5 top takeaways for Android developers from Google I/O 2017

What did Google I/O have to offer from a developer's perspective? Jack Wallen offers up five Android highlights from this year's game-changing event.

Image: Jack Wallen

Google I/O 2017 is over and the future roadmap of Android, Google Assistant, Google Home, virtual reality, and so much more has been set. The event was a spectacle of information for developers. Boring? For consumers maybe. But for developers, I/O 2017 offered a plethora of possibility.

With Android now surpassing 2 billion monthly active devices, the landscape for developers is prime. But what were the bigger developer takeaways from Google I/O 2017? Let's take a look at what could be considered the top five.

1. Developer tools

Heading the top of the list would be new and/or improved tools for developers. A few particular tools were highlighted at I/O this year. The first being Google Play Protect--a comprehensive security system for Android that provides powerful new protections as well as greater visibility into device security. Play Protect scans devices, around the clock, to keep data secure. This is important to developers because Google Play Protect screening begins as soon as the developer uploads an app to Google Play and will automatically disable applications that are designed to harm a device.

Google will now be offering the Google Play Console. This new dashboard will help developers manage all phases of publishing (including app testing, insight gathering, distribution management, and more).

Android Studio has been given a few new tools for developers, called Android Studio Profilers. The Profilers replaces the Android Monitor and offers various Android hardware profiles to offer real time data updates for CPU, memory, and network activity.

Finally, the Kotlin language has been added as an official programming language for Android development. Kotlin is a new language, built by JetBrains, that runs on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). Kotlin goes a long way to help solve issues such as runtime exceptions and source code verbosity.

2. Android Go

On the hardware front, Google announced how they plan on reaching the next "billion" users. That solution is Android Go, a version of Android (built around Android O) targeting entry-level devices and optimized for data-restricted environments.

Android Go will include a rebuilt set of Google apps that require less memory, less storage, and less data to run properly. This new platform will have it's own version of the Google Play Store, which will feature apps best suited for developing countries. Android Go is designed to work on devices with as little as 512MB of RAM or less.

3. On-device AI

Artificial intelligence is all the rage at the moment. Where does the majority of AI live? In the cloud. At I/O 2017, Google announced its intention of bringing AI down to Earth with the help of a mobile-optimized version of TensorFlow, called TensorFlowLite.

TensorFlowLite will build on TensorFlow and help developers to slim down machine learning algorithms such that they can work on-device. According to Google's VP of Engineering, Dave Burke:

"It's a library for apps, designed to be fast and small, but still enabling state-of-the-art techniques. We think these new capabilities will help power the next generation of on-device speech processing, visual search, augmented reality, and more."

TensorFlowLite will work in conjunction with a new chip, the Tensor Processing Unit, which is specifically designed for machine learning.

4. Android Instant Apps now available for developers

You've heard rumors about the Android Instant Apps bandied about everywhere. Well, as of I/O 2017, that feature is finally out of incubation and available to all developers. Any Android developer can now make their app Instant, such that the app can be launched in response to tapping a URL. Instant Apps will not have to be installed and can use many Android APIs. In order to make an app Instant, developers will have to rework their apps to be modular and compatible with deep links.

For more information on developing Instant Apps, check out the Instant App overview.

5. Android O

I/O 2017 brought the announcement that the first beta of Android O is now available. This iteration of Android is very much in the early stages, but developers (and other users) can enroll Pixel or Nexus devices in the beta program to begin testing out the new features to be found in "O". Head over to the Beta Program page and enroll your eligible devices, so you can get a firsthand look at what Android O will bring. It is highly recommended that you do not enroll daily driver devices, as problems are certain to be plenty at this stage.

Currently the program is limited to the following devices:

  • Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player
  • Pixel C, Pixel, Pixel XL

Find out more

To find out more of what went down, check out the official Google I/O even blog. You can watch the keynotes and check out the live streaming events.

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By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....