You're not still writing Android apps in Oracle's Java, are you? Google tut-tuts at dev conf

Ad giant pushes Kotlin language, Q beta 3, Flutter, ChromeOS, and more

Google I/O Google released Android Q beta 3 to developers this week, though more significant was word that the company wants developers to write their Android apps in Kotlin rather than Java or C++.

Already more than half of the Chocolate Factory's professional developers are using Kotlin and Google is keen for the trend to continue. During the developer keynote at its I/O conference in California, Google software engineer Chet Haase urged the audience to write new projects in Kotlin because there's less to type, less to test, and less to maintain.

(And, we imagine some Googlers are thinking, less Oracle.)

"Android is increasingly becoming Kotlin first," said Haase, although he allowed that the Chocolate Factory isn't giving up on other supported languages for Android development, for the time being.

Android Q beta 3 includes various privacy and security improvements, such as support for TLS 1.3. It also brings the BiometricPrompt authentication framework down to the system level and adds support for passive authentication (e.g. via face).

There are storage access controls, called Scoped Storage, for limiting app data access. Beta 3 blocks apps from launching in the background, whiuch is handy on the security front, and the mobile OS will also transmit randomized MAC addresses by default.

There's also a new permission flag, READ_PRIVILEGED_PHONE_STATE, that must be set to access fixed identifiers like IMEI and the device's serial number. And various telephony, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth APIs have been restricted in the absence of the ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION permission.

Hasse took the opportunity to announce CameraX, an Android library to make camera development more consistent across the diverse set of Android devices. CameraX comes as an alpha release for Jetpack, a collection of libraries and tools for Android development. It's joined by other alpha modules including Benchmark, LiveData, Security, SavedState for ViewModel, and ViewPager2.

Hasse also talked up a forthcoming Kotlin UI library called Jetpack Compose.

Meanwhile, Android App Studio hit version 3.5 in beta.

Google also announced Project Mainline, a way to update specific operating system components through Google Play rather than OTA updates from the device manufacturer. It's intended to be a way to get important updates out more effectively.

Avenue Q leads forward

And Android Q sports a great many other enhancements, including accessibility improvements like Live Caption – real time transcription for media on the phone.

Chrome Canary, Google's experimental version of Chrome for developers, gained support for lazy loading, which lets the browser load images as needed rather than all at once. It also now includes the beginnings of a plan to change the way cookies get handled. Another web tech innovation that received some attention was Portals, a recent specification for handling navigation between sites. They're similar to iframes but with navigation support. And developers were advised to try out the Web Perception Toolkit, which provides a way to make objects in the camera frame linkable.

There's soon to be an SDK for interacting with smart home devices without the cloud. Called Local Home SDK, it provides a way to run code for smart home devices locally instead of uploading code to a remote server. This would appear to be a good way to write Assistant apps that would never be approved by Google for release to the general public, but might be fun to run in private.

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Google's Flutter, a framework for writing cross-platform Android and iOS apps in Dart, has evolved to the point that it can create web apps. Google on Tuesday released a technical preview version of Flutter for the web, with the core Flutter code rising to version 1.5. Flutter has also incorporated the foundations of its experimental desktop embedding code, with an eye toward allowing developers to create Flutter apps that run on Linux, macOS and Windows.

Google also sees Flutter as a suitable framework for embedded device development, The company points out that some of the UI elements in the company's Nest Hub (formerly known as Google Home Hub) were built with Flutter.

On the hardware front, Google put its Home products under the Nest brand and announced the end of its Works with Nest developer program, which will shut down on August 31, 2019. Software developers who explored product integrations via the Works with Nest APIs appear to be none too pleased. In conjunction with the rebranding, Google is encouraging Nest customers to convert their Nest accounts into Google accounts.

ChromeOS, present on 21 per cent of US notebooks sold in Q4 2018, Google claims, learned some new tricks. Its file manager can now move files between ChromeOS, Google Drive, Android and Linux and ChromeOS can now run a web server from within the Linux container while debugging on the same machine, thanks to improved port forwarding support. And standing up Android Studio, which once required terminal commands, can now be done with two clicks for downloading and installation. ®

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