Firebase gets enterprise support, a new REST API, and general availability for iOS Test Lab and Predictions
Firebase is a platform by Google that helps mobile and web app teams get the best experience while developing applications for Android and iOS. The Firebase team have been rolling out the necessary tools for almost everything a developer may need. Today, during the Firebase Summit in Prague, Google’s Firebase team announced a bunch of new tools and features that will help you out even more. We spoke with Francis Ma, Head of Product of Firebase, who was happy to share the announcements with our community.
Firebase now has more than 1.5 million monthly active apps. This is an impressive metric if you consider that Firebase is optional to use for developers. The metric proves that Firebase is a useful tool for development. Here’s a summary of what’s new for the platform.
While Firebase can absolutely be used by indie or freelance developers, many larger companies also use it. That means it’s necessary to have enterprise support, and the Firebase team has delivered. Paid Google Cloud Support users will have the benefits of guaranteed SLA, 24/7 technical support in case of critical issues, and a dedicated technical manager for Firebase.
Firebase questions will be answered through Google Cloud Platform Support Console. If you already pay for GCP, Firebase enterprise support is totally free for you. Enterprise support is once again optional, so you can continue using Firebase for free if you want. Google is planning to add Firebase Enterprise Support in beta by the end of the year.
Firebase Management API
The next big feature is the Firebase Management API, which is a REST API allowing you to create and manage Firebase apps programmatically. You can also integrate Firebase with other systems easily. Two web-based IDEs, Glitch and Stackblitz, now have an option to automatically detect and deploy your app to Firebase hosting, which is made possible by the API mentioned above. You can also integrate it into CI/CD (continuous integration/continuous delivery) systems. Below is the video of deployment in action.
Test Lab for iOS
Firebase Test Lab is a cloud-based solution for easily testing your apps. Even though Google announced Test Labs for iOS beta during Google I/O 2018, the general availability has been available only for Android. iOS support has now moved to the stable channel. You can use it on both simulated and physical devices to test your apps with one operation. You’ll be able to see logs, videos, and screenshots inside the Firebase Console, as iOS UI is already integrated. Test Labs supports the latest iOS 12, as well as older versions.
User feedback is a vital component for any developer who takes app experience seriously. Any kind of feedback, manual or automated, will help you drastically improve the stability and functionality of your application if used correctly. Firebase Predictions helps developers get a machine learning-powered data model about how users interact with their application. This eliminates the need of having an ML professional in the team, as almost everything is automated. The feature has been in alpha stage since the last Firebase Summit but has recently moved to the beta. Starting today, it is now stable and ready to roll out for everyone.
Firebase Predictions now gives you a full story about how Google’s ML made certain predictions. That includes occurred events, device, user data, and many more. All of that will help you look into the details of given predictions, so you don’t have to trust Firebase Predictions completely and make decisions on your own according to the detailed list. The Firebase team also announced the ability to export the data to BigQuery. Here is the official documentation about risk tolerance and model performance.
Enhanced face detection with ML Kit
ML Kit was launched at Google I/O 2018. It gives developers the ability to develop high-quality apps without deep knowledge of ML. The out-0f-the-box ML Kit APIs are friendly enough that you can use them in a variety of ML-powered apps. If you have more advanced knowledge of ML, you can also use your own TensorFlow Lite models. Now, the Firebase team just announced an updated ML Kit API which enhances the face detection feature. The new API will let you project more than 100 detailed points on the face so it will be able to easily detect and overcome accessories like glasses. The documentation is available here.
Improved security in Cloud Firestore and Realtime Database
According to the Firebase team, many developers have expressed their uncertainty about the security of Cloud Firestore. The team now released a local emulator for both the Cloud Firestore and Realtime Database. The emulator can be built-into your own CI, which will help you develop and test locally to give you more confidence. Documentation can be found at this link.
Real-time Remote Config
Remote Config is a great way to change the behavior and interface of an application without pushing out an update on the Google Play Store. What we call a server-side change is often made possible by Remote Config. The only drawback so far has been that applications had no way of knowing when a Remote Config was updated. They had to fetch updates every couple of hours, potentially using more network bandwidth and battery of the device.
Now, Remote Config is integrated with Cloud Functions and Firebase Cloud Messaging. This will let apps know when to pull a server-side update in real time. This will also help you better inform your team via Slack when there is a new Remote Config update available. Here are the docs about realtime Remote Config.
Performance Monitoring is yet another tool that is aimed at helping you identify issues about your app. Despite how good your QA team may be, there are often bugs and issues that may go unnoticed and end up harming the user experience. You can see in the screenshot below how Performance Monitoring detected a spike in CPU usage when an image was loaded inside an application. This will help developers better pinpoint and fix the issues with their applications.
Firebase Console will also let you mute, close, and reopen issues, much like GitHub. This feature will help you better prioritize which issues to fix first. If you want to work on one specific bug, you can mute all the others temporarily. Once you fix the bug, you can close it to indicate that issue is solved. Firebase will notify you if the bug shows itself again.
Crashlytics + PagerDuty
Issues can occur at any time, whether you’re working or on a vacation. That’s why there’s a necessity to alert developers whenever there was a serious performance or stability issue. Starting today, Crashlytics will detect issues which it thinks will cause a negative effect on the stability of the app, and PagerDuty will send an email to the team.
BigQuery + Data Studio
Crashlytics and BigQuery integration have helped developers run a deeper analysis of crash data. Now, Firebase team put together a Data Studio template. It will give you the ability to customize the report, mock the data, and share it. The documentation of the feature can be found here.
Google Analytics for Firebase is a way for developers to segment their users into audiences based on the event, device, and lots of other components. The problem with it has been that these audiences have been a target of change, but lists have been static. Starting today, all the audiences are dynamic by default. Firebase will now automatically remove the users who will no longer meet the criteria, and add new ones. Google Analytics for Firebase is also gaining an exclusions and membership duration features. All of that will help you better understand and interact with your user base. For example, you may want to target users who visited the shopping cart but have not made a purchase or completed a certain action in a certain amount of time.
Automatic Cloud Messaging
Your users sometimes may need a reminder to come back to the app. Firebase Cloud Messaging has been used to send one-time messages to users for a while now. From now on, you’ll have the ability to set up automatic messages. Developers can target certain users with dynamic audiences and send all kinds of notifications. Updated notification console supports more sophisticated campaigns. You can see the new user interface here.
That’s a wrap. This was the third Firebase Dev Summit since Google acquired the company back in 2014. All the features mentioned above are already available in Firebase, so you can start using them to develop amazing apps and projects. Make sure to share them with us or on the XDA Forum.