28 May 2015

Announcing the Material Design Showcase and Awards

Posted by Rich Fulcher, Material Design Team

When we first announced material design in June 2014, we shared an aspirational highlights reel that demonstrated key material principles for motion, interaction, and visual design across a range of hypothetical apps. “Hypothetical” being the key word here—back then, material design was just an idea. Sure, designers and engineers at Google were already working hard on applying material to Google’s Android, iOS, and web apps, but the notion of a single design system that can work across platforms and brands was just an idea.

Fast-forward to today, and thousands of Android apps are adopting material design using the Android 5.0 SDK and AppCompat, while designers and developers begin to experiment with material design on iOS and the web as well. These apps are starting to realize that aspirational vision we set out with that sizzle reel.

Today, we’re celebrating the amazing design work from Google Play developers and announcing the Material Design Showcase and Material Design Awards.

With the Material Design Showcase, we’re highlighting 18 great material design apps through a collection on Google Play, just like with the Beautiful Design collection in years past.

Of those 18 apps, we’re recognizing 6 with a special award, which we handed out during Google I/O today and announced at the Material Now session hosted by Matias Duarte.

These 6 winners of our first ever Material Design Awards represent best-in-class applications of specific aspects of material design:

B&H Photo Video Audio Pro for Immersive Imagery

New York Times for Elegant Typography

Pocket for Adaptive Layouts

Pocket Casts for Seamless Browsing

Tumblr for Delightful Animation

Weather Timeline for Crafted Simplicity

So today, we have a new highlights reel, featuring these six wonderful and very real apps:


The individuals, teams, and companies behind these apps have made the promise of material design that much more of a reality.

What’s next

But remember, this is only the beginning. We’ll continue to recognize excellent material design in the future, evolving the awards as we evolve material design itself—together as a community.

If you’re a designer or developer just starting out with material design, make sure to check out these 18 apps in the Material Design Showcase. They’re a great source of inspiration, in addition to the awesome content on community sites like Dribbble. And if you’re wondering how to start implementing some of these ideas, get started today with the Creating Apps with Material Design training docs. When you publish your next great app with material design, be sure to let us know on Google+ and Twitter!

A Closer Look at Google Play services 7.5

Posted by Ian Lake, Developer Advocate

At Google I/O, we announced the rollout of Google Play services 7.5 that deliver new capabilities and optimizations to devices across the Android ecosystem. Google Play services ensures that you can build on the latest features from Google for your users, with the confidence that those services will work properly on Android 2.3 and higher devices.

You’ll find the addition of Smart Lock for Passwords, Instance ID, new APIs for Google Cloud Messaging and Google Cast, as well as access to the Google Maps API on Android Wear devices.

Smart Lock for Passwords

Typing in a password, particularly on a mobile device, is never a pleasant experience. In many cases, your users have already logged in on the web or another device - shouldn’t your login process know that? Smart Lock for Passwords builds on the Chrome Password Manager, adding a new CredentialsApi API and UI on Android to retrieve saved credentials as part of your login process and saving new credentials for later use on other Android devices and any Chrome browser. Both password-based and Identity Provider (IDP, like Google Sign-In) credentials are supported. Keep your users logged in as they move between and to new devices; don’t let them drop off, get frustrated, or end up with multiple accounts.

Learn more about Smart Lock for Passwords on the developer site.

Instance ID, Identity, and Authorization

Instance ID (IID) allows you to retrieve a unique identifier for every app instance, providing a mechanism to authenticate and authorize actions, even if your app does not have user registration and accounts. For example, this allows you to uniquely determine which app instance is sending a request from by including the Instance ID token. We’ve also made it easy to handle edge cases to ensure that you’ll have valid Instance ID tokens.

Google Cloud Messaging

Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) gives developers a battery efficient mechanism for sending information to your users as well as send upstream messages from a device to your server.

Google Cloud Messaging and InstanceID

Previously, GCM used a unique registration ID to refer to each device - while these IDs will continue to work, you can now utilize Instance ID tokens for GCM, gaining all of the advantages of InstanceID around handling error cases. Instance ID tokens are fully compatible with user notifications, allowing you to send notifications to all of a user's devices.

Topic based subscriptions

You’ll also get another new feature for switching to InstanceID with GCM - topic based subscriptions! This makes it easy to publish a message to exactly the right audience and have GCM handle all the heavy lifting of sending to all subscribed instances. Your app can subscribe to multiple topics, allowing you to create any set of topics needed to best handle your app’s messaging needs.

Receiving messages with GCM

Of course, just subscribing to receive messages is only half the battle: receiving GCM messages can now be done using a GcmReceiver and a subclass of GcmListenerService. These two classes make it easy to help your app reliably process messages, even when the device is awakened from deep sleep.

GCM Network Manager

Applications often need to sync data with their servers when new information is available. In GCM we refer to this model as “send to sync”. We made this task much simpler with the introduction of the GCM Network Manager APIs, which handles many of the common implementation patterns such as waiting for network connectivity, device charging, network retries, and backoff. GcmNetworkManager will schedule your background tasks when it is most appropriate and it can batch multiple tasks together for efficiency and battery savings, even utilizing the JobScheduler APIs for best performance on Android 5.0+ devices. With support for both one-off tasks and periodic tasks, this API serves as a flexible framework for many different types of operations.

App Invites Beta

Now in beta, App Invites is new functionality for both Android and iOS that provides a standard UI for users to invite their contacts to install your app and optionally deep link specifically to selected content, using your users’ device and Google-wide contacts as a source to drive referrals to increase the reach of your app.

With the ability to send invites via SMS or email, this provides a great mechanism to organically grow your user base, give your users a consistent way to share your app with exactly who would like it, and track how effective your invites are.

With App Invites, our goal is to take the hard work out of building user referral and onboarding flows, so that you can focus on your core app experience. Learn more about App Invites on the developer site!

Google Cast

Google Cast is a technology that lets you easily cast content from your mobile device or laptop right to your TV or speakers. With the new ability to use remote display on any Android, iOS, or Chrome app, better media support, better game support, we hope your Google Cast experience is better than ever!

Remote Display API

We are making it easy for mobile developers to bring graphically intensive apps or games to Google Cast receivers with Google Cast Remote Display APIs for Android and iOS. The new Remote Display API allows you to build a tailored, integrated second screen experience, without requiring an identical mirroring of content between mobile devices and the Google Cast device.

Learn more about Remote Display on the Google Cast Developers Site!

Autoplay and Queuing APIs

Playing single media items on Chromecast has been something RemoteMediaPlayer (or CastCompanionLibrary’s VideoCastController) has been doing well for some time. With this release, RemoteMediaPlayer is gaining a full media queue and support for autoplay for a seamless media playback experience. This ensures that all connected devices can easily maintain a synchronized queue of upcoming media items, opening up new possibilities of creating collaborative Google Cast media experiences.

Game Manager APIs for Google Cast

Bringing your game to Google Cast can make for a great multiplayer experience, using a mobile device as a game controller and the TV to display the action. To make it easier to send messages and state changes to all connected clients and the cast receiver, Google Play services 7.5 introduces the GameManagerClient and the Game Manager APIs for Google Cast, available for Android, iOS, Chrome, and for receivers.

Android Wear

Watches are great devices for telling time. But what if in addition showing you when you are, watches could easily show you where you are? With the new release, you can now use the familiar Maps APIs on Android Wear devices:

This makes it possible to display fully interactive maps, as well as lite mode maps, directly on Android Wear devices. You’ll be able to scroll and zoom interactive maps, show the user’s current location, and more. Check out the full list of supported features in the developer documentation and check out all the details on the Geo Developers blog.

Google Fit

Google Fit is an open platform designed to make building fitness apps, whether that means retrieving sensor data like current location and speed, collecting and storing activity data, or automatically aggregating that data into a single view of the user’s fitness data.

You’ll now be able to use the RecordingApi for gathering estimated distance traveled and calories burned data, making it available to your app and other Google Fit enabled apps via the HistoryApi.

Being active can take many forms. While some activities are easily measured in terms of steps or distance, strength training is measured in terms of type, resistance and repetitions. This type of data can now be stored in Google Fit via new support for a large number of workout exercises, helping users build a complete view of their activity.

SDK is now available!

Google Play services 7.5 is now available: get started with updated SDK now!

To learn more about Google Play services and the APIs available to you through it, visit the Google APIs for Android site.

Empowering successful global businesses on Google Play

Posted by Ellie Powers, Product Manager, Google Play

With more than 50 billion app installs over the past year from users across 190 countries, Google Play continues to see incredible growth thanks to developers like you creating amazing experiences. Play is now reaching more than one billion users every month.

In February, we announced that we had paid out more than $7 billion to developers in the prior year alone. This week at Google I/O, we’re introducing new and powerful tools to help you further grow your business, improve decision making based on smarter insights, and better engage your user base with more relevant content.

Acquire users from the Developer Console

Once you’ve built a great app, the next important step is to proactively find ways to promote it and grow a loyal user base. App install ads are one powerful way to do that. In the coming months, you’ll be able to quickly and easily set up ad campaigns right from within the Google Play Developer Console for the first time.

All you need to do is set a total budget and the cost you're willing to pay per user and we’ll scale your app promotion across our networks, including Google Search, AdMob, YouTube and the search ads we’re piloting on Google Play. With this new feature, you will will be able to better find the customers that are most likely to install your app.

Actionable insights with the Acquisition and Conversion Funnel

Whether you pay to acquire users or not, you want to know where they’re coming from. Through the Developer Console, you will soon be able to get a snapshot of how many users visit your Store listing, install your app, and make purchases. You’ll see where your most valuable users come from — across organic and paid traffic — and better understand where to focus your efforts.

Optimize your Play store listing with experiments

Your Play Store listing is extremely important, as it’s often the first touch point users have with your app. Starting today, we’re making it easier to optimize this page with support for A/B tests. You can run experiments with different versions of text and graphics to see which are most effective in converting visits into installs on Google Play. In our pilot program, we were thrilled to see that some developers like Kongregate achieved double-digit improvements in their install rates so far.

Test your app automatically on real devices with Cloud Test Lab

With the large variety of Android form factors in the market, testing your app on real devices is a critical step to ensuring a positive user experience on any device. However, you may not have access to every device that your users do. So we’re integrating the newly announced Cloud Test Lab into the Developer Console, which will allow you to automatically test your apps on hundreds of popular physical Android devices for free. We’re going to be rolling out this pilot program gradually, so we’ll welcome your feedback on it.

For each APK you upload to an alpha or beta channel, Google Play will execute fully automated testing of your app against physical devices matching your app targeting criteria and output a report with a detailed analysis of issues, including screenshots and logs. Google Cloud Test Lab will roll out to all developers later this year; you can sign-up to become a tester in the Developer Console now.

Build a data-driven games business with Player Analytics

Google Play Games has activated more than 180M new users in the past six months and continues to be the fastest growing mobile gaming platform in history.

Over the coming months, we're adding new reports, player segments, game metrics, and event types to Player Analytics to help you manage your games business. We're also bringing enhancements to our live operations tools that will enable dynamic content updates that make games feel more alive and engaging, gameplay to respond to changing player needs, and more fun, personalized user experiences. As the bar for success in mobile gaming continues to rise, we’re continuing to evolve our tools to help you meet the soaring expectations of players.

Find great apps – developer pages and search results

There are several ways in which we are improving the discoverability of great apps and games on Google Play to help drive more engagement. Starting today, you can create a unique homepage on Google Play to promote your entire app catalog. With your own developer page, you are able to upload graphics, explain what your company is all about and pick a special app to feature. This gives you a single destination to promote all of your apps on Google Play.

We are also helping guide users with broad interests (e.g. “shopping”) in a new search results experience.

The focus is on organizing results in an intuitive way that allows users to narrow their intent -- such as grouping shopping apps into coupons apps and fashion apps. By doing so, users will be able to better see the range of apps that satisfy their needs, while also increasing the chances of discovering new and innovative apps that you’re building.

Family-friendly content in Google Play

Starting today, we’re making it easier to find family-friendly content on Google Play through new discovery features. On the Apps & Games and Movies & TV homepages, users can now hit the “Family” star to see a curated set of options for specific age groups. In Play Books, tap the “Children’s Books” star. These pages let you browse by age ranges to find content that’s the best fit for the family. If you’ve already opted-in your apps to the Designed for Families program and they’ve met the requirements, they’ll be included in the new family section so that parents can find suitable, trusted, high-quality apps and games more easily. Find out more about opting-in to the Designed for Families program.

Join us at Google I/O 2015

To learn more, tune-in live to “Developers connecting the world through Google Play” at 1pm PT / 4pm ET / 9pm GMT on May 29 on google.com/io.

If you’re at I/O 2015, come along to our breakout sessions where we’ll be talking about and demo’ing these new features. Find our sessions in the I/O 2015 schedule.

Check out developer.android.com/distribute over the coming weeks and months as we add I/O videos and more details about these and other new features.

Android M Developer Preview & Tools

By Jamal Eason, Product Manager, Android

Today at Google I/O, we announced a developer preview of the next version of Android, the M release. Last year’s developer preview was a first for Android and we received great feedback. We want to continue to give you developers early access to Android so you have time to get your apps ready for the next version of Android. This time with the M Developer Preview, we will provide a clear timeline for testing and feedback plus more updates to the preview build.

Visit the M Developer Preview for downloads and documentation

The Android M release: improving the fundamentals

For the M release, we focused on improving the core user experience of Android, from fixing thousands of bugs, to making some big changes to the fundamentals of the platform:

  • Permissions - We are giving users control of app permissions in the M release. Apps can trigger requests for permissions at runtime, in the right context, and users can choose whether to grant the permission. Making permission requests right when they’re needed means users can get up and running in your app faster. Also, users have easy access to manage all their app permissions in settings. On M, as a developer, you should design your app to prompt for permissions in context and account for permissions that don’t get granted. As more devices upgrade to M, app permission behavior will be a critical development flow to test.
  • Runtime App Permissions

  • App links - We are making it even easier to link between apps. Android has always allowed apps to register to natively handle URLs. Now you can add an autoVerify attribute to your app manifest so that users can be linked deep into your native app without any disambiguation prompt. App links, along with App Indexing for Google search, make it easier for users to discover and re-engage with your app.
  • Battery - We’re making Android devices smarter about managing power through a new feature called Doze. With M, Android uses significant motion detection to learn if a device has been left unattended for a while. In this state, Android will exponentially back off background activity, trading off a little bit of app freshness for longer battery life. Consider how this may affect your app; for instance, if you’re building a chat app, you may want to make use of high priority messages to wake your app when the device is dozing.

The Android M release: advancing assistance and payments

We are also delighted to announce a couple of big new features:

  • Now on tap - We are making it even easier for Android users to get assistance with Now on tap -- whenever they need it, wherever they are on their device. For example, if your friend texts you about dinner at a new restaurant, without leaving the app, you can ask Google Now for help. Using just that context, Google can find menus, reviews, help you book a table, navigate there, and deep link you into relevant apps. As a developer, you can implement App Indexing for Google search to let users discover and re-engage with your app through Now on tap.
  • Now on tap

  • Android Pay & Fingerprint - We’ve built on our work with Near Field Communications (NFC) in Gingerbread and Host Card Emulation in Kitkat to develop Android Pay. Android Pay will enable Android users to simply and securely use their Android phone to pay in stores or in thousands of Android Pay partner apps. With M, native fingerprint support enhances Android Pay by allowing users to confirm a purchase with their fingerprint. Moreover, fingerprint on M can be used to unlock devices and make purchases on Google Play. With new APIs in M, it’s easy for you to add fingerprint authorization to your app and have it work consistently across a range of devices and sensors.

These are just a few highlights from the M Developer Preview that we announced today. The M preview will be available for download right after the keynote.

Android Developer Tools

In addition to the developer preview, we are launching new tools to help you in the development of your Android App:

  • Android Studio v1.3 Preview - To help take advantage of the M Developer Preview features, we are releasing a new version of Android Studio. Most notable is a much requested feature from our Android NDK & game developers: code editing and debugging for C/C++ code. Based on JetBrains Clion platform, the Android Studio NDK plugin provides features such as refactoring and code completion for C/C++ code alongside your Java code. Java and C/C++ code support is integrated into one development experience free of charge for Android app developers. Update to Android Studio v1.3 via the Canary channel and let us know what you think.
  • Android Studio 1.3 with Android NDK Support

  • Android Design Support Library - Making Material design apps gets even easier with the new Android Design support library. We have packaged a set a key design components (e.g floating action button, snackbar, navigation view, motion enabled Toolbars) that are backward compatible to API 7 and can be added to your app to create a modern, great looking Android app without building everything from scratch.
  • Google Play Services - Today we also are releasing v7.5 of Google Play services which includes new features ranging from Smart Lock for Passwords, new APIs for Google Cloud Messaging and Google Cast, to Google Maps API on Android Wear devices.

Get Started

The M Developer Preview includes an updated SDK with tools, system images for testing on the official Android emulator, and system images for testing on Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 9, and Nexus Player devices. We are excited to expand the program and give you more time to ensure your apps support M when it launches this fall. Based on your feedback, we plan to update the M Developer preview system images often during the developer preview program. The sooner we hear from you, the more feedback we can integrate, so let us know!

To get started with the M Developer Preview and prepare your apps for the full release, just follow these steps:

  1. Update to Android Studio v1.3+ Preview
  2. Visit the M Developer Preview site for downloads and documentation.
  3. Explore the new APIs & App Permissions changes
  4. Explore the Android Design Support Library & Google Play Services APIs
  5. Get the emulator system images through the SDK Manager or download the Nexus device system images.
  6. Test your app with your supported Nexus device or emulator
  7. Give us feedback

25 May 2015

Game Performance: Geometry Instancing

Posted by Shanee Nishry, Games Developer Advocate

Imagine a beautiful virtual forest with countless trees, plants and vegetation, or a stadium with countless people in the crowd cheering. If you are heroic you might like the idea of an epic battle between armies.

Rendering a lot of meshes is desired to create a beautiful scene like a forest, a cheering crowd or an army, but doing so is quite costly and reduces the frame rate. Fortunately this is possible using a simple technique called Geometry Instancing.

Geometry instancing can be used in 2D games for rendering a large number of sprites, or in 3D for things like particles, characters and environment.

The NDK code sample More Teapots demoing the content of this article can be found with the ndk inside the samples folder and in the git repository.

Support and Extensions

Geometry instancing is available from OpenGL ES 3.0 and to OpenGL 2.0 devices which support the GL_NV_draw_instanced or GL_EXT_draw_instanced extensions. More information on how to using the extensions is shown in the More Teapots demo.

Overview

Submitting draw calls causes OpenGL to queue commands to be sent to the GPU, this has an expensive overhead which may affect performance. This overhead grows when changing states such as alpha blending function, active shader, textures and buffers.

Geometry Instancing is a technique that combines multiple draws of the same mesh into a single draw call, resulting in reduced overhead and potentially increased performance. This works even when different transformations are required.

The algorithm

To explain how Geometry Instancing works let’s quickly overview traditional drawing.

Traditional Drawing

To a draw a mesh you’d usually prepare a vertex buffer and an index buffer, bind your shader and buffers, set your uniforms such as a World View Projection matrix and make a draw call.

To draw multiple instances using the same mesh you set new uniform values for the transformations and other data and call draw again. This is repeated for every instance.

Drawing with Geometry Instancing

Geometry Instancing reduces CPU overhead by reducing the sequence described above into a single buffer and draw call.

It works by using an additional buffer which contains custom per-instance data needed by your shader, such as transformations, color, light data.

The first change to your workflow is to create the additional buffer on initialization stage.

To put it into code let’s define an example per-instance data that includes a world view projection matrix and a color:

C++

struct PerInstanceData
{
 Mat4x4 WorldViewProj;
 Vector4 Color;
};

You also need to the structure to your shader. The easiest way is by creating a Uniform Block with an array:

GLSL

#define MAX_INSTANCES 512

layout(std140) uniform PerInstanceData {
    struct
    {
        mat4      uMVP;
        vec4      uColor;
    } Data[ MAX_INSTANCES ];
};

Note that uniform blocks have limited sizes. You can find the maximum number of bytes you can use by querying for GL_MAX_UNIFORM_BLOCK_SIZE using glGetIntegerv.

Example:

GLint max_block_size = 0;
glGetIntegerv( GL_MAX_UNIFORM_BLOCK_SIZE, &max_block_size );

Bind the uniform block on the CPU in your program’s initialization stage:

C++

#define MAX_INSTANCES 512
#define BINDING_POINT 1
GLuint shaderProgram; // Compiled shader program

// Bind Uniform Block
GLuint blockIndex = glGetUniformBlockIndex( shaderProgram, "PerInstanceData" );
glUniformBlockBinding( shaderProgram, blockIndex, BINDING_POINT );

And create a corresponding uniform buffer object:

C++

// Create Instance Buffer
GLuint instanceBuffer;

glGenBuffers( 1, &instanceBuffer );
glBindBuffer( GL_UNIFORM_BUFFER, instanceBuffer );
glBindBufferBase( GL_UNIFORM_BUFFER, BINDING_POINT, instanceBuffer );

// Initialize buffer size
glBufferData( GL_UNIFORM_BUFFER, MAX_INSTANCES * sizeof( PerInstanceData ), NULL, GL_DYNAMIC_DRAW );

The next step is to update the instance data every frame to reflect changes to the visible objects you are going to draw. Once you have your new instance buffer you can draw everything with a single call to glDrawElementsInstanced.

You update the instance buffer using glMapBufferRange. This function locks the buffer and retrieves a pointer to the byte data allowing you to copy your per-instance data. Unlock your buffer using glUnmapBuffer when you are done.

Here is a simple example for updating the instance data:

const int NUM_SCENE_OBJECTS = …; // number of objects visible in your scene which share the same mesh

// Bind the buffer
glBindBuffer( GL_UNIFORM_BUFFER, instanceBuffer );

// Retrieve pointer to map the data
PerInstanceData* pBuffer = (PerInstanceData*) glMapBufferRange( GL_UNIFORM_BUFFER, 0,
                NUM_SCENE_OBJECTS * sizeof( PerInstanceData ),
                GL_MAP_WRITE_BIT | GL_MAP_INVALIDATE_RANGE_BIT );

// Iterate the scene objects
for ( int i = 0; i < NUM_SCENE_OBJECTS; ++i )
{
    pBuffer[ i ].WorldViewProj = ... // Copy World View Projection matrix
    pBuffer[ i ].Color = …               // Copy color
}

glUnmapBuffer( GL_UNIFORM_BUFFER ); // Unmap the buffer

And finally you can draw everything with a single call to glDrawElementsInstanced or glDrawArraysInstanced (depending if you are using an index buffer):

glDrawElementsInstanced( GL_TRIANGLES, NUM_INDICES, GL_UNSIGNED_SHORT, 0,
                NUM_SCENE_OBJECTS );

You are almost done! There is just one more step to do. In your shader you need to make use of the new uniform buffer object for your transformations and colors. In your shader main program:

void main()
{
    …
    gl_Position = PerInstanceData.Data[ gl_InstanceID ].uMVP * inPosition;
    outColor = PerInstanceData.Data[ gl_InstanceID ].uColor;
}

You might have noticed the use gl_InstanceID. This is a predefined OpenGL vertex shader variable that tells your program which instance it is currently drawing. Using this variable your shader can properly iterate the instance data and match the correct transformation and color for every vertex.

That’s it! You are now ready to use Geometry Instancing. If you are drawing the same mesh multiple times in a frame make sure to implement Geometry Instancing in your pipeline! This can greatly reduce overhead and improve performance.

21 May 2015

Always-on and Wi-Fi with the latest Android Wear update

Posted by Wayne Piekarski, Developer Advocate

A new update to Android Wear is rolling out with lots of new features like always-on apps, Wi-Fi connectivity, media browsing, emoji input, and more. Let’s discuss some of the great new capabilities that are available in this release.

Always-on apps

Above all, a watch should make it easy to tell the time. That's why most Android Wear watches have always-on displays, so you can see the time without having to shake your wrist or lift your arm to wake up the display. In this release, we're making it possible for apps to be always-on as well.

With always-on functionality, your app can display dynamic data on the device, even when the app is in ambient mode. This is useful if your app displays information that is continuously updated. For example, running apps like Endomondo, MapMyRun, and Runtastic use the always-on screen to let you keep track of how long and far you’ve been running. Zillow keeps you posted about the median price of homes nearby when you’re house-hunting.

Always-on functionality is also useful for apps that may not update data very frequently, but present information that’s useful for reference over a longer period of time. For example, Bring! lets you keep your shopping list right on your wrist, and Golfshot gives you accurate distances from tee to pin. If you’re at the airport and making your way to your gate, American Airlines, Delta, and KLM let you keep all of your flight info a glance away on your watch.

Note: the above apps will not display always-on functionality on your watch until you receive the update for the latest version of Android Wear.

Always-on functionality works similar to watch faces, in that the power usage of the display and processor is kept to a minimum by reducing the colors and refresh rate of the display. To implement an always-on Activity, you need to make a few small changes to your app's AndroidManifest.xml, your app’s build.gradle, and the Activity to declare that it supports ambient mode. A code sample and documentation are available to show you how it works. Be sure to tune in to the livestream at Google I/O next week for Android Wear: Your app and the always-on screen.

Wi-Fi connectivity and cloud sync

Many existing Android Wear devices already contain hardware support for Wi-Fi, and this release enables software support for Wi-Fi. The saved Wi-Fi networks on your phone are copied to your watch during setup, and your watch automatically connects to those Wi-Fi networks when it loses Bluetooth connection to your phone. Your watch can then connect to your phone over the Internet, even if they’re not on the same Wi-Fi network.

You should continue to use the Data Layer API for all communications between the watch and phone. By using this standard API, your app will always work, no matter what kind of connectivity the user’s wearable supports. Cloud sync also introduces a new virtual node in the Data Layer called the cloud node, which may be returned in calls to getConnectedNodes(). Learn more in the Multi-wearable support section below.

Multi-wearable support

The release of Google Play services 7.3 now allows support for multiple wearable devices to be paired simultaneously to a single phone or tablet, so you can have a wearable for fitness, and another for dressing up. While DataItems will continue to work in the same way, since they are synchronized to all devices, working with the MessageApi is a little different. When you update your build.gradle to use version 7.3 or higher, getConnectedNodes() from the NodeApi will usually return multiple nodes. There is an extra virtual node added to represent the cloud node used to communicate over Wi-Fi, so all developers need to deal with this situation in their code.

To help simplify finding the right node among many devices, we have added a CapabilityApi, allowing your nodes to announce features they provide, for example downloading images or music. You can also now use the ChannelApi to open up a connection to a specific device to transfer large resources such as images or audio streams, without having to send them to all devices like you would when embedding assets into data items. We have updated our Android Wear samples and documentation to show the best practices in implementing this.

MediaBrowser support

The Android 5.0 release added the ability for apps to browse the media content of another app, via the android.media.browse API. With the latest Android Wear update, if your media playback app supports this API, then you will be able to browse to find the next song directly from your watch. This is the same browse capability used in Android Auto. You implement the API once, and it will work across a variety of platforms. To do so, you just need to allow Android Wear to browse your app in the onGetRoot() method validator. You can also add custom actions to the MediaSession that will appear as controls on the watch. We have a Universal Media Player sample that shows you how to implement this functionality.

Updates to existing devices

The latest version of Android Wear will roll out via an over-the-air (OTA) update to all Android Wear watches over the coming weeks. To take advantage of these new features, you will need to use targetSdkVersion 22 and add the necessary dependencies for always-on support. We have also expanded the collection of emulators available via the SDK Manager, to simulate the experience on all the currently available devices, resolutions, and shapes, including insets like the Moto 360.

In this update, we have also disabled support for apps that use the unofficial, activity-based approach for displaying watch faces, as announced in December. These watch faces will no longer work and should be updated to use the new watch face API.

Since the launch of Android Wear last summer, Android Wear has grown into a platform that gives users many possibilities to personalize their watches, with a variety of shapes and styles, a range of watch bands, and thousands of apps and watch faces. Features such as always-on apps and Wi-Fi allow developers even more flexibility to give users amazing experiences with Android Wear.

20 May 2015

Android Developer Story: Wooga’s fast iterations on Android and Google Play

Posted by Leticia Lago, Google Play team

In order to make the best possible games, Wooga works on roughly 40 concepts and prototypes per year, out of which 10 go into production, around seven soft launch, and only two make it to global launch. It’s what they call “the hit filter." For their latest title, Agent Alice, they follow up with new episodes every week to maintain player interest and engagement over time.

The ability to quickly iterate both live and under development games is therefore key to Wooga’s business model — Android and Google Play provide them the tools they need and mean that new features and updates are made on Android first, before they get to other platforms.

Find out more from Sebastian Kriese, Head of Partnerships, and Pal Tamas Feher, Head of Engineering, and learn how the iteration features of Android and Google Play have contributed to successes such as Diamond Dash, Jelly Splash, and Agent Alice.

You can find out more about building successful games businesses on Android and Google Play at Google I/O 2015: in person, on the live stream, or session recordings after the event. Check out the following:

  • Developers connecting the world through Google Play - Hear how the new mobile ecosystem including Google Play and Android are empowering developers to make good on the dream of connecting the world through technology to improve people's lives. This session will be live streamed.
  • Growing games with Google — In addition to consoles, PC, and browser gaming, as well as phone and tablet games, there are emerging fields including virtual reality and mobile games in the living room. This talk covers how Google is helping developers across this broad range of platforms. This session will be live streamed.
  • What’s new in the Google Play Developer Console - Google Play’s new launches will help you acquire more users and improve the quality of your app. Hear an overview of the latest features and how you can start taking advantage of them in the Developer Console.
  • Smarter approaches to app testing — Hear about the new ways Google can help maximize the success of your next app launch with cheaper and easier testing strategies.