Major changes for Android Market client

Over the next two weeks Google will be rolling out a major update to the android market client. The changes will greatly improver the user experience as well as the browse-to-purchase experience. It will also be possible to develop richer games with the increase of the max size of .apk files to 50MB.

The Android Market engineering team has been hard at work on improving the Android Market experience for users and developers. Today, I’m pleased to announce a significant update to the Android Market client. Over the next two weeks, we’ll be rolling out a new Android Market client to all devices running Android 1.6 or higher.

This new Market client introduces important features that improve merchandising of applications, streamline the browse-to-purchase experience, and make it easier for developers to distribute their applications.

With a focus on improving discoverability and merchandising, we’ve introduced a new carousel on the home and category screens. Users can quickly flip through the carousel to view promoted applications and immediately go to the download page for the application they want. Developers have been very active in creating great Widgets and Live Wallpapers. To make it easier for users to find their favorites, we’re introducing two new categories for Widgets and Live Wallpapers. Applications that include Widgets and Wallpapers will be automatically added to those new categories. We’ll also be adding more categories for popular applications and games in the weeks ahead. In addition, the app details page now includes Related content, which makes it easier for users to quickly find apps of similar interest.

You can read more on this at Google’s Android Developer blog.

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Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) is the fastest Android yet and out now

Google have release Android 2.3 today and they are claiming that it is the fastest version yet. From a performance point of view, there is now Concurrent garbage collector, Faster event distribution and Updated video drivers. It looks like they are trying to push into the gamers market with many of these new features.

Here is an overview of the main features of Android 2.3 from the Google release:

Enhancements for game development: To improve overall responsiveness, we’ve added a new concurrent garbage collector and optimized the platform’s overall event handling. We’ve also given developers native access to more parts of the system by exposing a broad set of native APIs. From native code, applications can now access input and sensor events, EGL/OpenGL ES, OpenSL ES, and assets, as well a new framework for managing lifecycle and windows. For precise motion processing, developers can use several new sensor types, including gyroscope.

Rich multimedia: To provide a great multimedia environment for games and other applications, we’ve added support for the new video formats VP8 and WebM, as well as support for AAC and AMR-wideband encoding. The platform also provides new audio effects such as reverb, equalization, headphone virtualization, and bass boost.

New forms of communication: The platform now includes support for front-facing camera, SIP/VOIP, and Near Field Communications (NFC), to let developers include new capabilities in their applications.

See what applications are running

One personal gripe of mine has been the low battery time on Android. I recently upgraded my Xperia X10 to 2.1 and found the battery to last a bit longer but 2.3 has addressed the problem as well. As you can see from this screenshot, there is now a “Running” tab that allows you to see what applications are running. From here you can choose to close the app or report feedback to its developer.

Near Field Communications (NFC)

One of the new features that I am really excited about is Near Field Communications that allows the device to read NDEF tags. This is going to allow for the development of a whole host of applications. The obvious one being, “Swipe to pay” applications that will allow you to pay for goods using an app on your android device.

An NFC Reader application lets the user read and interact with near-field communication (NFC) tags. For example, the user can “touch” or “swipe” an NFC tag that might be embedded in a poster, sticker, or advertisement, then act on the data read from the tag. A typical use would be to read a tag at a restaurant, store, or event and then rate or register by jumping to a web site whose URL is included in the tag data. NFC communication relies on wireless technology in the device hardware, so support for the platform’s NFC features on specific devices is determined by their manufacturers.

Checkout the video below for an overview of all of the new features:

For more information about Android 2.3 visit the Platform Highlights page.

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Layar gets €10 million Funding

Layar have announced that they received €10 in a funding round led by Intel Capital joined by existing investors Sunstone Capital and Prime Ventures.  This is great news for the company that have been at the forefront of Augmented Reality for the last 18 months.

Layar was one application that really excited me when I got my first Android phone and I just know this money will help to make a great company an amazing company.

Here is what Raimo van der Klein, Layar’s CEO had to say about how the money will effect them:

What does Layar hope to achieve?
We want to bring impactful Augmented Reality content into people’s everyday lives. Let’s have a closer look at some of the words and phrases in this simple sentence.

“Bring” This means that Layar is handling the transportation of content and connecting publishers and users on as many mobile platforms as possible. Soon, we will launch the Layar Player, an SDK that will bring Augmented Reality content to any iPhone application. But we don’t only want to be facilitators; we also want to help users discover the Layar content that is right for them at the moment they need it.

“Impactful” – We believe that Augmented Reality in its very core is designed to deliver experiences that can truly touch people. Remember the quote from Confucius? “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Augmented Reality is the closest digital experience to “doing” that there is today. We will continue to invest in capabilities that offer our developers the tools to create the most exciting mobile digital experiences.

“Into people’s everyday lives” – Augmented Reality is in its infancy, much like television was before the growth of massively successful content formats like soaps, live sporting events and reality TV. It’s also comparable to YouTube before we all realized that we love to watch videos of kittens. At Layar we don’t like to assume. We don’t know which formats will be successful in the medium of Augmented Reality. Therefore, we are structuring our platform in such a way that will allow for the successful formats to naturally emerge.

Layar will also be opening an office in the Bay area and are on the lookout for people to join their team.  I wonder if they would consider a second European office in office in Dublin?

Is Layar packing its bags for Silicon Valley?
Yes and no. We really like it in Amsterdam, and we plan to stay here and expand our team here. We will, however, be opening a U.S. office in San Francisco soon. If you are interested in joining the Layar family in the Bay Area, here are a few of our American openings.

The best of luck to Layar, I am excited to see what the next level of Augmented Reality will look like.

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Hey, Java Developers! Go develop Android apps

More and more companies are focusing their efforts on the mobile market and offering an ‘app’ for their product or brand.
However, many are falling into the trap of only focusing on developing iPhone apps. As Gartner has reported, Android is now outselling iPhone as the smartphone of choice.   In the future there is going to be a major effort from these companies with established apps to port them over to Android.

Android is an App market that companies can’t afford to ignore.

Gartner estimates Android phones accounted for 75 percent to 80 percent of Verizon Wireless’s smartphone trade in the third quarter of 2010. Manufacturers such as Samsung continued to launch high-end devices like the Galaxy S. But manufacturers also launched Android devices at lower prices to target different consumer segments. For example, ZTE launched a sub-£100 Android phone with Orange in the prepay U.K. market. For its part, Google is maintaining a fast pace of OS updates. Each version brings new features and polish to Android, and the level of innovation is a major differentiator.

So why is this good for Java Developers?

If you are a Java developer and thinking of making the transition to mobile app development, Android is a natural choice.    It allows you to continue to develop in Java and progress your career to the next level.

The API is very well documented and there are lot of great tutorials in the dev guide.     Google even have lots of sample apps and tutorials to get you started.   If all that wasn’t good enough, there is also an eclipse plugin so you can continue to develop in eclipse.

The presentation below should be you a quick overview of the architecture and how to get started.

Android For Java Developers

View more presentations from Mike Wolfson.


So, forget about learning Objective C and moving over to Mac, stick with the language you love and start developing Android apps in java.

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Android UI Testing

I have been a big fan of Selenium ever since I first used it a few years back. It takes so much of the pain out of testing web pages and with its Maven integration a very complex web app can be fully tested automatically every night.   So naturally, I am pretty excited about Robotium.    Robotium does for Android testing what Selenium has done for web based testing.   Here’s the official line:

Robotium is a test framework created to make it easy to write powerful and robust automatic black-box test cases for Android applications. With the support of Robotium, test case developers can write function, system and acceptance test scenarios, spanning multiple Android activities.

Robotium is integrated with Maven via Maven for Android so all of your tests can be automated.   Check out the video below for an example of how to get started or this example from Michal Szczepanik at Bitbar.

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