6 Things You Need To Know About Android 5.1 Lollipop

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On Monday, March 9, 2015, Google announced it would be rolling out the newest update to the current Lollipop 5.0 operating system. The latest version includes improvements to device performance and stability. The upgrade also adds features that give users greater control over settings, and the ability to customize devices to fit their needs. Google has always stressed that the original concept behind the Android operating system, was the development of an interface to sweeten the life of those that use the Android-powered devices. That is the reason for naming every version of the Android operating system, after a dessert or sweet treat.

Ability to Use Two SIM Cards Simultaneously

A SIM card is a great feature to have on any phone. It means that a user can purchase a new phone without disrupting their service. On SIM card compatible phones using older operating systems, the phone owner didn’t have the option of using two cards at the same time. This feature is an excellent upgrade for frequent international travelers. It means that they can purchase a second SIM card for overseas calling without having to worry about incurring hefty charges on their main plan card. This feature is a huge bonus for heavy data users.

Faster and Easier Access to Settings – Even When Screen is Locked

Before Android’s newest update, users had to jump through hoops to get to the phone settings. Thanks to this upgrade, a user has access to all the quick settings just by dragging the pull-down  feature at the top of the screen.  Now device users can turn Wi-Fi on or off, or sync their phones to Bluetooth devices without having to open settings to get to the area where Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controls are.

Increased Ability to Customize Notification Features

Android 5.0 gave users the ability to see notifications as they come in. Getting rid of them or getting them off the status bar wasn’t very convenient. Android 5.1 improves on this feature by letting users swipe upwards to get rid of the list. An alert still appears in the menu bar, so there is no need to worry about forgetting to respond. Another upgrade gives users control over turning priority notifications on and off, and even switching the device to priority mode so audible notifications don’t wake them all night. This enhancement makes it possible to silence notifications more easily.

Simplified Interface for Multitasking Capabilities

For people who are used to older versions of the Android operating system, this is a welcome change. Google refers to the changes in the material design that totally transform multitasking capabilities and efficiency in Android 5.1, as Overview, a system of organizing everything into card stacks. Talk to two people using the same app, simply by creating separate cards for each conversation. This change makes it possible for users to go back and forth between apps. Send someone an e-mail while texting someone else. Chat with someone while surfing the Internet. These are all possible in Overview.

Smarter Wi-Fi

On other platforms, devices would keep trying to connect to Wi-Fi networks when access was limited or unavailable. This upgrade means that the device will remember those instances where attempts to connect to Wi-Fi service failed.

It is worth noting that Google is releasing this update less than six months after the release of the original version of the Lollipop operating system. Improvements to everything from RAM management to excessive battery consumption will thrill Android customers. The upgrades to this operating system, pave the way for huge advances in app development.

Susan B

What’s New In Android Studio 1.0

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

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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

Lessons From LinkedIn’s New Mobile Launch

Charlton-mobile-profile-487x1024For many brands, mobile is all they know. Their stories begin and end in the various app stores. For other brands, mobile is the great unknown. Their stories begin on the desktop and in web browsers.

A great example of the former is LinkedIn, who late last month launched a new mobile platform for iOS and Android users, complete with a brand new client-side user interface, back-end services, and a savvy new “recommendation feature.”

The decision to focus on mobile development rather than desktop was not much of a surprise, considering that 43% of the brand’s web traffic comes from the mobile devices of their 259 million members worldwide.

“It’s actually the first time that we are launching something on phone and tablet simultaneously and on mobile specifically first for our entire company, instead of desktop,” LinkedIn’s senior director of engineering Kiran Prasad said in an interview with VentureBeat.

The intention of this post is not to tell you what’s new with the LinkedIn mobile experience. For that, you should check out this blog post on their website (or mobile website). Instead, it’s to offer guidance for those other desktop-centric brands who are considering making the mobile transition. And with that, a few key lessons to keep in mind:

It’s Never Too Late

If your brand has yet to establish a mobile presence, you may feel as though you are late to the party. You are, but that doesn’t mean you’re too late. LinkedIn is one of the largest, most recognized social networks in world – and as of 2014 – they had still undertaken very few “mobile first” initiatives.

The important thing is not what they have done thus far, but what they plan on doing in the near future. These new profiles will not mark the end of these mobile transformations. The company is also building a mobile software-development kit for future use and over 50% of the engineers working at LinkedIn today are mobile trained. They weren’t the first company to focus on mobile, but it’s clear that they are committed to the platform going forward. It’s never too late, in other words.

Listen To Your Users

The company’s decision to launch simultaneous mobile updates was not made on a whim, but rather based on the feedback of users – who, as noted, are regularly accessing the site via their mobile devices. LinkedIn’s goal is to retain and increase their mobile customer base, while making it easier and more enjoyable for users to connect with professionals on-the-go.

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Google, Google Everywhere: Android the Star of Multiple Platforms

androidGoogle closed the second quarter of 2014 with their Google I/O conference, an annual, two-day conference for developers and engineers working on projects that will interact with Google technologies in one way or another. Right off the bat, Google Senior VP Sundar Pichai made a series of announcements, as covered by Yahoo! Tech, regarding various Google technologies, most all of which will now be running Android’s operating system.

The upcoming installment in the Android smartphone series, thus far known only as the “L” release, will feature their new “material design,” applying height coordinates and X and Y positions to user interface items. The interface will comprehend this data to determine how items will slide over and under one another.

The material design will also focus more on animations within the user interface. Pichai and his team expressed pride in showing items moving and sliding across the screen at a publicized sixty frames-per-second. Pichai also noted that the Android “L” will avoid employing the flat design that will be featured in the next Apple releases.

Google also divulged more about Android Wear, a project that takes the Android operating system to tech wearables, beginning with watches. This platform will link back to smartphones, enabling the wearable to display notifications and, in certain instances, even assume control of the phone. For mobile app testers, the challenge here will be to meet the same quality assurance standards for wearables that they do on smartphones. This cross-platform functionality will certainly provide a new challenge for mobile app testers, but it will also provide a fantastic way to add more value to your application.

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Devs Rush to Android Wear

android-wear-970x0At first, I thought that Samsung’s ad for the introduction of Galaxy Gear – featuring a sleek and nostalgic montage of Sci-fi smartwatches – was a brilliant piece of marketing…for a product that wouldn’t go very far. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The trend has continued to grow and now the titan of tech (Google) is introducing its first wearable tech: Android Wear.

Developers are taking part in a mad dash to get their apps ready for the new Android platform. Voice control will be a main feature in apps and services that are offered on the Android Wear, because typing with one hand on your other wrist is less than ideal. Quick relevant information, short updates, quick messages and of course Google searches will now be as accessible as a quick glance to your wrist.

The Good –Well to put it simply, it is Google and Android. Developers for wearable tech will now be able to use a software development kit that is connected to the Android codebase and Google Services that they already use for mobile apps. This wearable tech will continue to expand the functionality that many mobile phones already provide. Joe Bondi, the CTO at Runkeeper pointed out that it is a natural step for apps that are used “on the go” such as theirs. You could finally have the option of not running with your phone in your pocket or in an uncomfortable arm band!

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Mobile App Testing: Questions and Answers

questionsandanswers3Mobile apps are on the rise. In fact, as we noted yesterday, native apps now account for more internet usage than PCs. With this news, it might be a good time for a brand (or even a lone developer) to start asking themselves some important questions when it comes to mobile quality and their mobile strategy in general.

Many of those questions can be found on Quora – by far the best Q&A site on the web. We went through and extracted a few that you’ll definitely want to check out. Let’s take a look:

What are the best-designed mobile apps? – With so many mobile apps available, which ones are the most easy-to use – and more importantly, why? Respondents weighed in with their choices, which included Evernote 5.0, Mailbox, Clear, Moves, Flipboard and others.

What should the monetization plan be for a free mobile app? – You’re a start-up company, creating a free mobile app and, as such, you would like to learn how to gain revenue in providing this free mobile app to the public. This thread covers things like App purchases, subscriptions, in-app purchases, advertising and affiliate marketing services. Of course, many people noted the option to keep the app free.

Should I start on Android or iOS for a mobile app? – Good question, right? Here were some of the pros of each choice:

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How Google Plans on Addressing Android Fragmentation

Android 4.4 Kit KatGet ready for another Android OS version … and less fragmentation. Wait, what?

Google – who’s Android operating system is famous for openness but also for being incredibly fragmented – has officially released details about its next sweet OS version! And with this version (4.4 aka Kit Kat), Google is tackling that issue of fragmentation head on.
First, a bit of background on the Android ecosystem. Currently, 52.1% of Android users are running some version of Jelly Bean (the most recent major release). Interestingly, that number is up from just last week when it was 48.6%. Even though Jelly Bean continues to gain users, 19.8% of users are still on Ice Cream Sandwich and a whopping 28.1% are running one of the three versions older than Jelly Bean (mostly on Gingerbread, which still accounts for 26.3% of Android users). This version fragmentation is because it’s up to individual manufactures which version they’ll offer support for, and because of the prominence of lower spec Android devices that can’t run the newer – more powerful – releases. To address this issue, Google decided to make Kit Kat work on all devices. From TechCrunch:

That presented a technical challenge Google was keen to tackle: How to build KitKat in such a way that it can bring even those older and lower-specced devices up-to-date, to help provide a consistent experience across the entire Android user base. That mean reducing OS resources, and then also modifying Google apps to stay within those boundaries, as well as rethinking how the OS manages available memory to make the most of what is present.

None of this was enough, however, so Google went further to help third-party developers also offer their content to everyone on Android, rather than just those with the top-tier devices. A new API in KitKat allows devs to determine what amount of memory a phone is working with, and serve a different version of the app to each, making it possible for the same application to run on even the earliest Android devices.

Sundar Pichai, Android chief, said that the company expects this one version of Android OS to run across all Android phones by the end of next year. Still, it’s ultimately up to the phone manufactures to adopt the new release so we’ll see if Kit Kat catches on across the board.

In addition to being the one version to rule them all, Kit Kat comes packed with cool features and nice improvements. Read more about them on the uTest Blog.

And if you want to start testing apps running on Kit Kat right away, getting a new Nexus device will be your best shot – the Nexus 5 is the only hardware with Android 4.4 support at the moment.

Companies Favoring iOS for Custom Apps

iOS versus AndroidAndroid and iOS have been duking it out for years now. iPhone reigned supreme for a while, then Android made some headway and has  more or less been considered the top seller since then – but the iPhone is never far behind.

The numbers change every quarter (and sometimes depending on your source) but most companies take the safe – and smart – route and develop apps for both major operating systems. A new report, however, suggests that there are two areas where iOS is still dominating.

Numbers released by Good Technology, a company that specializes in mobile workflows, shows that iOS is by far the top tablet OS and that Apple’s operating system is being favored by companies developing custom business apps. From All Things D:

On the tablet side, iOS continues to account for nine in 10 device activations.

But, perhaps more importantly, more than 95 percent of custom apps developed by businesses are written for Apple devices. The number of such apps rose more than 42 percent from the prior quarter, as businesses start to incorporate devices more heavily into their workflow.

“We see especially robust internal development activity focused on tablet applications and business transformation,” Good Technology CEO Christy Wyatt said in an email interview.

Many larger companies, the same ones who would have the money and resources to develop custom apps for their employees, have famously been slow to adopt mobile. With that in mind, it could be that these companies are starting with iOS because it is an easier platform to deal with (don’t make me mention the Android matrix again) and a surge in Android counterpart apps could be on the horizon.

As far as tablets go, the Kindle Fire has been making a decent showing (and could gain even more ground with the introduction of its HDX line), but no Android-based tablet has really given the iPad a run for its money to date. Until then, iPads will continue to dominate tablet activations, which might also be steering companies toward iOS.