02 March 2015

Google Play services 7.0 - Places Everyone!

Posted by Ian Lake, Developer Advocate

Today, we’re bringing you new tools to build better apps with the rollout of Google Play services 7.0. With this release, we’re delivering improvements to location settings experiences, a brand new API for place information, new fitness data, automatic integration of AdMob and Google Analytics, Google Play Games, and more.

Location Settings Dialog

While the FusedLocationProviderApi combines multiple sensors to give you the optimal location, the accuracy of the location your app receives still depends greatly on what settings are enabled on the device (e.g. GPS, wifi, airplane mode, etc). In Google Play services 7.0, we’re introducing a standard mechanism to check that the necessary location settings are enabled for a given LocationRequest to succeed. If there are possible improvements, you can display a one touch control for the user to change their settings without leaving your app.

This API provides a great opportunity to make for a much better user experience, particularly if location information is critical to the user experience of your app such as was the case with Google Maps when they integrated the Location Settings dialog and saw a dramatic increase in the number of users in a good location state.

Places API

Location can be so much more than a latitude and longitude: the new Places API makes it easy to get details from Google’s database of places and businesses. The built-in place picker makes it easy for the user to pick their current place and provides all the relevant place details including name, address, phone number, website, and more.

If you prefer to provide your own UI, the getCurrentPlace() API returns places directly around the user’s current location. Autocomplete predictions are also provided to allow a low latency search experience directly within your app.

You can also manually add places with the addPlace() API and report that the user is at a particular place, ensuring that even the most explorative users can input and share their favorite new places.

The Places API will also be available cross-platform: in a few days, you’ll be able to apply for the Places API for iOS beta program to ensure a great and consistent user experience across mobile platforms.

Google Fit

Google Fit makes building fitness apps easier with fitness specific APIs on retrieving sensor data like current location and speed, collecting and storing activity data in Google Fit’s open platform, and automatically aggregating that data into a single view of the user’s fitness data.

In Google Play services 7.0, the previous Fitness.API that you passed into your GoogleApiClient has now been replaced with a number of APIs, matching the high level set of Google Fit Android APIs:

  • SENSORS_API to access raw sensor data via SensorsApi
  • RECORDING_API to record data via RecordingApi
  • HISTORY_API for inserting, deleting, or reading data via HistoryApi
  • SESSIONS_API for managing sessions via SessionsApi
  • BLE_API to interact with Bluetooth Low Energy devices via BleApi
  • CONFIG_API to access custom data types and settings for Google Fit via ConfigApi

This change significantly reduces the memory requirement for Google Fit enabled apps running in the background. Like always, apps built on previous versions of Google Play services will continue to work, but we strongly suggest you rebuild your Google Fit enabled apps to take advantage of this change.

Having all the data can be an empowering part of making meaningful changes and Google Fit is augmenting their existing data types with the addition of body fat percentage and sleep data.

Google Mobile Ads

We’ve found integration of AdMob and Google Analytics a powerful combination for analyzing how your users really use your app since we launched Google Analytics in AdMob last year. This new release enables any Google Mobile Ads SDK implementation to automatically get Google Analytics integration giving you the number of users and sessions, session duration, operating systems, device models, geography, and automatic screen reporting without any additional development work.

In addition, we’ve made numerous improvements across the SDK including ad request prefetching (saving battery usage and improving apparent latency) and making the SDK MRAIDv2 compliant.

Google Play Games

Announced at Game Developers Conference (GDC), we’re offering new tools to supercharge your games on Google Play. Included in Google Play services 7.0 is the Nearby Connections API, allowing games to seamlessly connect smartphones and tablets as second-screen controls to the game running on your TV.

App Indexing

App Indexing lets Google index apps just like websites, enabling Google search results to deep-link directly into your native app. We've simplified the App Indexing API to make this integration even easier for you by combining the existing view()/viewEnd() and action()/end() flows into a single start() and end() API.

Changes to GoogleApiClient

GoogleApiClient serves as the common entry point for accessing Google APIs. For this release, we’ve made retrieval of Google OAuth 2.0 tokens part of GoogleApiClient, making it much easier to request server auth codes to access Google APIs.

SDK Coming Soon!

We will be rolling out Google Play services 7.0 over the next few days. Expect an update to this blog post, published documentation, and the availability of the SDK once the rollout is completed.

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

New Tools to Supercharge Your Games on Google Play

Posted by Greg Hartrell, Senior Product Manager of Google Play Games

Everyone has a gaming-ready device in their pocket today. In fact, of the one billion Android users in more than 190 countries, three out of four of them are gamers. This allows game developers to reach a global audience and build a successful business. Over the past year, we paid out more than $7 billion to developers distributing apps and games on Google Play.

At our Developer Day during the Game Developers Conference (GDC) taking place this week, we announced a set of new features for Google Play Games and AdMob to power great gaming. Rolling out over the next few weeks, these launches can help you better measure and monetize your games.

Better measure and adapt to player needs

“Player Analytics has helped me hone in on BombSquad’s shortcomings, right the ship, and get to a point where I can financially justify making the games I want to make.”

Eric Froemling, BombSquad developer

Google Play Games is a set of services that help game developers reach and engage their audience. To further that effort, we’re introducing Player Analytics, giving developers access to powerful analytics reports to better measure overall business success and understand in-game player behavior. Launching in the next few weeks in the Google Play Developer Console, the new tool will give indie developers and big studios better insight into how their players are progressing, spending, and churning; access to critical metrics like ARPPU and sessions per user; and assistance setting daily revenue targets.

BombSquad, created by a one-person game studio in San Francisco, was able to more than double its revenue per user on Google Play after implementing design changes informed during beta testing Player Analytics.

Optimizing ads to earn the most revenue

After optimizing your game for performance, it’s important to build a smarter monetization experience tailored to each user. That’s why we’re announcing three important updates to the AdMob platform:

  • Native Ads: Currently available as a limited beta, participating game developers will be able to show ads in their app from Google advertisers, and then customize them so that users see ads that match the visual design of the game. Atari is looking to innovate on its games, like RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile, and more effectively engage users with this new feature.
  • In-App Purchase House Ads Beta: Game developers will be able to smartly grow their in-app purchase revenue for free. AdMob can now predict which users are more likely to spend on in-app purchases, and developers will be able to show these users customized text or display ads promoting items for sale. Currently in beta, this feature will be coming to all AdMob accounts in the next few weeks.
  • Audience Builder: A powerful tool that enables game developers to create lists of audiences based on how they use their game. They will be able to create customized experiences for users, and ultimately grow their app revenue.

"Atari creates great game experiences for our broad audience. We're happy to be partnering with Google and be the first games company to take part in the native ads beta and help monetize games in a way that enhances our users' experience."

Todd Shallbetter, Chief Operating Officer, Atari

New game experiences powered by Google

Last year, we launched Android TV as a way to bring Android into the living room, optimizing games for the big screen. The OEM ecosystem is growing with announced SmartTVs and micro-consoles from partners like Sony, TPVision/Philips and Razer.

To make gaming even more dynamic on Android TV, we’re launching the Nearby Connections API with the upcoming update of Google Play services. With this new protocol, games can seamlessly connect smartphones and tablets as second-screen controls to the game running on your TV. Beach Buggy Racing is a fun and competitive multiplayer racing game on Android TV that plans to use Nearby Connections in their summer release, and we are looking forward to more living room multiplayer games taking advantage of mobile devices as second screen controls.

At Google I/O last June, we also unveiled Google Cardboard with the goal of making virtual reality (VR) accessible to everyone. With Cardboard, we are giving game developers more opportunities to build unique and immersive experiences from nothing more than a piece of cardboard and your smartphone. The Cardboard SDKs for Android and Unity enable you to easily build VR apps or adapt your existing app for VR.

Check us out at GDC

Visit us at the Google booth #502 on the Expo floor to get hands on experience with Project Tango, Niantic Labs and Cardboard starting on Wednesday, March 4. Our teams from AdMob, AdWords, Analytics, Cloud Platform and Firebase will also be available to answer any of your product questions.

For more information on what we’re doing at GDC, please visit g.co/dev/gdc2015.

26 February 2015

A New Way to Promote Your App on Google Play

Posted by Michael Siliski, Product Management Director, Google Play

Google Play now reaches more than 1 billion people on Android devices in more than 190 countries, helping a growing number of developers like you build successful global businesses. In fact, in the past year, we paid more than $7 billion to developers distributing apps and games on Google Play. We remain as committed as ever to making Google Play the best place to find great apps, games and other entertainment.

App discovery plays a critical role in driving your continued success, and over the past year Google has provided best practices to enhance app discovery and engagement, as well as app promotion tools to get the most out of search and display advertising for developers. We are always looking for new ways to help you get your apps in front of potential new users. That’s why, in the next few weeks, we will begin piloting sponsored search results on Google Play, bringing our unique expertise in search ads to the store.

With more than 100 billion searches every month on Google.com, we’ve seen how search ads shown next to organic search results on Google.com can significantly improve content discovery for users and advertisers, both large and small. Search ads on Google Play will enable developers to drive more awareness of their apps and provide consumers new ways to discover apps that they otherwise might have missed.

In the coming weeks, a limited set of users will begin to see ads from a pilot group of advertisers who are already running Google search ads for their apps. We’ll have more to share in the coming months about the expansion of this program as we look at the results and feedback. We believe search ads will be a useful addition to Google Play for users and developers alike, and we hope this will bring even more success to our developer community.

25 February 2015

Bringing apps to the workplace with Google Play for Work

Posted by Matt Goodridge, Google Play team

Work doesn’t just happen in an office from 9 to 5 anymore. Today’s workers are mobile workers, and they need to be able to get things done as efficiently and collaboratively as possible, at any time. That’s why the Android for Work initiative is bringing together partners across the ecosystem, from device and app makers to networking and management solutions, to provide businesses with a secure, flexible and reliable mobility platform that users already know and love.

Google Play for Work allows businesses to securely deploy and manage enterprise-grade apps, across all of their users running Android for Work. Google Play for Work simplifies the process of distributing apps to employees and ensures that IT approves every deployed app. For developers, this is an opportunity to reach a new audience at scale through bulk installs or purchasing, which enables easy installation of your app across enterprises.

How to join Google Play for Work

Free apps will be available on Google Play for Work at launch with no action needed on your part. If you have a paid app, you’ll soon be able to opt-in to make your app available for bulk purchase on Google Play for Work in the Developer Console during the app publishing process. Find out more about publishing in the Google Play Developer Help Center.

Designing great apps for Android for Work

Apps that are installed from Google Play for Work will function without code changes. However, please note that some of the controls that Android for Work offers IT admins could affect how your app works. To ensure the best possible experience for your users, watch the first in our series of Android for Work DevBytes below to understand the best practices you should be following in developing your app.

More DevBytes will be posted to our YouTube channel soon. Find out more about Android for Work.

24 February 2015

We'll see you at GDC 2015!

Posted by Greg Hartrell, Senior Product Manager of Google Play Games

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is less than one week away in San Francisco. This year we will host our annual Developer Day at West Hall and be on the Expo floor in booth #502. We’re excited to give you a glimpse into how we are helping mobile game developers build successful businesses and improve user experiences.

Our Developer Day will take place in Room 2006 of the West Hall of Moscone Center on Monday, March 2. We're keeping the content action-oriented with a few presentations and lightning talks, followed by a full afternoon of hands on hacking with Google engineers. Here’s a look at the schedule:

Opening Keynote || 10AM: We’ll kick off the day by sharing to make your games more successful with Google. You’ll hear about new platforms, new tools to make development easier, and ways to measure your mobile games and monetize them.

Running A Successful Games Business with Google || 10:30AM: Next we’ll hear from Bob Meese, the Global Head of Games Business Development from Google Play, who’ll offer some key pointers on how to make sure you're best taking advantage of unique tools on Google Play to grow your business effectively.

Lightning Talks || 11:15AM: Ready to absorb all the opportunities Google has to offer your game business? These quick, 5-minute talks will cover everything from FlatBuffers to Google Cast to data interpolation. To keep us on track, a gong may be involved.

Code Labs || 1:30PM: After lunch, we’ll turn the room into a classroom setting where you can participate in a number of self-guided code labs focused on leveraging Analytics, Google Play game services, Firebase and VR with Cardboard. These Code Labs are completely self-paced and will be available throughout the afternoon. If you want admission to the code labs earlier, sign up for Priority Access here!

Also, be sure to check out the Google booth on the Expo floor to get hands on experiences with Project Tango, Niantic Labs and Cardboard starting on Wednesday, March 4. Our teams from AdMob, AdWords, Analytics, Cloud Platform and Firebase will also be available to answer any of your product questions.

For more information on our presence at GDC, including a full list of our talks and speaker details, please visit g.co/dev/gdc2015. Please note that these events are part of the official Game Developer's Conference, so you will need a pass to attend. If you can't attend GDC in person, you can still check out our morning talks on our livestream at g.co/dev/gdc-livestream.

Android Developer Story: GinLemon - Breaking through with Google Play

Posted by Letitia Lago, Google Play team

It’s not often that a developer is born from a summer holiday joke and a parent’s love of furniture making. But this is exactly how Vincenzo Colucci started GinLemon, a successful app business on Google Play.

The choice of Android was an obvious one to Vincenzo, although he didn’t have experience with Android development at the start — he learned it by downloading the tools and playing with the examples.

From his original scratch card app, to the global success of Smart Launcher, Vincenzo is proof that great apps can come from personal passion and the willingness to do something a little different.

Find out more about Vincenzo’s journey in this video.

Vincenzo and the team he has built around Smart Launcher are working on a major update, which will be free and they hope to release in March. They also have Smart Locker, a series of lock screens with some unique features, in development and other projects in the pipeline.

To learn about creating apps for Google Play and building your own app business, check out The Secrets to App Success on Google Play [ebook], a detailed playbook on the best practices and tools you can use to maximize the reach, retention, and revenue of your new app.

18 February 2015

Building for Android Wear: Depth and Flexibility

Posted by Timothy Jordan, Developer Advocate

With so many recent updates and improvements to Android Wear, it's high time to share an updated overview of the platform. We're certainly not done—there's a lot more to come—but this is the picture today as you start or continue developing your groundbreaking Android Wear user experiences.

The Android Wear platform emphasizes depth and flexibility. Built on Android, it allows developers to use familiar APIs to create useful, performant, and imaginative apps that run directly on the watch. In the spirit of Android, you have the freedom to make substantial changes to the user experience, including the creation of custom watch faces. There are three main categories of experiences you can build: apps, custom watch faces, and notifications.

Apps

Apps that are built for Android Wear run directly on the watch and can do nearly anything a phone can, from tracking your run to giving you a little entertainment while waiting for the bus. Some even work without a connection to the phone, such as fitness and music apps. There are libraries to help you move data between the phone and the wearable, as well as create stunning and adaptable UIs. Here's a list of some of the great features you have access to:

Feature Documentation
Full screen activities with touch events Creating Custom UIs for Wear Devices
Notifications and custom actions UI Patterns for Android Wear
Custom Watch faces Creating Watch Faces
Layouts for round and square devices Creating Custom UIs for Wear Devices
OpenGL Displaying Graphics with OpenGL ES
Sensors
  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Compass
  • Barometer
  • Heart rate sensor
SensorManager
Haptics Vibrator
Microphone AudioRecord
Voice actions Adding Voice Capabilities
GPS Detecting Location on Android Wear
Offline storing of data / music Transferring Assets
Media playback controls MediaSession, MediaController
Framework based on Android 5.0 API 21 Android 5.0 APIs
Standalone or synchronized apps Sending and Syncing Data

Watch Faces

The ability to create custom watch faces gives you direct access to the most prominent UI element on a user's most personal device. The API is simple enough to build watch faces quickly and flexible enough to allow personalization. Again, given the depth and flexibility of the Android platform, you can create something for the user that's both beautiful and packed with unique features.

The development journey starts with the simplicity of bringing your design to the wrist. At the core of the watch face API is the onDraw method that allows you to draw whatever design you can think of to the canvas at a high enough frame rate to deliver fluid animation. This will come through at full fidelity while the watch is in interactive mode.

At other times, when the watch is in ambient mode, you're able to draw a more discreet version of the watch face. Additional preferences can be set to arrange the system UI elements appropriately for your design. Once those basics are covered, the limits are your imagination! You can go further with additions like the moon phase, current weather, or fitness stats. Watchmakers call these items "complications" -- but with Android they're hardly complicated. Once you have the data, just draw it on the canvas as you did the time.

Notifications

Of course, Android Wear Notifications are the easiest way to get started in the world of wearables. If you've got an Android app with notifications -- they already work on a Wear watch. If you've already enhanced your notification with actions, this is even better and also automatically already works. You can take things further with Wear-specific functionality like Stacks, Pages, and Voice Replies that make your notifications richer experiences on the wrist.

The user experiences you build for Wear get to take advantage of the power and flexibility of the Android platform. It's easy to get started and possible to create truly groundbreaking UI for your users. Together, we can create an ecosystem of user experiences as diverse as the watches they run on and the people who wear them.

Check out the developer videos and documentation for more, and share your thoughts on the Android Wear Developers community. We can’t wait to see the innovative user experiences you will build on Android Wear.