29 July 2013

Unlocking More Users, with Tablets and Games

Posted by Purnima Kochikar, Director of Business Development, Games & Applications

Last week, we unveiled a number of new things in the world of Android. And while we already showcased the new tools available at your disposal in Android 4.3, we also unveiled a new Nexus 7 tablet, as well as the Google Play Games app, both of which represent opportunities to take advantage of a growing number of users.

Nexus 7 and the Android tablet revolution

If you’re a developer optimizing your app for Android tablets, no doubt you’re familiar with the original Nexus 7. It was Google’s statement on what a great Android tablet experience should look like, and since then, the Android tablet ecosystem has come a long way. There have already been more than 70 million activations of Android tablets, with more than 1 in 2 tablets sold today running Android. We’re starting to see with Android tablets what could be the hockey stick growth all of us experienced a couple of years ago with Android smartphones, and we hope that the new Nexus 7 continues to fuel this growth even further.

Most top developers on Android have already prepared their applications for this wave of new Android tablet users, including many of the essentials, like the New York Times, Zappos, Evernote, Flipboard, Pinterest and more. To help users find your tablet-designed apps more easily on Google Play, you can now choose to only see apps designed for tablets in the top lists. There are also over 50 new collections, which highlight outstanding tablet apps.

To take advantage of the Android tablet revolution, check out our Tablet App Quality Checklist, which has tips and techniques on how to deliver a great app experience for tablet users. It details all of the key things you need to do to optimize your app for tablets, like taking advantage of the extra screen real estate and adjusting font sizes and touch targets, to things you can do on the distribution side, like declaring support for tablet screens and showcasing your tablet UI on Google Play by uploading tablet-specific screenshots. Optimizing your app for Android tablets will unlock a whole new group of users, like those who are about to receive their new Nexus 7 tablets.

Taking your game to the next level

The Android games category on Google Play is on fire; in fact, the vast majority of top mobile game developers are building Android tablet games, and most new titles launch immediately on Android. To help game developers take advantage of the next generation of games, at Google I/O in May, we introduced Google Play game services, our gaming platform for Android, iOS, and the web. By building on Google’s strengths in mobile and cloud services, Google Play game services allows game developers to focus on what they’re good at: creating great gaming experiences for their users.

Turbocharging that growth even more, on Wednesday we introduced the Google Play Games app, which brings your friends together with the games you love, where you can invite a friend and start challenging gamers around the world, compete for top achievements, and race to the top of the leaderboard.

Since the launch at Google I/O, just over two months ago, over one thousand games have added Google Play game services, with millions of users enjoying features like leaderboards and multiplayer inside of the games they love. Some of those early developers using Google Play game services are reporting incredible upticks in vital engagement metrics; for instance, Concrete Software is seeing session length up 15%, and Glu is reporting a 40% increase in 7-day user retention.

Here are a few things you can do to take your game to the next level with Google Play:

  • Integrate with Play Games using achievements and leaderboards to activate your players.
  • Add real-time multiplayer to competitive and cooperative games and increase engagement.
  • Use Play Games branding guidelines and create rich visuals that bolster your presence in the Google Play Games app.

Whether it be getting your app ready for the wave of new Android tablets that are lighting up each day, or opening up a whole new set of features for your users with Google Play game services, a great Android experience starts with a great app or game. That’s why we’re working hard to help provide you with the tools and features needed to create those great experiences for your users, and to help you reach as many of them as possible in the process, with Google Play.

24 July 2013

Android 4.3 and Updated Developer Tools

Posted by Dave Burke, Engineering Director, Android Platform

Today in San Francisco we announced Android 4.3, a sweeter version of Jelly Bean that includes great new features for users and developers. Android 4.3 powers the new Nexus 7 tablet that's coming soon to Google Play and retail outlets, and it’s rolling out now as an update to Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, and Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ devices across the world.

For developers, Android 4.3 includes the latest performance enhancements to keep your apps fast, smooth, and efficient, together with new APIs and capabilities to use in your apps. Here's a taste of what's new:

  • OpenGL ES 3.0 — Game developers can now take advantage of OpenGL ES 3.0 and EGL extensions as standard features of Android, with access from either framework or native APIs.
  • Bluetooth Smart — Now your apps can communicate with the many types of low-power Bluetooth Smart devices and sensors available today, to provide new features for fitness, medical, location, proximity, and more.
  • Restricted profiles — Tablet owners can create restricted profiles to limit access to apps, for family, friends, kiosks, and more. Your app can offer various types of restrictions to let tablet owners control its capabilities in each profile.
  • New media capabilities — A modular DRM framework enables media application developers to more easily integrate DRM into their own streaming protocols such as MPEG DASH. Apps can also access a built-in VP8 encoder from framework or native APIs for high-quality video capture.
  • Notification access — Your apps can now access and interact with the stream of status bar notifications as they are posted. You can display them in any way you want, including routing them to nearby Bluetooth devices, and you can update and dismiss notifications as needed.
  • Improved profiling tools — New tags in the Systrace tool and on-screen GPU profiling give you new ways to build great performance into your app.

Check out the Android 4.3 platform highlights for a complete overview of what’s new for developers. To read more about the new APIs and how to use them, take a look at the API Overview or watch the new DevBytes videos.

Along with the new Android 4.3 platform we’re releasing an update to the Android NDK (r9). The new NDK gives you native access to the OpenGL ES 3.0 APIs and other stable APIs in Android 4.3, so if you use high-performance graphics in your games or apps, make sure to check it out.

Last, we’ve updated the Android Support Library (r18) with several key APIs to help you build great apps with broad compatibility. Most important, we've added an Action Bar API to let you build this essential Android design pattern into your app with compatibility back to Android 2.1. For apps targeting RTL languages, there's a new BidiFormatter utility you can use to manage RTL strings with compatibility back to Android 2.1. Also, watch for a new RenderScript feature coming soon that will let you take advantage of hardware-accelerated computation with compatibility back to Android 2.2.

You can get started developing and testing on Android 4.3 right away, in Android Studio or in ADT/Ant. You can download the Android 4.3 Platform (API level 18), as well as the SDK Tools, Platform Tools, and Support Library from the Android SDK Manager.

19 July 2013

Making Beautiful Android App Icons

Posted by Roman Nurik, Android Developer Relations

For most users, the launcher icon (sometimes referred to as the app icon) is the first impression of your app. As higher density screens on both phones and tablets gain popularity, it's important to make sure your launcher icon is crisp and high quality. To do this, make sure you’re including XHDPI (320dpi) and XXHDPI (480dpi) versions of the icon in your app.

In addition to the current launcher icon guidelines, please also refer to these additional important guidelines when creating your icons:

  • Launcher icons are 48dp square and should be provided for MDPI, HDPI, XHDPI, and XXHDPI densities—at the very least XHDPI and XXHDPI.
  • The 512px Google Play listing icon should have the same content as the launcher icon, except for minor additional badging.
  • Launcher icons should be designed specifically for Android. As per the Pure Android design guidelines, avoid mimicking visual elements and styles from other platforms.
  • Launcher icons should be three-dimensional, front view, with a slight perspective as if viewed from above, so that users perceive some depth.
  • Launcher icons should have a distinct silhouette, meaning that you should avoid simple square/circle icons and instead opt for unique shapes.
  • Launcher icons should be simple at the macro level but still detailed at the micro level (e.g. include subtle edge effects, gradients and textures).
  • Launcher icons should employ lightweight background protection such as a subtle drop shadow, but it should not be too dark or visually prominent.
  • Launcher icons should include between 0dp and 3dp of padding. Vary the padding for optical alignment and weight normalization purposes (e.g. thinner icons can use smaller padding and thicker icons can use less padding for a more consistent icon mass across icons).

Note that tablets and other large screen devices request a launcher icon that is one density size larger than the device's actual density, so you should provide your launcher icon at the highest density possible. For example, if a tablet has an XHDPI screen, it will request the XXHDPI version of the launcher icon.

09 July 2013

Mid Year 2013 Android Developer Survey

Posted by Reto Meier, Android Developer Relations Tech Lead

The 2013 mid-year Android Developer Survey is now open!

Last year more than 5,000 of you shared your Android Development experiences and challenges with us, and your responses directly influenced our choices and priorities for building things like Android Studio, the new Google Play Publishing Console, and the Google Play services.


We in the Android Developer Relations team are passionate about making Android app development a great experience, so we're once again asking all of you involved in developing Android apps - engineers, designers, product managers, and distribution and support folks - to let us know what you think.

We want to better understand the challenges you face when planning, designing, writing, distributing, and monetizing your Android apps, so we've put together this brief (15-20min) survey that will help us create better tools and resources for you.

In an effort to get a better representation of developers from around the world the survey is available in the following languages:

Last year you told us you'd like a way to give us general written feedback, so to facilitate this while keeping the survey short and simple, we've included a link at the end of the survey that will let you send us as much direct feedback as you care to, completely anonymously.

Of course, you can always send us your thoughts, questions, suggestions, and complaints any time by posting to us (publicly or privately) on Google+ at +Android Developers or using the hash tag #AndroidDev.

As always, we're looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

03 July 2013

The Beautiful Design Summer 2013 Collection on Google Play

Posted by Marco Paglia, Android Design Team

Attention to detail makes an app truly beautiful: transitions are fast and clear, layout and typography are crisp and meaningful, and design touches that delight you in surprising ways are sprinkled throughout. Today, we’re publishing a new Beautiful Design collection on Google Play, which highlights 11 beautiful apps with these kinds of masterfully crafted design details.

The collection, which we’ll refresh with new apps every so often, currently includes:

  • Pattrn (by Lucas Rocha), a beautifully focused app for discovering and sharing unique wallpapers on any size screen device.
  • Pocket (by Read It Later), an article keeper and reader app with a beautiful queue browsing interface and a remarkably comfortable and pleasing reading experience on phones and tablets.
  • Timer (by Opoloo), a timer app with an elegant and deeply satisfying timer-creation interface and simple, beautiful theme choices.
  • Eye in Sky Weather, NY Times, Grand St., Pinterest, Press, Expedia, Flipboard and TED… each with delightful design details.

If you’re an Android developer, make sure to play with some of these apps to get a sense for the types of design details that can separate good apps from great ones.

Lastly, remember that this new Beautiful Design collection is just one of a number of unique collections on Google Play that are front and center in the new Google Play Store app client.