Android, Google has been an integral part of Android. At Android’s beginning, most apps by Google were just standard apps and use was not forced. More recently, however, Google started providing APIs through these apps. Since the rollout of alternative AOSP distributions, Google increasingly provides APIs through “Google Play Services” and the corresponding library. While Google claims that they’re combating fragmentation between Android versions this way, they’re in fact targeting fragmentation between Android and alternative AOSP distributions. So check out this talk to learn more about Google’s APIs, this is the talk for you.
July 19, 2014 By: Tomek Kondrat
Software is never completely secure. If you think otherwise, you are in for a rude awakening. Every now and then, hackers will find a way to take control of an app or expose private data–for money, fun, or fame. Motives varies, but these types of hackers are extremely talented, and often their potential is wasted to illegal activities. One of good guys in finding and neutralizing security flaws is Google. Current efforts have been focused mainly on their own products like Chrome OS or Chrome browser. But now, the whole idea of protecting the Internet has gone to a new level.
The Android Open Source Project is a good example of how the community can be used to make a big project used by millions safer and more complete. Android isn’t made only by developers gathered together in Mountain View. We’ve seen some contributions made by multiple XDA developers like Senior Recognized Developers jcase and Chainfire. Google obviously found out that some talented hackers are spread all over the world, so they came up with a new initiative, Google Project Zero. It’s a team made of top Google security researchers that have a sole mission to keep the world safe–free of security flaws, like the Heartbleed bug in OpenSSL project. Google Project Zero’s mission is to try and expose every security vulnerability and let companies know to fix them.
Google has already recruited some hackers from their own company and even XDA. New Zealander Ben Hawkes discovered dozens of bugs in software like Adobe Flash or Microsoft Office 2013. English researcher Tavis Ormandy discovered some zero-day vulnerabilities in antivirus software. Finally, George Hotz, for us known more as XDA Recognized Developer GeoHot, the creator of the Towelroot root exploit compatible with almost every device using an unpatched kernel. Before creating Towelroot, GeoHot was involved in iOS Jailbreaking and won the Pwnium hacking competition last March. Last but not least is Ian Beer. With such an All-Star team, Internet users will one day be a bit more safe.
It’s remain unanswered whether Google Project Zero will be a successful initiative. That said, exposing the flaws in order to encourage and allow companies to fix them is an innovative project, and other companies should follow the Google’s path in making the Web a safer place to work, communicate, and simply have fun.
Yesterday, we had a rather typical Google Update Wednesday, with major updates to Google Wallet and Chrome Stable, as well as a minor update to the Google Play Store. Now, Google is following up on yesterday’s updates with a major revision to Google Maps, which brings elevation info when using biking navigation and better support for voice input.
Perhaps the most interesting new feature in Maps 8.2 is elevation information in route planning. When viewing route options in biking mode, you now get a visual representation of route altitude This feature is currently reserved for those using biking directions, as it wouldn’t be of much use to those driving to their destination.
In addition to the new elevation info, you are also now able to issue voice commands while in navigation mode. Voice input is initiated by tapping on the microphone icon in the lower left hand corner of the display. Using voice input, you are able to ask Maps questions like, “how long until destination,” “what time will I get there,” “mute voice guidance,” “show a route overview,” “show traffic,” “what’s my next turn,” and so on. Unfortunately, however, Google’s traditional Fuzzy Logic voice input capabilities haven’t quite carried over into maps. So if you don’t say the exact right phrases, it doesn’t appear to work very consistently.
While Maps 8.2 has already begun rolling out, it will naturally be some time before everyone receives the update. As such, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the APK for your sideloading pleasure.