App Development

Google Nexus Announcement: What You Should Know

Google made the big announcement that Android 6.0 (code named Marshmallow) is due to be pushed out to existing Nexus devices starting this week. Marshmallow brings with it some pretty huge changes for developers and users alike:

  • Runtime Permissions: Android has switched to asking for permissions as they are used in apps rather than asking at install. This provides users with more peace of mind, and more importantly, the ability to deny an app certain permissions. For developers, this means if you’re targeting Marshmallow, you aren’t guaranteed to have access to things like the camera, location, or contacts (among other sensitive permissions). You’ll need to be sure you’re updating your apps to handle a loss of permission gracefully.
  • Google Now on Tap:  A neat feature that allows devices to get contextual information from whatever is on the screen. For instance, if the user is on a message thread and there’s a mention of “Bob’s Burgers”, holding the Home Button will bring up information about the show, and options to watch it directly from that popup if an app supports it. It’s yet another way developers can get their app in front of the user in the situations where you’d most want to get interaction.
  • Doze:  A new software feature of Marshmallow, Doze puts your device in a deep sleep mode when it hasn’t moved in a set amount of time. The system senses that the device is dormant and shuts off networking and other background tasks until either a high priority push message is sent or the user interacts with the device again. This means a pretty huge increase in standby battery life for users. For developers, it means you may not be guaranteed to be able to run that important background task on time, unless you take the necessary measures to make your app run in the background.
  • Fingerprints: Marshmallow also added an API for fingerprint readers. This means devices with fingerprint readers can use those readers to unlock their screen, log into services that support fingerprint authentication, and even buy apps, music, or books on the Play Store with a simple touch of a finger.

Outside of the above there were also hundreds (thousands?) of changes and improvements in Android, from the new Text Selection Toolbar to refinements in in the camera to improvements to Android for Work. There are a lot of fixes and additions to aid developers in creating beautiful immersive apps. As stated, rollout of Android 6.0 will start next week on older Nexus hardware with various OEMs already committing to get their devices on Marshmallow by years end.

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Next, Google has finally shown us the next generation of Nexus devices: the Nexus 5X and the Nexus 6P. Both of these devices are “Android as Google Intended” which means they are clean and pure Android, straight from the folks that made it. The Nexus 5X, made by LG, is the smaller of the pair, with a 5.2” screen. The Nexus 6P, with it’s 5.7” screen, is definitely the more premium of the two (P stands for premium by the way), and includes some additional camera features, such as burst photography and 240 FPS video capture, as seen in this great capture of a hummingbird. The 6P also features two front-facing stereo speakers and a large battery for all-day usage.

Both phones feature a USB Type-C connection and quick charging. One important note for consumers: the camera modules on both devices are the same, and scored extremely well on DXOMarks camera tests, beating out Apple’s latest iPhone and coming in second only to Samsungs Galaxy S6 Edge.

Both devices feature Google’s new Fingerprint reader, named “Nexus Imprint”, that uses the new Fingerprint API in Android Marshmallow. This brings a world of new possibilities for authentication, bring Android up to speed with iOS. Fingerprint reading requires less than 600 milliseconds to obtain a print and unlock the device.

Google’s new smartphone offerings give you two great phones for taking photos and getting the latest and best Android experience, all for an affordable price.

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Google also announced a new set of Chromecasts this year. Chromecast has been one of Google’s top hits, and this new hardware only improves on an already-great design. The new Chromecast is available in 3 colors (shown above) and offers faster 5 GHz WiFi connections and much higher throughput. This means less waiting and more watching.

In addition to the new hardware, the new Chromecast debuts with a new feature called Fast Play, wherein the device preloads any Chromecast applications you may open. For instance if you open the Netflix app on your phone, your Chromecast will preload the show you’re likely to watch next. This means when you actually hit that Cast button, there’s no waiting involved; It just plays your content seamlessly. Basically it’s going to be a whole lot easier to binge watch House of Cards.

Google also released Chromecast Audio, a device which lets you plug your existing audio equipment into a Cast enabled device for direct music streaming from your phone. Less wires, less hassle. Just hit a Cast button on your phone and play all your music in your home or any speaker system you want. Chromecast will also be handling multi-room synchronized audio later this year, similar to the Sonos, but at a significantly lower cost. It’ll be an interesting time to be an audio fan.

Along with the new Chromecast hardware, Google has also released a new Chromecast app which helps with discoverability with a new “What’s On” feature. The new app lets users jump directly to content within your Cast-enabled application. Less hurdles, and more user discoverability.

Outside of new hardware and Android Marshmallow, Google announced some additions to Google Photos, including Shared albums, the ability to add labels to names, and (finally) adding Chromecast support to Photos.

So this year’s Google announcement was packed full of new software and hardware. From a shiny new version of everyone’s favorite operating system to some fantastic new hardware in the form of two new Nexus devices and multiple Chromecasts, we’ll have more than enough to hold us over until the next wave of Googley goodness out of Mountain View.

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