Google I/O 2013: How to make magical Android apps

Android jelly BeanIn the final part of a three-leg series about Android development pro tips, Reto Meier, Android developer relations tech lead at Google, presented some tips for Android developers to make their apps “magical.” Meier wanted to answer the question “How do we build apps significantly enough to feel like magic?”

For his first tip, Meier says the easiest way for a developer to make an app magical is by looking at competitors.

“You can use your competitors as an eye for where you should be,” he says. But there’s a downfall when analyzing what competitors are doing. “Aiming for the past or where your competitors have been isn’t magic,” he adds.

Meier also says developers shouldn’t focus on the current breakdown of the Android operating system, which Google provides publicly at its developer dashboard.

“If you wait for Jelly Bean to hit 50 percent, you’re going to be behind,” he says. Meier adds that developers should build apps for users with the latest Android OS, especially.

An example of a magical moment is when two users hold their handsets together, tap the devices together, and initiate a multiplayer session in a game, similarly to the sharing capability in Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and newer handsets. “For regular people, this is the sort of stuff that creates magical experiences,” Meier says.

Meier provided some additional tips including not transmitting or storing contact details or location of users, supplying a privacy policy on Google Play and allowing users to delete stored data as well as not storing data that’s more than a few months old.

Meier continually drove the point home on designing a personalized app for everyone. To do that, a developer has to create context through tracking. A developer can implement tracking abilities in their apps such as location tracking, activity recognition (which can tell if a user is running, walking, cycling, etc.) and social tracking of a user’s Google+ profile. Utilizing a mobile device’s sensory abilities such as sight, sound, and touch, can create a rich sensory experience for the user that will feel magical.

New Android boss reveals future plans for Android, alludes to I/O plans

android-logo-250-250New Android boss Sundar Pichai gave his first interview to Wired today, revealing Google’s future plans for its Android operating system.

In March, Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, stepped down from his position as head of Android to pursue another role within Google. Pichai, who was the senior vice president of Chrome and Apps prior, was tapped as Rubin’s replacement. Pichai told Wired that the leadership change from Rubin to himself happened a couple weeks prior to Google’s official announcement.

People speculated that the move signaled an unification of Google’s two operating systems — its Android OS and Chrome OS. Pichai, who’s been at Google since 2004, reiterated to Wired that Android and Chrome will remain separate, but didn’t rule out a change in the long run.

“The picture may look different a year or two from from now, but in the short term, we have Android and we have Chrome, and we are not changing course,” he said.

Other highlights from his interview included Pichai’s excitement for alternative Android experiences via Facebook Home and Amazon Kindle Fire, Google’s positive relationship with Samsung (Pichai owns a Galaxy S4 handset) and his backing of HTML5 for app development.

For Android specifically, Pichai said payouts to developers on Google Play quadrupled in 2012. He also said Google is looking into changing its method when it comes to updating the Android OS, which is currently highly fragmented across many Android devices.

For Google’s I/O event later this week, Pichai said the conference will focus on “all kinds of things we’re doing for developers.” Keep it right here at Inside Mobile Apps for Google I/O coverage starting Wednesday.

Developers interested in learning more about mobile app development can register for our upcoming Inside Social Apps conference June 6 to 7 in San Francisco.

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Any Android developer can now reply to app store reviews

google-play-logoGoogle today announced that all Android developers can now reply to user reviews in Google Play. Developers can reply to app store reviews through the Google Play Developer Console. All replies are displayed publicly below the corresponding user review on Google Play. Users receive an email notification when a developer replies and can either reply to a developer directly by email, or update their review if they feel the need to.

In June 2012, Google first allowed a select group of developers — those with a Top Developer Badge — the ability to respond to specific reviews directly from the Android Developer Console. Google expanded the program to more developers in January. Comparatively, the Apple App Store still doesn’t have the ability for developers to directly respond to user reviews.

Responding to app reviews is helpful to developers because an app’s average review score is a powerful viral mechanism for app discovery as well as provide a more effective communication channel with their audience to handle any customer support requests like complaints, bugs or suggestions for new features.

Google also provided some best practices when replying to user reviews, which it collected from developers who had the ability to reply to reviews already:

  • Check reviews frequently, and involve people from all parts of your organization
  • Identify and prioritize bugs based on user impact
  • Let users know when their problems are resolved
  • Reply constructively to both negative and positive reviews
  • Refer users to documentation or other support channels
  • Get ideas about new improvements or features
  • Thank the users who are your biggest advocates

Developers interested in learning more about replying to user reviews can go here to see Google’s posting guidelines.

Google updates Google Search app for iOS with Google Now functionality

google-logoGoogle today announced the release of its Google Now feature in its Google Search app for iOS. Google Now is a personal assistant feature within the Google Search app for Android, and now iOS, which personalizes the Google search bar by providing the user with weather forecasts, driving conditions, calendar reminders, news updates, flight reminders and more.

Information from Google Now is presented through Google Now Cards. Some of the Cards, which provide different functionalities, are available only for Android. Features that aren’t available for iOS include the Boarding pass, Activity Summary, Events, Zillow, Fandango, Concerts and Nearby Events. But a majority of the other features are present in Google Now for iOS.

Google also updated the voice assistant functionality in its Google Search app, unleashing a competitor to Apple’s on-board voice assistant Siri. In the app, a user can tap the microphone icon and speak to their iOS device. For example, if a users asks, “Do I need an umbrella this weekend?” the app will answer the question by providing the user with the forecast.

It’s unlikely that Google Now for iOS will ever have all of the same abilities as Google Now does for Android since the app is a core component of the Android operating system. (more…)

Animoca: 7-inch tablets dominate the Android tablet market, Samsung the leading manufacturer

Animoca logoAndroid-focused mobile game developer and publisher Animoca today released Android tablet data gathered from its network of users, which showed that four of the five most used tablets were of the 7-inch screen variety, and Samsung devices were the first and second most popular tablets overall.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7 (includes p3100 and p3113) took an 11.8 percent share and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 grabbed an 8.3 percent share. Amazon’s Kindle Fire devices also faired well, coming in at the No. 3 and No. 4 spots, with a 7.5 percent share for the standard Kindle Fire and a 4.9 percent share with the HD model. Another notable tablet was Asus’ Google Nexus 7, which generated a 3.8 percent share.

Beyond the No. 7  spot, the remaining tablets each claimed less than a one percent market share. So, given an error margin of 0.1 percent and the slight differences between the No. 8 tablet onward, Animoca says it couldn’t be sure of the correct ordering.

Developers should be creating mobile apps made for their target audience, and knowing which devices to develop for like tablets, in terms of screen size, hardware specifications, and platform market share, is important.

Animoca previously released similar data that analyzed for most used devices on its network, taking a look at the top Android smartphones in markets like the U.S., Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and India.

The Hong Kong-based game company collected data for this report from 978,000 users worldwide who used Google Play and played an Animoca game on a tablet device between February 18 to March 20.

Google refreshes Google Play’s look

google-play-logoGoogle today revealed a new redesigned look for its Google Play app store on Android smartphones and tablets.

The refreshed look is one that’s simple, clean and aimed to help users find apps and media content faster. Notable changes include larger images, grouping of similar content and the appearance of content recommendations as the user scrolls through the app store. Purchasing has also been simplified, so users can go from checkout to enjoying their content as fast as possible.

The previous look of the Google Play store was more text heavy, with black as its primary color. The redesigned store changes the main colors to lighter colors, which is more akin to the look of the web-based Google Chrome Store.

The redesigned Google Play store begins rolling out today for Android smartphones and tablets running the Android Froyo operating system (version 2.2) and above. The refreshed storefront will roll out worldwide in the next few weeks.Google Play redesign tabletGoogle Play redesign smartphone

Google announces Google Keep app

Google logoGoogle today announced Google Keep, a new note-taking app for Android smartphones and tablets.

Google Keep allows users to take down notes and make lists, with the added abilities to include checklists, photos, voice memo transcriptions and a search functionality. The app features a drag-and-drop interface, so users can move around notes, for example, by priority. Notes can also be colored directly as well. All notes are saved and synced across all devices in the cloud via Google Drive. Access to notes aren’t limited to only the app, a user can access, edit and create new notes on the web here. In the next few weeks, Google will add the same capabilities to Google Drive.

Android Police first spotted the app’s existance, but it was quickly taken down by Google shortly after.

Google Keep is available now on google Play for devices running the Ice Cream Sandwich OS (version 4.0) and higher. Users running the latest Jelly Bean OS (version 4.2) can create quick notes in the lock screen via a widget. Surprisingly, no iOS support was mention in Google’s blog post.Google Keep

Exclusive: Coupons apps seeing CPMs in excess of $10 from Pontiflex’s sign up ads

Pontiflex logoMobile ad platform Pontiflex today announced that leading coupon apps on Google Play are seeing CPMs in excess of $10.

Pontiflex allows mobile ad networks and developers to serve sign up ads to their customers. The sign up ads are for deals and newsletters from brands and other business. Advertisers using Pontiflex’s sign up ads platform include brands like Hasbro, Fisher Price and Kimberly-Clark, as well as small businesses such as Paper Hat Press and Dunhill Vacations.

Although Pontiflex didn’t break down which coupon apps were seeing CPMs above $10, Android apps that were performing well with Pontiflex’s sign up ads include The Coupons App, GeoQpons and Coupon Sherpa.

Xymob CEO and developer of GeoQpons Sunit Lohtia tells Inside Mobile Apps that the reason the company is seeing higher CPMs is that the ads from Pontiflex are relevant ads to the users of GeoQpons.

“The sign up offers are related to shopping, so people end up signing up for those offers because it’s in their interest to sign up,” he says.

Developers interested in using Pontiflex’s sign up ads to monetize their mobile apps can go here to download the native Pontiflex AppLeads SDK or by using its HTML5 API.

‘Silent updates’ for Android download latest version of Facebook without Google Play

android-developmentFacebook is testing a new way for Android users to receive app updates without going through the Google Play store.

Some Android users are now receiving “silent updates,” which download in the background while a user is connected over Wi-Fi. Instead of users receiving a notification about a new app version through Google Play, the Facebook app downloads its update automatically and then prompts users to install it. A number of users report that the prompts are persistent and a user’s phone will beep or buzz until the update is installed.

Facebook says the silent updates are a way to “make sure everyone is using the best version of our app.”

Read the rest on our sister site, Inside Facebook.

Andy Rubin steps down as head of Android, Sundar Pichai tapped as replacement

Google Android logoGoogle today announced that Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, is stepping down from his position as head of Android to pursue another role at the company. His role will be filled by Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome and Apps. It wasn’t specified what role Rubin will pursue next at Google.

“Going forward, Sundar Pichai will lead Android, in addition to his existing work with Chrome and Apps,” says CEO Larry Page, in the blog post written by him. “Sundar has a talent for creating products that are technically excellent yet easy to use — and he loves a big bet.”

Also, Page revealed that Google has now seen more than 750 million Android devices activated worldwide, up from the last reported figure of 500 million activations in September 2012.

The Wall Street Journal, after the news broke today of Rubin’s departure, published a farewell email from Rubin to the company’s Android partners.

Dear friends,

 

In November of 2007 we announced the Open Handset Alliance with 34 founding members. Today, I’m grateful to the over 85 OHA members who have helped us build Android and drive innovation at such an incredible pace. The Android ecosystem has seen tremendous growth since the launch of the very first Android device in October 2008. The volume and variety of Android devices exceeds even my most optimistic expectations – over 750 million compatible devices and counting!

 

At its core, Android has always been about openness – the idea that a thousand brains are better than one. Just as the ecosystem has grown, so has our team at Google. I am incredibly proud of the phenomenal group of people that spend their days (and nights) building the Android platform and services. Just look at last year…a lean yet incredibly ambitious team released Jellybean with Google Now, launched Google Play in many languages and countries and collaborated with several partners to build three new Nexus devices to help drive innovation in the ecosystem.

 

Today, the success of Android combined with the strength of our management team, gives me the confidence to step away from Android and hand over the reins. Going forward, Sundar Pichai will lead Android, in addition to his existing work with Chrome and Apps. Hiroshi Lockheimer – who many of you already know well – plus the rest of the Android leadership team will work closely with all of our partners to advance Android and prepare the platform for new products and services yet to be imagined.

 

As for me, I am an entrepreneur at heart and now is the right time for me to start a new chapter within Google. I am amazed by what we have accomplished from those early days (not so long ago!), and remain passionate about the power of a simple idea and a shared goal – an open source platform freely available to everyone – to transform computing for people everywhere.

 

Thank you for your support,

 

- andy

We’ve reached out to Google for additional information.

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