Build Mobile App Services with Google Cloud Tools for Android Studio v1.0

Posted by Chris Sells, Product Manager, Cloud Tools for Android Studio

Cloud Tools for Android Studio allows you to simultaneously build the service- and client-side of your mobile app. Earlier this month, we announced the release of Android Studio 1.0 that showed just how much raw functionality there is available for Android app developers. However, the client isn’t the whole picture, as most mobile apps also need one or more web services. It was for this reason that the Cloud Tools for Android Studio were created.

Cloud Tools put the power of Google App Engine in the same IDE alongside of your mobile client, giving you all the same Java language tools for both sides of your app, as well as making it far easier for you to keep them in sync as each of them changes.

Getting Started

To get started with Cloud Tools for Android Studio, add a New Module to your Android Studio project, choose Google Cloud Module and you’ll have three choices:

You can add three Google Cloud module types to your Android Studio project

The Java Servlet Module gives you a plain servlet class for you to implement as you see fit. If you’d like help building your REST endpoints with declarative routing and HTTP verbs and automatic Java object serialization to and from JSON, then you’ll want the Java Endpoints Module. If you want the power of endpoints, along with the ability to send notifications from your server to your clients, then choose Backend with Google Cloud Messaging.

Once you’re done, you’ll have your service code right next to your client code:

You can build your mobile app’s client and service code together in a single project

Not only does this make it very convenient to build and test your entire end-to-end, but we also dropped a little extra something into your app’s build.gradle file:

The android-endpoints configuration build step in your build.gradle file creates a client-side library for your server-side endpoint

The updated Gradle file will now create a library for use in your app’s client code that changes when your service API changes. This library lets you call into your service from your client and provides full code completion as you do:

The client-side endpoint library provides code completion and documentation

Instead of writing the code to create HTTP requests by hand, you can make calls via the library in a typesafe manner and the marshalling from JSON to Java will be handled for you, just like on the server-side (but in reverse, of course).

Endpoints Error Detection

Meanwhile, back on the server-side, as you make changes to your endpoints, we’re watching to make sure that they’re in good working order even before you compile by checking the attributes as you type:

Cloud Tools will detect errors in your endpoint attributes

Here, Cloud Tools have found a duplicate name in the ApiMethod attribute, which is easy to do if you’re creating a new method from an existing method.

Creating an Endpoint from an Objectify Entity

If, as part of your endpoint implementation, you decide to take advantage of the popular Objectify library, you’ll find that Cloud Tools provides special support for you. When you right-click (or control-click on the Mac) on a file containing an Objectify entity class, you’ll get the Generate Cloud Endpoint from Java class option:

The generate Cloud Endpoint from Java class option will create a CRUD endpoint for you

If you’re running this option on a Java class that isn’t built with Objectify, then you’re going to get an endpoint with empty methods for get and insert operations that you can implement as appropriate. However, if you do this with an Objectify entity, you’ll get a fully implemented endpoint:

Cloud Tools has built-in support for generating Objectify-based cloud endpoint implementations

Using your Cloud Endpoint

As an Android developer, you’re used to deploying your client first in the emulator and then into a local device. Likewise, with the service, you’ll want to test first to your local machine and then, when you’re ready, deploy into a Google App Engine project. You can run your service app locally by simply choosing it from the Configurations menu dropdown on the toolbar and pressing the Run button:

The Configurations menu in the toolbar lets you launch your service for testing

This will build and execute your service on http://localhost:8080/ (by default) so that you can test against it with your Android app running in the emulator. Once you’re ready to deploy to Google Cloud Platform, you can do so by selecting the Deploy Module to App Engine option from the Build menu, where you’ll be able to choose the source module you want to deploy, log into your Google account and pick the target project to which you’d like to deploy:

The Deploy to App Engine dialog will use your Google credentials to enumerate your projects for you

Cloud Tools beta required some extra copying and pasting to get the Google login to work, but all of that’s gone now in this release.

What’s Next?

We’re excited to get this release into your hands, so if you’ve haven’t downloaded it yet, then go download Android Studio 1.0 right now! To take advantage of Cloud Tools for Android Studio, you’ll want to sign up for a free Google Cloud Platform trial. Nothing is stopping you from building great Android apps from front to back. If you’ve got suggestions, drop us a line so that we can keep improving. We’re just getting started putting Google Cloud Platform tools in your hands. We can’t wait to see what you’ll build.

Google Play game services ends year with a bang!

Posted by Benjamin Frenkel, Product Manager, Play Games

In an effort to supercharge our Google Play games services (GPGS) developer tools, we’re introducing the Game services Publishing API, a revamped Unity Plugin, additional enhancements to the C++ SDK, and improved Leaderboard Tamper Protection.

Let’s dig into what’s new for developers:

Publishing API to automate game services configuration

At Google I/O this past June, the pubsite team launched the Google Play Developer Publishing APIs to automate the configuration and publishing of applications to the Play store. Game developers can now also use the Google Play game services Publishing API to automate the configuration and publishing of game services resources, starting with achievements and leaderboards.

For example, if you plan on publishing your game in multiple languages, the game services Publishing API will enable you to pull translation data from spreadsheets, CSVs, or a Content Management System (CMS) and automatically apply those translations to your achievements.

Early adopter Square Enix believes the game services Publishing API will be an indispensable tool to manage global game rollouts:

Achievements are the most used feature in Google Play game services for us. As our games support more languages, achievement management has become increasingly difficult. With the game services Publishing API, we can automate this process, which is really helpful. The game services Publishing API also comes with great samples that we were able to easily customize for our needs

Keisuke Hata, Manager / Technical Director, SQUARE ENIX Co., Ltd.

To get started today, take a look at the developer documentation here.

Updated Unity plugin and Cross-platform C++ SDK

  • Unity plugin Saved Games support: You can now take advantage of the Saved Games feature directly from the Unity plugin, with more storage and greater discoverability through the Play Games app
  • New Unity plugin architecture: We’ve rewritten the plugin on top of our cross-platform C++ SDK to speed up feature development across SDKs and increase our responsiveness to your feedback
  • Improved Unity generated Xcode project setup: You now have a much more robust way to generate Xcode projects integrated with Google Play Game Services in Unity
  • Updated and improved Unity samples: We’ve updated our sample codes to make it easier for first time developers to integrate Google Play games services
  • C++ SDK support for iPhone 6 Plus: You can now take advantage of the out-of-box games services UI (e.g., for leaderboards and achievements) for larger form factor devices, such as the iPhone 6 Plus

We also include some important bug fixes and stability improvements. Check out the release notes for the Unity Plugin and the getting started page for the C++ SDK for more details.

Leaderboard Tamper Protection

Turn on Leaderboard Tamper Protection to automatically hide suspected tampered scores from your leaderboards. To enable tamper protection on an existing leaderboard, go to your leaderboard in the Play developer console and flip the “Leaderboard tamper protection” toggle to on. Tamper protection will be on by default for new leaderboards.Learn more.

To learn more about cleaning up previously submitted suspicious scores refer to the Google Play game services Management APIs documentation or get the web demo console for the Management API directly from github here.

In addition, if you prefer command-line tools, you can use the python-based option here.

Making a performant watch face

Posted by Hoi Lam, Developer Advocate, Android Wear

What’s a better holiday gift than great performance? You’ve got a great watch face idea — now, you want to make sure the face you’re presenting to the world is one of care and attention to detail.

At the core of the watch face’s process is an onDraw method for canvas operations. This allows maximum flexibility for your design, but also comes with a few performance caveats. In this blog post, we will mainly focus on performance using the real life journey of how we optimised the Santa Tracker watch face, more than doubling the number of fps (from 18 fps to 42 fps) and making the animation sub-pixel smooth.

Starting point – 18 fps

Our Santa watch face contains a number of overlapping bitmaps that are used to achieve our final image. Here’s a list of them from bottom to top:

  1. Background (static)
  2. Clouds which move to the middle
  3. Tick marks (static)
  4. Santa figure and sledge (static)
  5. Santa’s hands – hours and minutes
  6. Santa’s head (static)

The journey begins with these images…

Large images kill performance (+14 fps)

Image size is critical to performance in a Wear application, especially if the images will be scaled and rotated. Wasted pixel space (like Santa’s arm here) is a common asset mistake:

Before: 584 x 584 = 341,056 pixels After: 48*226 = 10,848 (97% reduction)

It’s tempting to use bitmaps from the original mock up that have the exact location of watch arms and components in absolute space. Sadly, this creates problems, like in Santa’s arm here. While the arm is in the correct position, even transparent pixels increase the size of the image, which can cause performance problems due to memory fetch. You’ll want to work with your design team to extract padding and rotational information from the images, and rely on the system to apply the transformations on our behalf.

Since the original image covers the entire screen, even though the bitmap is mostly transparent, the system still needs to check every pixel to see if they have been impacted. Cutting down the area results in significant gains in performance. After correcting both of the arms, the Santa watch face frame rate increased by 10 fps to 28 fps (fps up 56%). We saved another 4 fps (fps up 22%) by cropping Santa’s face and figure layer. 14 fps gained, not bad!

Combine Bitmaps (+7 fps)

Although it would be ideal to have the watch tick marks on top of our clouds, it actually does not make much difference visually as the clouds themselves are transparent. Therefore there is an opportunity to combine the background with the ticks.


+

When we combined these two views together, it meant that the watch needed to spend less time doing alpha blending operations between them, saving precious GPU time. So, consider collapsing alpha blended resources wherever we can in order to increase performance. By combining two full screen bitmaps, we were able to gain another 7 fps (fps up 39%).

Anti-alias vs FilterBitmap flags – what should you use? (+2 fps)

Android Wear watches come in all shapes and sizes. As a result, it is sometimes necessary to resize a bitmap before drawing on the screen. However, it is not always clear what options developers should select to make sure that the bitmap comes out smoothly. With canvas.drawBitmap, developers need to feed in a Paint object. There are two important options to set – they are anti-alias and FilterBitmap. Here’s our advice:

  • Anti-alias does not do anything for bitmaps. We often switch on the anti-alias option by default as developers when we are creating a Paint object. However, this option only really makes sense for vector objects. For bitmaps, this has no impact. The hand on the left below has anti-alias switched on, the one on the right has it switched off. So turn off anti-aliasing for bitmaps to gain performance back. For our watch face, we gained another 2 fps (fps up 11%) by switching this option off.
  • Switch on FilterBitmap for all bitmap objects which are on top of other objects – this option smooths the edges when drawBitmap is called. This should not be confused with the filter option on Bitmap.createScaledBitmap for resizing bitmaps. We need both to be turned on. The bitmaps below are the magnified view of Santa’s hand. The one on the left has FilterBitmap switched off and the one on the right has FilterBitmap switched on.
  • Eliminate expensive calls in the onDraw loop (+3 fps)

    onDraw is the most critical function call in watch faces. It’s called for every drawable frame, and the actual painting process cannot move forward until it’s finished. As such, our onDraw method should be as light and as performant as possible. Here’s some common problems that developers run into that can be avoided:

    1. Do move heavy and common code to a precompute function – e.g. if we commonly grab R.array.cloudDegrees, try doing that in onCreate, and just referencing it in the onDraw loop.
    2. Don’t repeat the same image transform in onDraw – it’s common to resize bitmaps at runtime to fit the screen size but this is not available in onCreate. To avoid resizing the bitmap over and over again in onDraw, override onSurfaceChanged where width and height information are available and resize images there.
    3. Don’t allocate objects in onDraw – this leads to high memory churn which will force garbage collection events to kick off, killing frame rates.
    4. Do analyze the CPU performance by using a tool such as the Android Device Monitor. It’s important that the onDraw execution time is short and occurs in a regular period.

    Following these simple rules will improve rendering performance drastically.

    In the first version, the Santa onDraw routine has a rogue line:

    int[] cloudDegrees = 
        getResources().getIntArray(R.array.cloudDegrees);

    This loads the int array on every call from resources which is expensive. By eliminating this, we gained another 3 fps (fps up 17%).

    Sub-pixel smooth animation (-2 fps)

    For those keeping count, we should be 44 fps, so why is the end product 42 fps? The reason is a limitation with canvas.drawBitmap. Although this command takes left and top positioning settings as a float, the API actually only deals with integers if it is purely translational for backwards compatibility reasons. As a result, the cloud can only move in increments of a whole pixel resulting in janky animations. In order to be sub-pixel smooth, we actually need to draw and then rotate rather than having pre-rotate clouds which moves towards Santa. This additional rotation costs us 2 fps. However, the effect is worthwhile as the animation is now sub-pixel smooth.

    Before – fast but janky and wobbly

    for (int i = 0; i < mCloudBitmaps.length; i++) {
        float r = centerX - (timeElapsed / mCloudSpeeds[i]) % centerX;
        float x = centerX + 
            -1 * (r * (float) Math.cos(Math.toRadians(cloudDegrees[i] + 90)));
        float y = centerY - 
            r * (float) Math.sin(Math.toRadians(cloudDegrees[i] + 90));
        mCloudFilterPaints[i].setAlpha((int) (r/centerX * 255));
        Bitmap cloud = mCloudBitmaps[i];
        canvas.drawBitmap(cloud,
            x - cloud.getWidth() / 2,
            y - cloud.getHeight() / 2,
            mCloudFilterPaints[i]);
    }

    After - slightly slower but sub-pixel smooth

    for (int i = 0; i < mCloudBitmaps.length; i++) {
        canvas.save();
        canvas.rotate(mCloudDegrees[i], centerX, centerY);
        float r = centerX - (timeElapsed / (mCloudSpeeds[i])) % centerX;
        mCloudFilterPaints[i].setAlpha((int) (r / centerX * 255));
        canvas.drawBitmap(mCloudBitmaps[i], centerX, centerY - r,
            mCloudFilterPaints[i]);
        canvas.restore();
    }

    Before: Integer translation values create janky, wobbly animation. After: smooth sailing!

    Quality on every wrist

    The watch face is the most prominent UI element in Android Wear. As craftspeople, it is our responsibility to make it shine. Let’s put quality on every wrist!

Sneak Peek VS Sneak Peak

Sneak Peek VS Sneak Peak

A little grammar lesson.

View

Keeping the GA Web Experience Modern

We’re continuing to bring you new features and technologies in the design of Google Analytics to provide the best a user experience. With this in mind, starting January 31, 2015 we will no longer support official compatibility of Google Analytics with Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 (IE9). While you can continue to use IE9 after we discontinue support, some features may not work properly going forward. This update maintains our practice of supporting the newest browsers while discontinuing support for the third-oldest version, as we previously announced in September 2013.
We will continue to support the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Safari and other modern browsers. Of course, you will still be able to measure visits from users of all browsers, including IE 9. We will send further reminders prior to the deprecation, but do advise you begin preparing and implementing plans for this change at your earliest convenience.

New Code Samples for Lollipop

Posted by Trevor Johns, Developer Programs Engineer

With the launch of Android 5.0 Lollipop, we’ve added more than 20 new code samples demonstrating how to implement some of the great new features of this release. To access the code samples, you can easily import them in Android Studio 1.0 using the new Samples Wizard.

Go to File > Import Sample in order to browse the available samples, which include a description and preview for each. Once you’ve made your selection, select “Next” and a new project will be automatically created for you. Run the project on an emulator or device, and feel free to experiment with the code.


Samples Wizard in Android Studio 1.0

Newly imported sample project in Android Studio

Alternatively, you can browse through them via the Samples browser on the developer site. Each sample has an Overview description, Project page to browse app file structure, and Download link for obtaining a ZIP file of the sample. As a third option, code samples can also be accessed in the SDK Manager by downloading the SDK samples for Android 5.0 (API 21) and importing them as existing projects into your IDE.



Sample demonstrating transition animations

Material Design

When adopting material design, you can refer to our collection of sample code highlighting material elements:

For additional help, please refer to our design checklist, list of key APIs and widgets, and documentation guide.

To view some of these material design elements in action, check out the Google I/O app source code.

Platform

Lollipop brings the most extensive update to the Android platform yet. The Overview screen allows an app to surface multiple tasks as concurrent documents. You can include enhanced notifications with this sample code, which shows you how to use the lockscreen and heads-up notification APIs.

We also introduced a new Camera API to provide developers more advanced image capture and processing capabilities. These samples detail how to use the camera preview and take photos, how to record video, and implement a real-time high-dynamic range camera viewfinder.

Elsewhere, Project Volta encourages developers to make their apps more battery-efficient with new APIs and tools. The JobScheduler sample demonstrates how you can schedule background tasks to be completed later or under specific conditions.

For those interested in the enterprise device administration use case, there are sample apps on setting app restrictions and creating a managed profile.

Android Wear

For Android Wear, we have a speed tracker sample to show how to take advantage of GPS support on wearables. You can browse the rest of the Android Wear samples too, and here are some highlights that demonstrate the unique capabilities of wearables, such as data synchronization, notifications, and supporting round displays:

Android TV

Extend your app for Android TV using the Leanback library described in this training guide and sample.

To try out a game that is specifically optimized for Android TV, download Pie Noon from Google Play. It’s an open-source game developed in-house at Google that supports multiple players using Bluetooth controllers or touch controls on mobile devices.

Android Auto

For the use cases highlighted in the Introduction to Android Auto DevByte, we have two code samples. The Media Browser sample (DevByte) demonstrates how easy it is to make an audio app compatible with Android Auto by using the new Lollipop media APIs, while the Messaging sample (DevByte) demonstrates how to implement notifications that support replies using speech recognition.

Google Play services

Since we’ve discussed sample resources for the Android platform and form factors, we also want to mention that there are existing samples for Google Play services. With Google Play services, your app can take advantage of the latest Google-powered APIs such as Maps, Google Fit, Google Cast, and more. Access samples in the Google Play services SDK or visit the individual pages for each API on the developer site. For game developers, you can reference the Google Play Games services samples for how to add achievements, leaderboards, and multiplayer support to your game.

Check out a sample today to help you with your development!

Refreshing “The Customer Journey to Online Purchase” – New Insights into Marketing Channels

Last year we introduced “The Customer Journey to Online Purchase” — a tool that helped marketers visualize the roles played by marketing channels like paid search, email and display ads in their customers’ journeys.

The goal was to help marketers learn more about the customer journeys for their industries. If social makes your customers aware, and email makes them convert — or vice versa — you can make sure you’re in both places with the right kind of message.

Today we’re happy to introduce a new improved version of the Customer Journey to Online Purchase, with a few key enhancements.  We’ve refreshed the data based on millions of consumer interactions, updated the industry classifications, and we’ve split out paid search so you can see the influence of brand and generic search terms on the purchase decision.

In each industry you can now see journeys for small, medium and large companies, which can often be quite different.

Click to enlarge image
For instance, the above image shows the journey for customers of small businesses in the shopping industry. Note that organic search is very often an “assist” interaction for these customers.
Click to enlarge image
Now here’s the same journey for large shopping businesses. Note that display clicks and social are strongly assisting interactions — while display didn’t even appear for the small businesses above. For both small and large businesses, a direct website visit is most likely to be the last interaction. Across industries, the differences from small to large businesses illustrate how different marketing strategies and customer profiles may lead to different buying behavior.
And there’s more! Now you can drill down into each marketing channel for a closer look at the role it plays based on its position in the purchase path. Channels that occur more frequently in the beginning of the path are more likely to help generate awareness for your product, while the end of the path is closer to the customer’s purchase decision.
Click to enlarge image
In these charts, for example, we see the different roles that different channels play in the Shopping industry. One interesting insight is that all channels — even those traditionally thought of as “upper funnel” or “lower funnel” — occur throughout the purchase path, but a given channel may be more common at particular stages depending on its role (and depending on the industry).
Each marketing campaign and channel may have a different impact on customers depending on when they interact with it. Using what you learn from this tool, you can help adapt your marketing messaging to be more relevant and useful for your customers.
Try the Customer Journey to Online Purchase today. And for more helpful marketing insights, check out Measure What Matters Most: our new guide chock-full of suggestions on how to measure the impact of your marketing — across channels — to complement what you learn from the Customer Journey tool and take action to improve your marketing.
Happy analyzing!

Hello World, meet our new experimental toolchain, Jack and Jill

Posted by Paul Rashidi, Developer Programs Engineer

We’ve been working on a new toolchain for Android that’s designed to improve build times and simplify development by reducing dependencies on other tools. Today, we’re introducing you to Jack (Java Android Compiler Kit) and Jill (Jack Intermediate Library Linker), the two tools at the core of the new toolchain.

We are making an early, experimental version of Jack and Jill available for testing with non-production versions of your apps. This post describes how the toolchain works, how to configure it, and how to let us know of your feature requests and any bugs you find.

So how does it work?

When the new tool chain is enabled, Jill will translate any libraries you are referencing to a new Jack library file (.jack). This prepares them to be quickly merged with other .jack files. The Android Gradle plugin and Jack collect any .jack library files, along with your source code, and compiles them into a set of dex files. During the process, Jack also handles any requested code minification. The output is then assembled into an APK file as normal. We also include support for multiple dex files, if you have enabled that support.

How do I use it?

Jack and Jill are already available in the 21.1.1+ Build Tools for Android Studio. Complementary Gradle support is also currently available in the Android 1.0.0+ Gradle plugin. To get started, all you need to do is make sure you’re using these versions of the tooling and then add a single line in your build.gradle file. Perform a build of your application to receive a newly built APK.

android {
    ...
    buildToolsRevision '21.1.1'
    defaultConfig {
      // Enable the experimental Jack build tools.
      useJack = true
    }
    ...
}

If you want to build your app with both toolchains, Product Flavors are a great way to do this. Your build.gradle file might look something like the snippet below.

android {
    ...
    productFlavors {
        dev {
            ...
        }
        experimental {
            useJack = true
        }
        prod {
            ...
        }
    }
    ...
}

How do I configure my build?

We are making the transition to Jack as smooth as possible by supporting minification (shrinking and/or obfuscation), as well as repackaging (i.e. similar to tools like jarjar), while using the same input files as you are used to. Minification is available in the Gradle plugin immediately and repackaging will follow. You should continue to use the “minifyEnabled true” directive to reduce the size of your app among all other optimizations you would normally use. There are more details on our reference page (linked below) regarding the level of support for each type of optimization. We encourage you to provide feedback there if your current configuration isn’t supported.

Give us your feedback

We are attempting to make the toolchain as easy to test out as possible and we’re looking for your help to fine tune it. Use the reference page to find known issues, file feature requests, and report bugs. Happy building!

Watch Face API Now Available for Android Wear

Posted by Wayne Piekarski, Developer Advocate

We’re pleased to announce that the official Android Wear Watch Face API is now available for developers. Watch faces give users even more ways to express their personal style, while creating an opportunity for developers to customize the most prominent UI feature of the watches. Watch faces have been the most requested feature from users and developers alike, and we can’t wait to see what you build for them.

An Introduction to Watch Faces for Android Wear by Timothy Jordan

Design and development

To get started, first learn about Designing Watch Faces, and then check out the Creating Watch Faces training class. The WatchFace Sample available online and in the Android Studio samples manager also provides a number of different examples to help you jump right in. For a quick overview, you can also watch the Watch Faces for Android Wear DevByte video above.

Watch faces are services that run from your wearable app, so you can provide one or multiple watch faces with a single app install. You can also choose to have configuration activities on the phone or watch, for example to let a user change between 12 and 24-hour time, or to change the watch face’s background. You can use OpenGL to provide smooth graphics, and a background service to pull in useful data like weather and calendar events. Watch faces can be analog, or digital, or display the time in some new way that hasn’t been invented yet––it’s up to you.

Updates to existing devices

Over the next week, the latest release of Android Wear, based on Android 5.0 and implementing API 21, will roll out to users. All Android Wear devices will be updated to Android 5.0 via an over-the air (OTA) update. The update allows users to manage and configure watch faces in the Android Wear app on their phone, and install watch faces from Google Play. Any handheld device running Android 4.3 or later will continue to work with all Android Wear devices.

Upgrade your watch faces

Developers are incredibly resourceful and we’re impressed with the watch faces you were able to create without any documentation at all. If you’ve already built a watch face for Android Wear using an unofficial approach, you should migrate your apps to the official API. The official API ensures a consistent user experience across the platform, while giving you additional information and controls, such as letting you know when the watch enters ambient mode, allowing you to adjust the position of system UI elements, and more. Using the new API is also necessary for your app to be featured in the Watch Faces collection on Google Play.

Deployment of watch faces to Google Play

We recommend you update your apps on Google Play as soon as the Android Wear 5.0 API 21 OTA rollout is complete, which we’ll announce on the Android Wear Developers Google+ community. It’s important to wait until the OTA rollout is complete because a Watch Face requiring API 21 will not be visible on a watch running API 20. Once your user gets the OTA, then the watch face will become visible. If you want to immediately launch your updates during the OTA rollout, make sure you set minSdkVersion to 20 in your wearable app, otherwise the app will fail to install for pre-OTA users. Once the rollout is complete, please transition your existing watch faces to the new API by January 31, 2015, at which point we plan to remove support for watch faces that don’t use the official API.

Android Wear apps on Google Play

Starting today, you can submit any of your apps for designation as Android Wear apps on Google Play by following the Distributing to Android Wear guidelines. If your apps follow the criteria in the Wear App Quality checklist and are accepted as Wear apps on Play, it will be easier for Android Wear users to discover them. To opt-in for Android Wear review, visit the Pricing & Distribution section of the Google Play Developer Console.

In the few short months since we’ve launched Android Wear, developers have already written thousands of apps, taking advantage of custom notifications, voice actions, and fully native Android capabilities. Thanks to you, users have infinite ways to personalize their watches, choosing from six devices, a range of watch bands, and thousands of apps. With support for custom watch faces launching today, users will have even more choices in the future. These choices are at the heart of a rich Android Wear ecosystem and as we continue to open up core features of the platform to developers, we can’t wait to see what you build next.

Google Analytics in AdMob helps mobile app developer Eltsoft go global

Cross-posted on the Inside AdMob Blog 

Since March 2014, Google Analytics has been fully available in AdMob, and now app developers are increasingly seeing results by combining data from both platforms. Here’s one story that illustrates the power of AdMob and Google Analytics together.
Passion for languages and learning
Jason Byrne, and business partner Robert Diem, are passionate about making a difference in education. They came together during their time as professors in Japan to found Eltsoft LLC, a company that builds mobile language learning apps for iOS and Android. Together, they started creating a series of fun tools  that allow users to study whenever they want, wherever they are.
Global expansion
Their most popular app is English Grammar, which has been downloaded by more than a million people looking to sharpen their English-language skills in nearly 120 countries.
All of the company’s apps are available for free or as paid versions. To increase revenue, they chose AdMob to earn money from the free versions of their apps with advertising. “AdMob monetization is central to our success because it delivers high-quality, appropriate ads to our audience in their native languages, wherever they live,” says Jason. 
The Google Analytics data within AdMob helped them understand more about their users. “Our app, English Grammar, has users from all around the world, so we turned to data from Google Analytics and AdMob to understand which languages we should consider for localization. For example, we knew we had to prioritize German and French, but we discovered other languages that we didn’t expect, such as Russian and Japanese.”
A data-driven approach to marketing 
Eltsoft uses data to focus their marketing campaigns and assess where to use their resources most effectively. “Google Analytics keeps making campaign analysis simpler and clearer,” Jason says. “Data from various sources – Google Analytics and Google Play, for instance – are now all in one place. That helps me understand what’s happening with our ad campaigns.” 
While data analysis helped Eltsoft validate some of their hypotheses, it also uncovered opportunities according to Jason: “The greatest takeaway for me is that the results are never really what I expect. I am often surprised. Analytics has given us great insights into who our users are, and has provided a very important lesson in the value of surveying our user base. Our simple assumptions are often inaccurate.”
Replicating successful strategies
Eltsoft has developed a way to calculate the value of users by using a combination of AdMob metrics (like ad request values) and Analytics metrics (like user counts and sessions per user). Having Google Analytics in AdMob has unlocked such analysis because the data is available in the same interface.
As a result, Eltsoft can now understand what works best for their users. “For example, we’ve made changes to our apps, and Analytics has really helped us to track the effectiveness of those changes. I would say six months ago, that our success was a mystery. The data said we were doing well, but the whys were not clear. Therefore, we couldn’t replicate or push forward. But today, we understand what’s happening and can project our future success. We have not only the data, but can control certain variables allowing us to understand that data.”
“Google Analytics data is literally a goldmine,” says Jason.
If you want to learn more about how Eltsoft is using Google Analytics and AdMob, download the full case study
Want to learn how to get the most from Analytics in AdMob? Sign up for our free online course, Mobile App Analytics Fundamentals.

Posted by Russell Ketchum, Lead Product Manager, Google Analytics for Mobile Apps

Google Play services and DEX method limits

Posted by Laurence Moroney, Developer Advocate

A constraint for some Android apps is the total number of methods that the underlying compiled .dex file can support. It’s limited by 16 bits, or 65,536 values.

When you include third-party libraries in your application, you will have all of their methods in your .dex file. Larger APIs, such as those included in Google Play services, will then begin eating into the limit very quickly.

You can learn more about this, and ways that you can work around it with the Android Studio 1.0 build system here.

Additionally, with Google Play services version 6.5 or later, it is possible for you to include Google Play services in your application using a number of smaller client libraries, so that only Google Play services APIs you use will get compiled into your .dex file, and therefore their methods won’t count towards your method limit.

Prior to version 6.5, you would typically have a line like this in your build.gradle file:

compile 'com.google.android.gms:play-services:6.5.87'

Starting with version 6.5, of Google Play services, you’ll be able to pick from a number of individual APIs, and you can see which ones have their own include files in the documentation. For example, if all you want to use is Maps, you would instead have:

compile 'com.google.android.gms:play-services-maps:6.5.87'

Note that this will transitively include the ‘base’ libraries, which are used across all APIs. You can include them independently with the following line:

compile 'com.google.android.gms:play-services-base:6.5.87'

The complete list of API names is below. More details can be found on the Android Developer site.

com.google.android.gms:play-services-base:6.5.87
com.google.android.gms:play-services-ads:6.5.87
com.google.android.gms:play-services-appindexing:6.5.87
com.google.android.gms:play-services-maps:6.5.87
com.google.android.gms:play-services-location:6.5.87
com.google.android.gms:play-services-fitness:6.5.87
com.google.android.gms:play-services-panorama:6.5.87
com.google.android.gms:play-services-drive:6.5.87
com.google.android.gms:play-services-games:6.5.87
com.google.android.gms:play-services-wallet:6.5.87
com.google.android.gms:play-services-identity:6.5.87
com.google.android.gms:play-services-cast:6.5.87
com.google.android.gms:play-services-plus:6.5.87
com.google.android.gms:play-services-appstate:6.5.87
com.google.android.gms:play-services-wearable:6.5.87
com.google.android.gms:play-services-all-wear:6.5.87

Note: At the time of writing, the correct version to use is 6.5.87. As this is a very granular number, it will get updated quite quickly, so be sure the check the latest version when you are coding. Often people will use a ‘+’ to denote versions, such as 6.5.+ to use the latest 6.5 build. However, it’s typically discouraged to use a ‘+’ as it can lead to inconsistencies.

Also, there are some changes to the names of the libraries that will impact you if you build applications for Android Wear. Previously you may have used play-services-wearable to include the entire Google Play services library for your wearable, and if you want to continue doing so, you should now use play-services-all-wear instead. You can continue to use play-services-wearable which will instead give you just the Wearable Data Layer API (see here). Should you do this, and you want to continue working with other Google Play services features, such as the Location APIs on your wearable, you would need to add play-services-location.

Over goes big and goes home with Android

Posted by Leticia Lago, Google Play team

Over has taken a simple idea, adding text and artwork to photos, and turned it into a creative tool that enables anyone to easily and intuitively add a unique twist to any image.

The Over team recently decided to bring their successful app to Android. “We love unlocking human creativity and Android offers a massive opportunity for doing just that. It was a no-brainer,” says Aaron Marshall, Founder, CEO, and Designer at Over. “Moving to Cape Town was eye-opening in many ways. It made me experience first-hand how many people outside the US use Android. We see users in emerging markets using mobile devices as their primary device, and believe there is a lot of opportunity in providing them with creative tools for mobile.”

The entire team was new to the platform, and were quickly impressed by the ease of development and the power of the distribution tools in the Developer Console on Google Play.

In this video, the Over team talk about their experiences learning and working with Android.

Over engineer Johan Nell, who arrived with Java experience but hadn’t worked with Android, says that he and fellow engineer Herko Lategan “were able to get a working prototype out in the first week.”

Android plays a big part in Over living up to its mantra of “go big, and go home”. As Aaron explains, “we don’t think you should be sacrificing your family to create wealth, or add value, or change the world. Being able to experiment and iterate quickly is crucial in helping us achieve this goal.”

To learn about starting a successful business with Android, be sure to check out these resources:

  • The Secrets to App Success on Google Play [ebook] — a detailed playbook on the best practices and tools you can use to maximize the reach, retention, and revenue of your new app.
  • Getting Started [training] — check out this comprehensive learning resource that takes you from first principles through to the most powerful Android APIs.

Android Studio 1.0

By Jamal Eason, Product Manager, Android

Today we are excited to introduce Android Studio 1.0. Android Studio is the official Integrated Development Environment (IDE) from the Android team. It is built on the popular IntelliJ IDEA (Community Edition) Java IDE.

We first released a preview of Android Studio at I/O last year. We value the on-going feedback from you, thanks! We are making Android Studio 1.0 available for download as a stable release on the Android Developer site.

Download Android Studio

If you are currently developing for Android or thinking about getting started, now is the time to download Android Studio 1.0 (or upgrade if you are using an earlier version). Similar to the Chrome release channels, Android Studio will continue to receive updates on four different release channels: Stable, Beta, Dev, and Canary. Canary builds are at the bleeding edge of development, while the stable release is fully tested. With this range of release channels you can choose how quickly you want to get the latest features for Android Studio.

Android Studio features

With the release of Android Studio, you have access to a new set of features to enable your development workflow. Some of the key features of Android Studio are listed below, but make sure to check out the Android Studio page for a full feature overview.

Startup experience

  • First-run setup wizard — The getting started experience now installs the right Android SDK, sets up your development environment settings, and creates an optimized emulator for testing your app. Plus, we include a set of code templates to help you get started.
  • Sample Importing & templates — Android Studio includes wizards that enable you to start with new project templates or import Google code samples.

Code and resource editing, user interface design

  • Code Editing — Android Studio takes advantage of all the intelligent code editing capabilities of IntelliJ IDEA such as advanced code completion, refactoring, and code analysis.
  • Internationalization string editing — Manage string translations of your app in Android Studio.
  • User interface design — Edit and preview your Android Layouts across multiple screen sizes, languages, and even API versions.

Performance analysis

  • Memory monitor — View the memory usage of your app over time to help find ways to improve the performance of your app.

Unified build system

  • Android Studio uses a Gradle-based build system that provides a lot of flexibility and extensibility, as well as the ability to build from within and outside of the IDE. This unified build system decouples the build from Studio itself, meaning that Studio updates never impact the output of your build.
  • Some of the key features of the build systems are: build variant support to better handle different build types (debug vs. release), or different versions of the same app (paid vs. free), multi-apks handling through splits, multi-dex support, and dependency management for 3rd party libraries.

Instant access to Google Cloud Services

  • Android Studio even enables an easy way to add Google Cloud Backends & Endpoints to your app, as well as Google Cloud Messaging (find out more).

Time to migrate & update

If you are an Eclipse user, check out our migration steps or you can just import your projects right into Android Studio with the import wizard, shown below:

If you were using one of the early versions of Android Studio, you should also upgrade to version 1.0 since we have added a host of new features and have addressed many bugs.

We have also released version 1.0 of the Gradle plugin with a file format that is now stable. The communication between Android Studio and the Gradle plugin is now stable, so updating one will not require updating the other. Check the technical release notes for additional tips for updating your previous Android Studio projects.

Give us your feedback

We are always seeking to bring you the best Android development experience. We already have plans to add features ranging from improved testing and better support for game development, but we want to know how you work and what capabilities you’d like to have for your Android development.

Please take a moment to complete a short survey (less than 5 minutes). Your responses will help shape the next set of features offered in Android Studio.

Questions?

We develop Android Studio and the corresponding tools in open source, so you can also file bugs via the public Android bug tracker and we will do our best to address your issues or questions. If you have specific questions or need help in your migration, feel free to connect with the Android developer tools team on our Google+ community page.

Ringing in the New Year – Behavior Trends and Insights

Last month we published an analysis of how people behave before and during the Thanksgiving holiday in the US. We saw the most important days of the year for retailers, how to take advantage of the top transaction days, and when to take action.
Today we are looking at the patterns of behavior over the holidays and into the new year with the objective of understanding how digital marketers can prepare for 2015.
After looking at data from the previous three years, we found two interesting insights:
  1. User behavior is significantly different from country to country, but very consistent from year to year within a particular country.
  2. The beginning of January can be a great time to offer new deals outside of the US.
Read on to learn more about the analysis we performed and how to take advantage of the trends we found, it will help you get a head start on 2015!

User Behavior Trends
Patterns can tell us a lot about data, they are intuitive and show us a lot of information at a glance. With that in mind, we produced the charts below to show how people behave around Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We wanted to understand the differences between cultures, so we focused on the trends from three large economies: US, UK and France. All the charts show data from December 11 to January 14 for the last three years and the two vertical grey areas represent Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

United States: the transactions trend clearly shows that users purchase mostly up to a week before Christmas Day and no improvement is seen in early January, although sessions do return to normal quickly after New Year’s Eve. Publishers should take advantage of this rebound in sessions, while retailers may want to wait on providing deals until sales bounce back fully.
United Kingdom: transactions decline sharply until Christmas and then start rising sharply from December 26, and about a week after New Year’s Eve it raises to levels about the same or higher than pre-holiday, so you might consider creating marketing campaigns and promotions to take advantage of January’s rise. Sessions follow a similar pattern.

France: transactions and sessions follow a similar pattern as in the UK, but with a significant decline during New Year’s Eve. As you can see, there is a major spike in the second Wednesday of January every year, that’s the day Winter sales begin in France! Unlike in the US, January is an important month for French retailers, should we say the French Cyber Wednesday?

Get a head start on 2015
So how can you take advantage of those trends to be more successful during the coming year? Here are some ideas for you to act upon right now:
  1. Look at your own data for previous years to understand the patterns for your existing and previous customers.
  2. Check your Benchmarking reports to learn more about how other websites of your size and in your vertical performed.
  3. Use Google Trends to check trends from previous years related to your vertical and country.
  4. Make sure you match your marketing efforts to your local post-holiday trend.
About the Data & Charts 
In order to perform this analysis, we looked at billions of sessions from authorized Google Analytics users who have shared their website data anonymously (read more).

I do not believe in Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection

I do not believe in Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection

I believe in Jibbers Crabst.

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My email is a monster

My email is a monster

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With Google Analytics Premium and DoubleClick: Matalan increases conversion rate 28%

This post originally appeared on the DoubleClick Advertiser blog as part of the with DoubleClick series, highlighting stories and perspectives from industry leaders about how they are succeeding with an integrated digital marketing platform.
As one of the UK’s leading family clothing retailers, Matalan must be nimble — faster decisions mean better customer engagement and more sales. So they worked with Morpheus Media to implement Google Analytics Premium with DoubleClick Campaign Manager. Google Analytics’ powerful insights helped Matalan make better business decisions, faster.

Matalan was already using DoubleClick Campaign Manager to centralize their digital marketing and reports. Adding Google Analytics Premium side-by-side showed them campaign effectiveness even more clearly, allowing them to uncover the hidden value of their digital marketing efforts, like transactions where digital advertising had assisted a conversion on another channel.

“It’s really helpful to be able to see one channel that might not be a heavy hitter in terms of revenue or traffic has an impact in creating a conversion on another channel,” says Lee Pinnington, Matalan’s Multi-Channel Marketing Director.

With a complete view of their digital marketing ROI thanks to the integration of DoubleClick Campaign Manager and Google Analytics Premium, Matalan was able to put their marketing dollars where they would truly be most effective. And the results were dramatic: a 28% rise in conversion rate and significant growth in both site visits and revenue.

To learn more about Matalan’s approach, check out the full case study.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

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Sky Force 2014 Reimagined for Android TV

By Jamil Moledina, Games Strategic Partnerships Lead, Google Play

In the coming months, we’ll be seeing more media players, like the recently released Nexus Player, and TVs from partners with Android TV built-in hit the market. While there’s plenty of information available about the technical aspects of adapting your app or game to Android TV, it’s also useful to consider design changes to optimize for the living room. That way you can provide lasting engagement for existing fans as well as new players discovering your game in this new setting. Here are three things one developer did, and how you can do them too.

Infinite Dreams is an indie studio out of Poland, co-founded by hardcore game fans Tomasz Kostrzewski and Marek Wyszyński. With Sky Force 2014 TV, they brought their hit arcade style game to Android TV in a particularly clever way. The mobile-based version of Sky Force 2014 reimaged the 2004 classic by introducing stunning 3D visuals, and a free-to-download business model using in-app purchasing and competitive tournaments to increase engagement. In bringing Sky Force 2014 to TV, they found ways to factor in the play style, play sessions, and real-world social context of the living room, while paying homage to the title’s classic arcade heritage. As Wyszyński puts it, “We decided not to take any shortcuts, we wanted to make the game feel like it was designed to be played on TV.”

Orientation

For starters, Sky Force 2014 is played vertically on a smartphone or tablet, also known as portrait mode. In the game, you’re piloting a powerful fighter plane flying up the screen over a scrolling landscape, targeting waves of steampunk enemies coming down at you. You can see far enough up the screen, enabling you to plan your attacks and dodge enemies in advance.

Vertical play on the mobile version

When bringing the game to TV, the quickest approach would have been to preserve that vertical orientation of the gameplay, by pillarboxing the field of play.

With Sky Force 2014, Infinite Dreams considered their options, and decided to scale the gameplay horizontally, in landscape mode, and recompose the view and combat elements. You’re still aiming up the screen, but the world below and the enemies coming at you are filling out a much wider field of view. They also completely reworked the UI to be comfortably operated with a gamepad or simple remote. From Wyszyński’s point of view, “We really didn’t want to just add support for remote and gamepad on top of what we had because we felt it would not work very well.” This approach gives the play experience a much more immersive field of view, putting you right there in the middle of the action. More information on designing for landscape orientation can be found here.

Multiplayer

Like all mobile game developers building for the TV, Infinite Dreams had to figure out how to adapt touch input onto a controller. Sky Force 2014 TV accepts both remote control and gamepad controller input. Both are well-tuned, and fighter handling is natural and responsive, but Infinite Dreams didn’t stop there. They took the opportunity to add cooperative multiplayer functionality to take advantage of the wider field of view from a TV. In this way, they not only scaled the visuals of the game to the living room, but also factored in that it’s a living room where people play together. Given the extended lateral patterns of advancing enemies, multiplayer strategies emerge, like “divide and conquer,” or “I got your back” for players of different skill levels. More information about adding controller support to your Android game can be found here, handling controller actions here, and mapping each player’s paired controllers here.

Players battle side by side in the Android TV version

Business Model

Infinite Dreams is also experimenting with monetization and extending play session length. The TV version replaces several $1.99 in-app purchases and timers with a try-before-you-buy model which charges $4.99 after playing the first 2 levels for free. We’ve seen this single purchase model prove successful with other arcade action games like Mediocre’s Smash Hit for smartphones and tablets, in which the purchase unlocks checkpoint saves. We’re also seeing strong arcade action games like Vector Unit’s Beach Buggy Racing and Ubisoft’s Hungry Shark Evolution retain their existing in-app purchase models for Android TV. More information on setting up your games for these varied business models can be found here. We’ll be tracking and sharing these variations in business models on Android TV, including variations in premium, as the Android TV platform grows.

Reflecting on the work involved in making these changes, Wyszyński says, “From a technical point of view the process was not really so difficult – it took us about a month of work to incorporate all of the features and we are very happy with the results.” Take a moment to check out Sky Force 2014 TV on a Nexus Player and the other games in the Android TV collection on Google Play, most of which made no design changes and still play well on a TV. Consider your own starting point, take a look at the Android TV section on our developer blog, and build the version of your game that would be most satisfying to players on the couch.

Black Friday 2014

Black Friday 2014

Stuff is on sale.

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