Everything for developers at Google I/O: Android and more

At its core, the Google I/O conference has always been a developer-focused event. Here are the top announcements Google made during the developer I/O keyword and beyond.

This post will be steadily updated over the course of the Google I/O 2022 developer main session with the latest news from all of the company’s different avenues of development, as well as news from the What’s New sessions afterward. Expect news from Android, Flutter, Jetpack, Firebase, and more.

Google I/O . Developer Ads

Android

With Android 12L earlier this year and Android 13 this fall, Google has focused on improving the Android experience on “big-screen” devices like tablets and foldables.

One thing some developers like to do — especially those just starting out — is to get inspired by how companies like Google design their apps. To that end, Google is leading the way in Android’s big-screen ambitions by updating more than 20 of its apps to look and work better on tablets and foldables.

If your Android app uses machine learning, you may be pleased to know that Google is integrating TensorFlow Lite into its Play Services. For this reason, developers can now rely on the bundled version of the library to reduce the size of their applications.

On the privacy front, there’s a new ML-based “Google Code Scanner” API for scanning things like QR codes and barcodes. Work is delegated to Google Play Services, which saves your app from needing camera permission, and scanning is done on the device, keeping data securely offline.

Android development environment

Of course, the Android development portal has always been Android Studio, the official IDE designed to make it easier to create Android apps. During the developer I/O keynote, Google showcased the next steps for Android Studio, with a look at the upcoming “Dolphin” release, which is moving into the beta testing phase.

  • View creating and formatting animations with Animation Preview.
  • Define annotation classes to easily include and apply multiple build preview definitions at once.
  • Calculate the path reconfiguration for your components in the Layout Inspector.
  • Easily pair and control Wear OS emulators and play tiles, watch faces, and multipliers directly from Android Studio.
  • Diagnose application problems faster with Logcat V2.

Looking ahead, the latest version of Canary, dubbed the Electric Eel, tests a variety of new features.

For starters, Google has launched a new “Google Play SDK Index” that provides general information about Android dependencies and SDK versions. This SDK index is integrated into Android Studio to provide warnings about outdated and deprecated packages ahead of time, allowing you to easily fix them before deploying your app.

First unveiled alongside Android 12L, the resizable Android Studio emulator stays in Canary testing for longer rather than moving into beta. Just as before, there are four layout presets to quickly scan your app in various popular views – phone, foldable, unfolded, tablet, and desktop.

Of course, while emulators have their advantages including keeping your app and code visible on the same screen, running on real hardware always comes in handy. To that end, Android Studio Electric Eel includes a new experimental “Device Mirror” tool that can display your phone’s screen on your PC.

Additionally, for Jetpack Compose developers, Android Studio Electric Eel includes an optional “Live Edit” feature that allows changes to your code to be reflected in emulators and previews of your app in real time. This should go a long way towards making design iterations faster. The previous version of Jetpack Compose’s live editing was limited to changing literal elements such as text and dimensions within the app.

google apps

The highlight of Google Play Ads at I/O is the release of the SDK Index, a web tool that provides insights into the most popular packages used on Android today. In particular, you’ll find the permissions they need, the apps you use, and the code that might violate Google Play policies.

A new beta program called “LiveOps” will allow developers to submit their apps and special events/discounts/etc. To be featured prominently in the Play Store. Google said that on average apps using LiveOps see 5% more active users and 4% higher return. At the moment, the LiveOps beta is limited, but developers can sign up for a chance to join.

Another new feature coming soon to the Play Store is the ability to manage up to 50 store listings for an app, allowing for slight differences between them, perhaps based on an advertising campaign or based on a user’s region or interests.

Likewise, app developers with subscription plans can now create a variety of slightly different offers and even flexible pricing. There is even a way to change the subscription price for new customers while leaving existing customers at the old cost.

On the security front, Play Console also makes it easy to keep app signing keys secure. As a best practice, Google Play App Signing can be configured to automatically roll over to a new signing key on an annual basis. Additionally, Play App Signing is in the process of switching to using Google Cloud Key Management exclusively, for both newly generated keys and the migration of existing keys to the service.

Jetpack composing

For a few years now, Google has been steadily crafting Jetpack Compose, a new UI framework for Android, built to use the benefits of Kotlin while also taking inspiration from creating the Flutter Ad UI (another Google project). Since its stable launch nearly a year ago, Jetpack Compose has seen massive adoption from the Android community, with more than 100 of the top 1,000 Play Store apps using the framework, including Twitter.

Compose’s biggest announcement is that Jetpack Compose for Wear OS has now reached the beta testing stage, with Google often considering beta-ready for production apps. More details on that launch are coming Thursday as part of a dedicated session.

In addition, IO 2022 marks the launch of the Jetpack Compose 1.2 Beta. The first highlight of this version is that font padding for text is now optional, one of the most requested features from Compose developers. In any future release, padding will be disabled by default, so it’s definitely worth playing around with in your own app.

On a related note, Compose 1.2 now allows your app to download the fonts it needs, instead of having to ship them in your APK file. This feature is powered by Google Fonts, allowing Jetpack Compose to easily access more than 1,000 free fonts. Another text enhancement in Compose 1.2 makes more of your app’s text compatible with Android’s built-in magnifier tool.

Other improvements in Jetpack Compose 1.2 include a new customizable “LazyLayout”, stable lazy grid layouts, WindowInsets for better adding Compose to an existing application, and recommended “window size” layouts for testing.

Google is also making it easier to move from one part of the Jetpack Compose application to another, adding an ad for a new configuration of the navigation library, allowing build jobs to be set as navigation destinations.

Jetpack

Google’s goals for Jetpack have always focused on making the lives of Android developers easier, whether it’s through application programming interfaces (APIs) to plug new features into many versions of Android or unique new libraries to improve apps.

On the latter front, Google has unveiled the concept of “baseline profiles” for Jetpack, which take usage data from your app to optimize the parts you use most. These parts are then assembled by the system first, allowing them to get ready for operation faster. To create a base profile for your own app, you can use the Jetpack Macrobenchmark library.

Google itself has started using Baseline profiles in its apps, with the Play Store search results page loading 40% faster. In other cases, Google has seen some apps receive an initial speed increase of only 30% using basic profiles.

Across Android 12L and Android 13 this year, Google has focused on larger screens like foldable devices and tablets, which have more screen properties for features that aren’t easy on phones.

To better run your app across multiple windows and on foldable devices, Jetpack provides a WindowManager library to solve common issues such as physical display size changes. WindowManager pairs well with another library, DragAndDrop, which makes it very easy to accept dragged contents, either from your own app or another app.

Jetpack’s new JankStats library does what it says on the box, tracks it and provides statistics on the states of “junk” or dropped frames. These moments are recorded along with useful context of what the user was doing which can help explain inconsistent cases of deception.

For Room, the data persistence library and one of the founding parts of the Jetpack suite, Google is an update to version 2.5, which begins the Room rewriting effort in Kotlin. Room 2.5 will also provide support for the newer “Paging 3.0” method for reading and saving data that is optimized for Kotlin use. Other room improvements include JOIN queries and easier AutoMigration changes.

If your project hasn’t migrated to Kotlin yet, the Jetpack team is preparing a Paging 3.1 update that integrates Guava and Rx for Java alternatives to Kotlin coroutines.

flutter 3

The Google I/O developer keynote also brings news of a new version of Flutter. The company’s cross-platform app creation suite is expanding even further with newly stable support for macOS and Linux. You’ll also find deeper support for Google’s ODM language.

Firebase

As always, Firebase focuses on its mission to make app builders more successful by making development easier and faster. During the Google I/O 2022 conference, the Firebase team shared a bunch of new features for web and Android developers, as well as improvements to security and third-party services.

For many, the most important tool that Firebase offers is Crashlytics, a tool specifically designed to identify issues your app users encounter and determine where that issue is occurring in your code. However, so far, this data has mainly been accessed through the Firebase Console in your browser.

With the upcoming release of Android Studio Electric Eel, currently in Canary, your data from Crashlytics is now available in the new “App Quality Insights” window. This makes it easy to dive into every crash and potentially responsible parts of your code. Currently, the Crashlytics integration in Android Studio only works with Android apps written in Kotlin or Java, but Firebase Chief Product Officer Francis Ma assured us that additional support for Flutter apps will be available soon.

Elsewhere in Crashlytics for Flutter developers, the Firebase team has improved adding the plugin to the Flutter app, making it now a simple two-step process. Other improvements to Crashlytics for Flutter include better automated collection and logging, and critical error alerts. On a larger scale, Flutter plug-ins for Firebase are now moving into “general availability” and are being developed directly by the Firebase team.

For web developers who use Firebase to host their apps, the ‘Publish Firebase’ command is greatly upgraded to support two popular frameworks, Next.js and Angular Universal. These improvements will help bring the power of Firebase and CDN security to your application with very little effort on your part.

On the security front, Firebase App Check is a recently launched service – today moving from beta to public availability – that protects your app’s backend from being accessed by illegal apps and devices. It does this through, among other things, the Play Integrity API, which checks for common forms of abuse and root-accessed devices.

For those who want to integrate their apps with third-party services, Firebase extends the system of “extensions”. In addition to new supported partners like Snapchat, some extensions can now be deeply customized through the use of “events” that allow you to run your code in response to workflows from third-party services.

To learn more about what Firebase has released, including newly launched app distribution and real-time alerts to monitor performance, check out the full Firebase blog post.

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