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Android Dev Summit: Google details Kotlin, Jetpack, and instant app improvements

Google kicked off its Android Developer Summit in Mountain View this week with a bang, and support for foldable devices only scratched the surface. The company announced that many of the new features in Kotlin 1.3 are now natively supported, and it provided updates on Jetpack, Android Studio, instant apps, and more. First up was Kotlin, a statically typed programming language from JetBrains that runs on the Java virtual machine. The latest version — 1.3 — was released last week, and brings with it a bevy of features: All of those have been integrated into Androids Kotlin-specific APIs, Google said. Google revealed Jetpack, a suite of tools and APIs designed accelerate Android app development, at Google I/O 2018 in May, and its taken off like a rocket (no pun intended) in the months since. Today, 80 percent of the top 1,000 apps and games have adopted it, according to Google. And this week, the company detailed two new Architecture Component libraries that promise to make it even more appealing: Navigation, Work Manager, and Slice. Navigation and Work Manager — both of which are launching in beta this month — offer a simplified way to implement Androids navigation principle with animated transitions, create and edit navigation flows, and perform background tasks in the most efficient manner based on application states, device API level, and other factors. Android Slices, on the other hand — which were unveiled at Google I /O and this week move to public Search experiments — show mini app snippets containing content and actions, like playing a video or booking a flight. The list of initial partners includes Doist and Kayak, among others. Android Studio, Googles official IDE for Android development, got some love during the dev conferences first keynote. Android Studio 3.3 beta 3 launches today, and its focused on stability — specifically  user-impacting bugs. The frequency of crashes, hangs, and memory usage have been reduced, and Google said its building tools that will help [developers] easily understand whats slowing an app build down. Also announced: forthcoming support for Chrome OS. Last but not least, Google revealed improvements coming to the instant apps. Within Android Studio 3.3, developers can deploy and build instant apps and installed apps from a single Android Studio project, and include them in a single Android App bundle.

Android developers can now force users to update their apps

At its Android Dev Summit, Google today announced a number of new tools and features for developers that write apps for its mobile operating system. Some of those are no surprise, including support for the latest release of the Kotlin language, which is becoming increasingly popular in the Android developer ecosystem, as well as new features for the Android Jetpack tools and APIs, as well as the Android Studio IDE. The biggest surprise, though, is likely the launch of the In-app Updates API. While the name doesnt exactly make it sound like a break-through feature, its actually a big deal. With this new API, developers now get two new ways to push users to update their app. This is something that developers have asked us for a long time is — say you own an app and you want to make sure the user is running the latest version, Google senior director for Android product management and developer relations Stephanie Saad Cuthbertson told me. This is something developers really fret. Say you shipped your application with a major bug (it happens…) and want to make sure that every user upgrades immediately; you will soon be able to show them a full-screen blocking message that will be displayed when they first start the app again and while the update is applied. Thats obviously only meant for major bugs. The second option allows for more flexibility and allows the user to continue using the app while the update is downloaded. Developers can fully customize these update flows. Right now, the new updates API is in early testing with a few partners and the plan is to open it to more developers soon. As Cuthbertson stressed, the teams focus in recent years has been on giving developers what they want. The poster child for that, she noted, is the Kotlin languages. It wasnt a Google-designed language and maybe not the obvious choice — but it really was the best choice, she told me. When you look at the past several years, you can really see an investment that started with the IDE. Its actually only five years old and since then, weve been building it out, completely based on developer feedback. Today, the company announced that 46 percent of professional developers now use Kotlin and more than 118,000 new Kotlin projects were started in Android Studio in the last month alone (and thats just from users who opt in to share metrics with Google), so that investment is definitely paying off. One thing developers have lately been complaining about, though, is that build times in Android Studio have slowed down. What we saw internally was that build times are getting faster, but what we heard from developers externally is that they are getting slower, Cuthbertson said. So we started benchmarking, both internally in controlled circumstances, but also for anybody who opted in, we started benchmarking the whole ecosystem. What the team found was that Gradle, the core of the Android Studio build system, is getting a lot faster, but the system and platform you build on also has a major impact. Cuthbertson noted that the Spectre and Meltdown fixes had a major impact on Windows and Linux users, for example, as do custom plugins. So going forward, the team is building new profiling and analysis tools to allow developers to get more insights into their build times and Google will build more of its own plugins to accelerate performance. Most of this isnt in the current Android Studio 3.3 beta yet (and beta 3 of version 3.3 is launching today, too), but one thing Android Studio users will likely be happy to hear is that Chrome OS will get official support for the IDE early next year, using Chrome OSs new ability to run Linux applications. Other updates the company announced today are new Jetpack Architecture Component libraries for Navigation and Work Manager, making it easier for developers to add Androids navigation principles into their apps and perform background tasks without having to write a lot of boilerplate code. Android App Bundles, which allow developers to modularize their applications and ship parts of them on demand, are also getting some updates, as are Instant Apps, which users can run without installing them. Using web URLs for Instant Apps is now optional and building them in Android Studio has become easier.