23 Mar 2017

feedAndroid Developers Blog

5 Tips for launching successful apps and games on Google Play

Posted by Adam Gutterman, Go-To-Market Strategic Lead, Google Play Games

Last month at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), we held a developer panel focused on sharing best practices for building successful app and game businesses. Check out 5 tips for developers, both large and small, as shared by our gaming partners at Electronic Arts (EA), Hutch Games, Nix Hydra, Space Ape Games and Omnidrone.



1. Test, test, test

The best time to test, is before you launch; so test boldly and test a lot! Nix Hydra recommends testing creative, including art style and messaging, as well as gameplay mechanics, onboarding flows and anything else you're not sure about. Gathering feedback from real users in advance of launching can highlight what's working and what can be improved to ensure your game's in the best shape possible at launch.

2. Store listing experiments

Run experiments on all of your store listing page assets. Taking bold risks instead of making assumptions allows you to see the impact of different variables with your actual user base on Google Play. Test in different regions to ensure your store listing page is optimized for each major market, as they often perform differently.

3. Early Access program

Space Ape Games recently used Early Access to test different onboarding experiences and gameplay control methods in their game. Finding the right combination led them to double-digit growth in D1 retention. Gathering these results in advance of launch helped the team fine tune and polish the game, minimizing risk before releasing to the masses.

"Early Access is cool because you can ask the big questions and get real answers from real players," Joe Raeburn, Founding Product Guy at Space Ape Games.


Watch the Android Developer Story below to hear how Omnidrone benefits from Early Access using strong user feedback to improve retention, engagement and monetization in their game.


Mobile game developer Omnidrone benefits from Early Access.

4. Pre-registration

Electronic Arts has run more than 5 pre-registration campaigns on Google Play. Pre-registration allows them to start marketing and build awareness for titles with a clear call-to-action before launch. This gives them a running start on launch day having built a group of users to activate upon the game's release resulting in a jump in D1 installs.

5. Seek feedback

All partners strongly recommended seeking feedback early and often. Feedback tells both sides of the story, by pointing out what's broken as well as what you're doing right. Find the right time and channels to request feedback, whether they be in-game, social, email, or even through reading and responding to reviews within the Google Play store.

If you're a startup who has an upcoming launch on Google Play or has launched an app or game recently and you're interested in opportunities like Early Access and pre-registration, get in touch with us so we can work with you.

Watch sessions from Google Developer Day at GDC17 on the Android Developers YT channel to learn tips for success. Also, visit the Android Developers website to stay up-to-date with features and best practices that will help you grow a successful business on Google Play.


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23 Mar 2017 5:00pm GMT

22 Mar 2017

feedAndroid Developers Blog

Diverse protections for a diverse ecosystem: Android Security 2016 Year in Review

Posted by Adrian Ludwig & Mel Miller, Android Security Team

Today, we're sharing the third annual Android Security Year In Review, a comprehensive look at our work to protect more than 1.4 billion Android users and their data.

Our goal is simple: keep our users safe. In 2016, we improved our abilities to stop dangerous apps, built new security features into Android 7.0 Nougat, and collaborated with device manufacturers, researchers, and other members of the Android ecosystem. For more details, you can read the full Year in Review report or watch our webinar.



Protecting you from PHAs


It's critical to keep people safe from Potentially Harmful Apps (PHAs) that may put their data or devices at risk. Our ongoing work in this area requires us to find ways to track and stop existing PHAs, and anticipate new ones that haven't even emerged yet.
Over the years, we've built a variety of systems to address these threats, such as application analyzers that constantly review apps for unsafe behavior, and Verify Apps which regularly checks users' devices for PHAs. When these systems detect PHAs, we warn users, suggest they think twice about downloading a particular app, or even remove the app from their devices entirely.

We constantly monitor threats and improve our systems over time. Last year's data reflected those improvements: Verify Apps conducted 750 million daily checks in 2016, up from 450 million the previous year, enabling us to reduce the PHA installation rate in the top 50 countries for Android usage.

Google Play continues to be the safest place for Android users to download their apps. Installs of PHAs from Google Play decreased in nearly every category:
  • Now 0.016 percent of installs, trojans dropped by 51.5 percent compared to 2015
  • Now 0.003 percent of installs, hostile downloaders dropped by 54.6 percent compared to 2015
  • Now 0.003 percent of installs, backdoors dropped by 30.5 percent compared to 2015
  • Now 0.0018 percent of installs, phishing apps dropped by 73.4 percent compared to 2015
By the end of 2016, only 0.05 percent of devices that downloaded apps exclusively from Play contained a PHA; down from 0.15 percent in 2015.

Still, there's more work to do for devices overall, especially those that install apps from multiple sources. While only 0.71 percent of all Android devices had PHAs installed at the end of 2016, that was a slight increase from about 0.5 percent in the beginning of 2015. Using improved tools and the knowledge we gained in 2016, we think we can reduce the number of devices affected by PHAs in 2017, no matter where people get their apps.

New security protections in Nougat


Last year, we introduced a variety of new protections in Nougat, and continued our ongoing work to strengthen the security of the Linux Kernel.

  • Encryption improvements: In Nougat, we introduced file-based encryption which enables each user profile on a single device to be encrypted with a unique key. If you have personal and work accounts on the same device, for example, the key from one account can't unlock data from the other. More broadly, encryption of user data has been required for capable Android devices since in late 2014, and we now see that feature enabled on over 80 percent of Android Nougat devices.
  • New audio and video protections: We did significant work to improve security and re-architect how Android handles video and audio media. One example: We now store different media components into individual sandboxes, where previously they lived together. Now if one component is compromised, it doesn't automatically have permissions to other components, which helps contain any additional issues.
  • Even more security for enterprise users: We introduced a variety of new enterprise security features including "Always On" VPN, which protects your data from the moment your device boots up and ensures it isn't traveling from a work phone to your personal device via an insecure connection. We also added security policy transparency, process logging, improved wifi certification handling, and client certification improvements to our growing set of enterprise tools.

Working together to secure the Android ecosystem

Sharing information about security threats between Google, device manufacturers, the research community, and others helps keep all Android users safer. In 2016, our biggest collaborations were our monthly security updates program and ongoing partnership with the security research community.

Security updates are regularly highlighted as a pillar of mobile security-and rightly so. We launched our monthly security updates program in 2015, following the public disclosure of a bug in Stagefright, to help accelerate patching security vulnerabilities across devices from many different device makers. This program expanded significantly in 2016:
  • More than 735 million devices from 200+ manufacturers received a platform security update in 2016.
  • We released monthly Android security updates throughout the year for devices running Android 4.4.4 and up-that accounts for 86.3 percent of all active Android devices worldwide.
  • Our carrier and hardware partners helped expand deployment of these updates, releasing updates for over half of the top 50 devices worldwide in the last quarter of 2016.
We provided monthly security updates for all supported Pixel and Nexus devices throughout 2016, and we're thrilled to see our partners invest significantly in regular updates as well. There's still a lot of room for improvement however. About half of devices in use at the end of 2016 had not received a platform security update in the previous year. We're working to increase device security updates by streamlining our security update program to make it easier for manufacturers to deploy security patches and releasing A/B updates to make it easier for users to apply those patches.

On the research side, our Android Security Rewards program grew rapidly: we paid researchers nearly $1 million dollars for their reports in 2016. In parallel, we worked closely with various security firms to identify and quickly fix issues that may have posed risks to our users.

We appreciate all of the hard work by Android partners, external researchers, and teams at Google that led to the progress the ecosystem has made with security in 2016. But it doesn't stop there. Keeping you safe requires constant vigilance and effort. We're looking forward to new insights and progress in 2017 and beyond.

22 Mar 2017 2:00pm GMT

21 Mar 2017

feedAndroid Developers Blog

O-MG, the Developer Preview of Android O is here!

Posted by Dave Burke, VP of Engineering

Since the first launch in 2008, the Android project has thrived on the incredible feedback from our vibrant ecosystems of app developers and device makers, as well as of course our users. More recently, we've been pushing hard on improving our engineering processes so we can share our work earlier and more openly with our partners.

So, today, I'm excited to share a first developer preview of the next version of the OS: Android O. The usual caveats apply: it's early days, there are more features coming, and there's still plenty of stabilization and performance work ahead of us. But it's booting :).

Over the course of the next several months, we'll be releasing updated developer previews, and we'll be doing a deep dive on all things Android at Google I/O in May. In the meantime, we'd love your feedback on trying out new features, and of course testing your apps on the new OS.

What's new in O?

Android O introduces a number of new features and APIs to use in your apps. Here's are just a few new things for you to start trying in this first Developer Preview:

Background limits: Building on the work we began in Nougat, Android O puts a big priority on improving a user's battery life and the device's interactive performance. To make this possible, we've put additional automatic limits on what apps can do in the background, in three main areas: implicit broadcasts, background services, and location updates. These changes will make it easier to create apps that have minimal impact on a user's device and battery. Background limits represent a significant change in Android, so we want every developer to get familiar with them. Check out the documentation on background execution limits and background location limits for details.

Notification channels: Android O also introduces notification channels, which are new app-defined categories for notification content. Channels let developers give users fine-grained control over different kinds of notifications - users can block or change the behavior of each channel individually, rather than managing all of the app's notifications together.

Notification channels let users control your app's notification categories

Android O also adds new visuals and grouping to notifications that make it easier for users to see what's going on when they have an incoming message or are glancing at the notification shade.

Autofill APIs: Android users already depend on a range of password managers to autofill login details and repetitive information, which makes setting up new apps or placing transactions easier. Now we are making this work more easily across the ecosystem by adding platform support for autofill. Users can select an autofill app, similar to the way they select a keyboard app. The autofill app stores and secures user data, such as addresses, user names, and even passwords. For apps that want to handle autofill, we're adding new APIs to implement an Autofill service.

PIP for handsets and new windowing features: Picture in Picture (PIP) display is now available on phones and tablets, so users can continue watching a video while they're answering a chat or hailing a car. Apps can put themselves in PiP mode from the resumed or a pausing state where the system supports it - and you can specify the aspect ratio and a set of custom interactions (such as play/pause). Other new windowing features include a new app overlay window for apps to use instead of system alert window, and multi-display support for launching an activity on a remote display.

Font resources in XML: Fonts are now a fully supported resource type in Android O. Apps can now use fonts in XML layouts as well as define font families in XML - declaring the font style and weight along with the font files.

Adaptive icons: To help you integrate better with the device UI, you can now create adaptive icons that the system displays in different shapes, based on a mask selected by the device. The system also animates interactions with the icons, and uses them in the launcher, shortcuts, Settings, sharing dialogs, and in the overview screen.

Adaptive icons display in a variety of shapes across different device models.

Wide-gamut color for apps: Android developers of imaging apps can now take advantage of new devices that have a wide-gamut color capable display. To display wide gamut images, apps will need to enable a flag in their manifest (per activity) and load bitmaps with an embedded wide color profile (AdobeRGB, Pro Photo RGB, DCI-P3, etc.).

Connectivity: For the ultimate in audio fidelity, Android O now also supports high-quality Bluetooth audio codecs such as LDAC codec. We're also adding new Wi-Fi features as well, like Wi-Fi Aware, previously known as Neighbor Awareness Networking (NAN). On devices with the appropriate hardware, apps and nearby devices can discover and communicate over Wi-Fi without an Internet access point. We're working with our hardware partners to bring Wi-Fi Aware technology to devices as soon as possible.

The Telecom framework is extending ConnectionService APIs to enable third party calling apps integrate with System UI and operate seamlessly with other audio apps. For instance, apps can have their calls displayed and controlled in different kinds of UIs such as car head units.

Keyboard navigation: With the advent of Google Play apps on Chrome OS and other large form factors, we're seeing a resurgence of keyboard navigation use within these apps. In Android O we focused on building a more reliable, predictable model for "arrow" and "tab" navigation that aids both developers and end users.

AAudio API for Pro Audio: AAudio is a new native API that's designed specifically for apps that require high-performance, low-latency audio. Apps using AAudio read and write data via streams. In the Developer Preview we're releasing an early version of this new API to get your feedback.

WebView enhancements: In Android Nougat we introduced an optional multiprocess mode for WebView that moved the handling of web content into an isolated process. In Android O, we're enabling multiprocess mode by default and adding an API to let your app handle errors and crashes, for enhanced security and improved app stability. As a further security measure, you can now opt in your app's WebView objects to verify URLs through Google Safe Browsing.

Java 8 Language APIs and runtime optimizations: Android now supports several new Java Language APIs, including the new java.time API. In addition, the Android Runtime is faster than ever before, with improvements of up to 2x on some application benchmarks.

Partner platform contributions: Hardware manufacturers and silicon partners have accelerated fixes and enhancements to the Android platform in the O release. For example, Sony has contributed more than 30 feature enhancements including the LDAC codec and 250 bug fixes to Android O.

Get started in a few simple steps

First, make your app compatible to give your users a seamless transition to Android O. Just download a device system image or emulator system image, install your current app, and test -- the app should run and look great, and handle behavior changes properly. After you've made any necessary updates, we recommend publishing to Google Play right away without changing the app's platform targeting.

Building with Android O

When you're ready, dive in to O in depth to learn about everything you can take advantage of for your app. Visit the O Developer Preview site for details on the preview timeline, behavior changes, new APIs, and support resources.

Plan how your app will support background limits and other changes. Try out some of the great new features in your app -- notification channels, PIP, adaptive icons, font resources in XML, autosizing TextView, and many others. To make it easier to explore the new APIs in Android O, we've brought the API diff report online, along with the Android O API reference.

The latest canary version of Android Studio 2.4 includes new features to help you get started with Android O. You can download and set up the O preview SDK from inside Android Studio, then use Android O's XML font resources and autosizing TextView in the Layout Editor. Watch for more Android O support coming in the weeks ahead.

We're also releasing an alpha version of the 26.0.0 support library for you to try. This version adds a number of new APIs and increases the minSdkversion to 14. Check out the release notes for details.

Preview updates

The O Developer Preview includes an updated SDK with system images for testing on the official Android Emulator and on Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel XL and Pixel C devices. If you're building for wearables, there's also an emulator for testing Android Wear 2.0 on Android O.

We plan to update the preview system images and SDK regularly throughout the O Developer Preview. This initial preview release is for developers only and not intended for daily or consumer use, so we're making it available by manual download and flash only. Downloads and instructions are here.

As we get closer to a final product, we'll be inviting consumers to try it out as well, and we'll open up enrollments through Android Beta at that time. Stay tuned for details, but for now please note that Android Beta is not currently available for Android O.

Give us your feedback

As always, your feedback is crucial, so please let us know what you think - the sooner we hear from you, the more of your feedback we can integrate. When you find issues, please report them here. We've moved to a more robust tool, Issue Tracker, which is also used internally at Google to track bugs and feature requests during product development. We hope you'll find it easier to use.

21 Mar 2017 8:30pm GMT