What’s New In Android Studio 1.0

Stephen

google_rocksSometimes first party tools really are the best in terms of mobile development, as is the case with Android Studio. Android Studio was designed and released by Google to be the be all, end all official IDE solution for developing apps in the Android ecosystem. It offers code templates to help you build features, an incredibly rich layout editor, app-signing capabilities and more. Android Studio officially moved into version 1.0 recently, bringing with it a wide range of features that are designed to both address some of the most common issues with the platform and make sure that you’re able to release the best apps possible.

Project View

One of the most notable additions to Android Studio 1.0 is an increased emphasis on the “Project View” capabilities of the software, Simply put, it is designed to act as a completely new project and directory structure that completely breaks an entire project down into a series of easy to manage folders based on application modules. Each folder contains the entire source code set for the application module in question, as well as specifications regarding directories and even the build file itself.

Also improved with 1.0 is the ease at which users can create new files within this redesigned Project View system. To do so, users only need to use the “ALT + INSERT” command on a computer running the Microsoft Windows operating system to create a new code and resource file within the selected directory. If the user is on a computer running Mac OS X, they can accomplish the same task using the “COMMAND + INSERT” keyboard shortcut.

An Updated AVD Manager

The AVD Manager, which is short for Android Virtual Device, is a tool built into Android Studio 1.0 that allows users to debug and check the performance of the apps that they’re building. The 1.0 release of Android Studio provides a completely updated graphical user interface, allowing developers to select the most popular mobile and tablet device configurations through which to test their apps easier than ever before. Users can now use the GUI to select an ideal resolution for testing and other qualities that go into the “Quality Control” aspect of an app’s release.

One of the core components of the AVD Manager is the Memory Monitor, which allows developers to easily see the memory usage of a particular app. This tool is easily used to locate sources of potential memory leaks, perform deallocation of objects and more.

Brand New Lint Inspections

Other additions to Android Studio 1.0 involve an entirely new set of Lint inspections that developers can use to aid them throughout the debugging process. One new addition is used to check safe values during application development, for example. Another is designed specifically in situations where a property assignment is no longer working in the way it was intended, but no clear reason is immediately available. Other new Lint inspections focus on right to left validation, API version requirements, fragment injection security checks and more.

Bug Fixes and Other Updates

As with any new stable release of a platform like Android Studio, the 1.0 version also provides a series of new bug fixes that users of release candidates have reported over the last few months. One of these problems involved an issue where patch update warnings where experienced any time two key .properties and .plist files were edited. Android Studio 1.0 has also redesigned the component that is used to customize launchers for apps designed for all three major Android platforms, meaning that you no longer need to edit any of the files contained within IDE directories.
Stephen L

The New Tools You Need To Know From Google Play Services In 2014

Stephen

android_kitkat

If you’re trying to give your Android users more features and increased compatibility with a wide range of different devices, Google Play Services is your key to doing just that. Originally designed to provide Android app developers with a simplified way to access features like the Google+ API, the service has long since expanded to cover a huge range of Google’s services. It was designed to allow applications an easier way to communicate with all of the online services that millions of users around the world are already using. Google Play Services continued that evolution across 2014, adding a wide range of new tools that you’ll definitely want to know more about.

Google Wallet

One of the most interesting new forms of technology to be embraced by the public at large in 2014 is the concept of the virtual wallet. Though the technology to use a mobile phone or other electronic device to pay for goods and services at stores in your neighborhood is nothing new, Apple brought it to the forefront of the discussion by making it a standard feature in both iOS 8 and the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones. Google Play Services added a new feature in 2014 to respond to that discussion in the form of increased support with Google’s own mobile payment service, Google Wallet.

Google Wallet support, also sometimes referred to as “Google Pay” in a clear allusion to Apple’s “Apple Pay” offering, gives app developers to build a convenient “Save to Wallet” button into their app should they so choose. The user can then use the app to split a Google Wallet balance, receive in-store notifications that are based on geography, scan digital gift cards or coupons and more.

Wearables

Another new tool to make its debut in Google Play Services in 2014 includes increased support for wearable devices that are powered on Android technology. Though the Apple iWatch seems to be capturing the majority of wearable-related headlines, especially as it draws closer and closer to release, there are already a wide range of different wearable technology devices powered on Android. Increased compatibility for these devices in Google Play Services allows developers to create apps that can sync with code on these wearables automatically. They can also store huge amounts of data and even provide the end user with a convenient messaging interface.

Games Services

Another notable tool in Google Play Services in 2014 allows developers to easily create varied and significant gaming experiences for apps running android. “Quests” is a feature that allows developers to create event-based challenges that players can use to compete with each other for a variety of different types of rewards. The “Game Profile” functionality allows users to take game data with them as they go, allowing points earned in games to be leveraged against their profile that resembles a character sheet from a role playing game. As a user completes more games, points are added to their overall profile and “Levels” are earned. The higher the level, the more cachet the gamer carries.

Google Drive Support

Finally, Google Play Services has dramatically increased its overall level of compatibility with Google Drive services in 2014. App developers can now add in functionality to apps like the ability to sort search results based on a wide variety of different factors, the ability for users to create offline folders to access files when no Internet connection is present and more. Developers can now also select any MIME type in the “File Picket” by default, saving a great deal of time moving forward.

Stephen L

What You Need To Know About Google’s Dart Programming Language

Stephen

google_dart

Picking out programming languages is a lot like picking out a car – you need to make sure that you’re making the right decision because whichever product you decide on you’ll be spending a huge amount of time with. One of the more recent programming languages to gain prominence is an open source platform from search engine giant Google called Dart. It’s both object oriented and class based and first appeared in early November of 2014. It’s  heavily influenced by JavaScript, Strongtalk, C# and other languages that most developers already have a certain degree of familiarity with.

There are a few key factors about Google’s Dart programming language that you’re definitely going to want to know as much about as possible.

The Intention of Dart

One of the most important things to understand about the Dart programming language is exactly why it exists in the first place. Since originally announcing the project in 2011, Google engineers have made it very clear that Dart is designed to eventually completely replace JavaScript as the default bridge language on the Internet. According to the project’s leaders, doing so would allow for the general expansion of the open web platform and would lead to a much easier development environment for everyone involved.

Despite those admittedly lofty goals, however, Dart has not yet reached that point. Until widespread support of Dart is adopted, source-to-source compilers for JavaScript are required in order to run Dart code in mainstream browsers like Mozilla Firefox or Apple’s Safari, among others.

Using Dart

Because Dart is still a relatively new programming language, there are three main methods that developers will have to use in order to run code written using it. The first is to compile that code as JavaScript using the compiler dart2js. This is probably the best method for using Dart, as it extends compatibility to all major browsers. This allows developers to use whichever browser they feel the most comfortable in, rather than relying on one required browser as is the case with other programming languages.

The second main way to run Dart is using the Dartium Web browser. This is a version of the Chromium Web browser that has been specifically adjusted to include a Dart VM (virtual machine) environment. It is intended as the primary development tool for all applications written in Dart and is not designed to be used as a standalone web browsing environment.

The third main way to run Dart code is through the use of a stand-alone Dart virtual machine, which is included in the Dart SDK.

Dart Editors

Google released its official Dart Editor way back in November of 2011. Based on components most commonly recognized from Eclipse, Dart Editor is an open-source editing environment that is compatible with the Mac OS X and Windows operating systems, as well as all major distributions of Linux like Ubuntu. Dart Editor supports a wide variety of different functions that developers will find particularly useful like JavaScript compilation, syntax highlighting and more.

Since late 2013, the team behind Chromium has also been working on a Chrome app development environment specifically for working with Dart. Though the product was designed under the code name “Spark,” it was later officially named the Chrome Dev Editor. Chromium is the open sourced Web browser that the Chrome browser is built on. Chrome Dev Editor contains a number of important features that will be of particular use to people coding in Dart, like a graphical user interface widgets library. It is currently available to download as a “Developer Preview” in the Chrome Web Store.

Stephen L

The Difference Between Apple Health, Microsoft Health and Google Fit

Edgar

tourists

It’s the information age, and more people are learning how to live healthier lives. Those seeking to improve their diet, lose weight, or just get into the habit of exercising can find help from three leaders in the information technology space: Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Each company has launched its own version of a health suite that lets users gather data about their lifestyle and find ways to improve. For app developers, these new projects present exciting opportunities to break into the health and fitness market. Read on to learn about the features and differences between these health apps.

Apple Health

Apple’s new Health app lets you view and manage your personal health and fitness information. You can input data about yourself, such as age, weight, measurements, and underlying medical conditions. All your data is encryped when your phone is locked and can be backed up to your iCloud account.

Apple Health also lets you:

  • View graphical displays of your weight, calories burned, and other information.
  • Access multiple categories such as sleep, nutrition, vital signs, and heart rate.
  • Create an emergency card with information for doctors and parademics.
  • Determine which third-party apps are allowed to access your health information.

Apple Health includes a developer toolkit, HealthKit, that allows other app designers to integrate their fitness apps with the data stored in your Apple Health dashboard. You can also easily share information with your doctor, helping streamline checkups. It helps create a more expansive network of information that keeps you focused on your goals.

Microsoft Health

Like Apple Health, Microsoft’s Health app offers cloud support and the ability to keep track of your health and fitness data. However, Microsoft’s new project uses data gathered from external devices such as smart watches, Microsoft Band, and integrated apps like MyFitnessPal and MapMyFitness. When you use these devices while running or working out at the gym, data such as calories burned and heart rate are sent to Microsoft Health via the cloud. While it sounds promising, the project is still in its early stages. Microsoft claims that in time their Health app will be able to pull and analyze information from an array of sources to help you live healthier.

Google Fit

Google Fit isn’t a health app by itself, but a platform to help developers build their own apps and sports equipment companies manufacture smarter gear. It this regard, it’s similar to Apple’s HealthKit.

  • View data transmitted through sensors from integrated apps and equipment.
  • Integrate sensors and apps with Google Fit.
  • Manage current and historical data stored in Google Fit.

Google Fit has support from over a dozen multinational companies including Adidas, Asus, Intel, LG, Nike, and Strava.

Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all aiming to create a full-featured health suite that connects to other apps and health monitoring devices. Apple Health stands as the most complete app, while Microsoft’s variation is in its infant stages. Google Fit boasts the most integration of the three, and can help developers reach a huge market. Where app quality is concerned, all three projects are by no means complete, and we’ll likely see improvements in functionality and compatibility in the future.

 

Edgar L

Head to Head App Testing

Head to HeadWhen you’re testing a mobile app, you’re looking for things like functionality, usability and security. You probably form your own opinion of the app and maybe even compare it in your head to other, similar apps – but that’s not an official, reportable part of testing. Well, today we’re going to satisfy that human need to compare things.

Let’s start with PCWorld‘s comparison of mobile search apps from Google, Bing and Yahoo on Android. Here’s what they came up with:

Interface, Tools, and Navigation

Bing’s Beauty
Bing’s appeal is obvious from the moment you launch the app: Its full-screen interface is gorgeous. The app highlights the same image of the day on the desktop version of Bing. A list of search options runs down the screen, allowing you to choose from among images, videos, maps, local, deals, movies, news, shopping, and directions. …

Every Bing screen includes a search query bar at the top. You can enter a query by typing it, or you can press the microphone icon and then enter the query by voice. Bing’s voice recognition software worked flawlessly (as it did on the Google and Yahoo apps as well). Once you begin typing, Bing automatically pushes you to its search page, which displays suggestions as you type. This text-heavy page lacks the visual grace notes that Bing sports on its other pages. …

Overall Bing was most notable for delivering a slick, intuitive mobile search interface.

Favorite interface: Bing. With its mix of beauty and intuitive navigation, Bing looks great and is easy to use, too.

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Word on The Street: 75% of Apps Not Tested

There’s an obvious reason why that app you just downloaded doesn’t work: it wasn’t tested! In fact, according to a recent article on The Street, that’s the case for 75% of all mobile applications. As you might imagine, that stat makes us want to grab a rifle and head to the nearest clock tower. Kidding, kidding (sort of).

Lucky for the mobile world, the article also highlights several mobile app testing solutions. Take a look:

A new group of start-ups is hoping to address this problem by developing testing solutions for companies and brands looking to try out their mobile apps in real-world conditions prior to launch.

uTest, based in Southborough, Mass., provides so-called crowd-sourced mobile app testing. Companies ranging from Google (GOOG) and Groupon (GRPN) to small start-ups submit their apps to uTest which are then tested for kinks by its community of over 50,000 professional testers.

uTest offers several types of testing, including functional (ensuring features such as log-in and installation work properly), load and performance testing (making sure the app is prepared for peak usage times) and security testing (keeping the app safe from hackers).

Apps are also tested across a variety of platforms, including iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Symbian, as well as a handful of carriers and geographies to ensure they can perform under different conditions.

“Especially in the Android environment there’s no such thing as a single platform,” said Carlos Montero-Luque, SVP of Engineering at Boston-based Apperian, which helps customers like NetApp (NTAP) and Estee Lauder (EL) distribute and manage their own custom-made mobile apps. “uTest allows us to do more than 90 combinations of different phones, networks, carriers, and versions of the operating system.”

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Update on Android’s In-App Billing

From AcurraCastNews.com:

Mobile payments have become the hottest topic of the month. Orange first announced their offering in the UK. Google followed suit with the announcement of a partnership with Mastercard and now another announcement about the launch of In-app Billing for the Android market.

Android developers will now be able to publish their apps on the Android market with the ability for users to purchase them directly when they wish to do so.

While this facility will give users the ability to try-and-buy the app and also get upgrades when required, developers will be able to better monetise their apps.

A good number of apps are already available with the In-app Billing facility. Some of them are Tap Tap Revenge by Disney Mobile, Comics by Comixology and WSOP3 by Glu Mobile.

Google had first announced this In-app Billing facility in January at the Inside Mobile conference in San Francisco and had allowed users to start developing and testing these apps. To begin with, developers will have to fill out a detailed documentation form and will then be provided with a sample app to demonstrate how the feature works.

It will be imperative for users to follow the prescribed security guidelines, in order to prevent the inadvertent purchase of unwanted apps and also to prevent misuse of the facility by miscreants, as this could result in excess billing.

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Bank On It: Bugs in Mobile Payment Systems To Continue

Note to hackers: Set up a Google Alert for “mobile payment bugs”, wait for companies to announce serious flaws in their payment apps, and then proceed to steal their customers’ info and money.

Kidding of course, but with stories like this, you start to realize that mobile app testing is still far behind its web testing counterparts – especially in the ever critical realm of mobile payments. Expect this to be a recurring problem for the century or two.

InformationWeek’s Matthew Schwartz explains:

Smartphone banking applications from Bank of America, Chase, PayPal, TD Ameritrade, USAA, Wells Fargo, and Vanguard have bugs which an attacker could exploit to steal people’s personal financial information. So said digital forensics firm viaForensics in a security warning released Thursday.

“We encountered a surprising and increasing amount of highly sensitive financial and identity information on smartphones,” said Andrew Hoog, CIO of viaForensics. “This information, uncovered on both Apple iPhones and Google Android devices, would only benefit cyber criminals and identity thieves. While Google and Apple each approach the app review process differently, neither approach has prevented insecure applications from being installed.”

Major vulnerabilities encountered included some applications failing to validate security certificates, leaving them vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. Such attacks could recover “full user name, password, and account data,” said Hoog. Other applications failed to encrypt transmitted passwords, sending them as clear text. Others inappropriately “saved your data to the smartphone, allowing recovery of all financial information viewed in the application.”

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