Google releases a Jetpack library for Android Auto apps and prepares a new Screen Extension API
Developing for Android can be an arduous affair given Google’s yearly OS release cycle and shifting API requirements for Google Play, but that’s why Google maintains a set of support libraries under the “Android Jetpack” umbrella. On top of compatibility libraries, there are also other libraries for app development included in Jetpack, the latest of which is the Android for Cars App Library. Since Jetpack libraries are open source, we’ve also spotted development on a new API in the pipeline: one that’ll make it easier to develop innovative apps for foldables and dual-screen devices.
Android for Cars App Jetpack Library
Back in October of 2020, Google released the Android for Cars App Library in beta to allow third-party app developers to design, develop, and test their own navigation, parking, and charging apps on the Android Auto platform. In December of 2020, Google started to allow the publication of Android Auto apps built on this library. The popular third-party map and navigation app Sygic was one of the first to take advantage of this, releasing an Android Auto-compatible version of the app in mid-December. In late January of 2021, Google allowed apps built with this library to be published in open testing tracks and announced that they were working on migrating the Android for Cars App Library to Android Jetpack.
Examples of the new GridTemplate in
Today, Google has announced that the Android for Cars App Library is available in Jetpack as androidx.car.app 1.0.0-beta01. This is the first release of the previously closed source library and works on devices with Android Auto 6.1 or higher installed. It includes all functionality of the old library but also adds features such as a new GridTemplate. Google has also updated the developer guide and design guidelines to cover the new library and plans to deprecate the old library by September 1, 2021. Google says that migrating your Android Auto app from the existing library to the new Jetpack library is easy — change the namespace and tweak some API calls. With this change, we’re now one step closer to third-party Android Auto apps showing up in the Play Store on production tracks.
Screen Extension API
Foldables and dual-screen devices are the coolest kids on the block, but they don’t have many fans yet. The official Android emulator supports interesting form factors such as foldables, dual-screen phones, and rollables. However, it’s still up to the developer to come up with ways to extend their applications’ content and use platform APIs to make that happen. To make this process easier for developers, Google is working on a new Screen Extension API. According to one commit, Google has created demos showcasing how developers can use the Screen Extension API to create a game controller that extends to a secondary display and a camera app that shows a preview on another screen. The API is currently marked as experimental until the OEM interface has been finalized. We’re interested in seeing what apps developers come up with once this API is merged.