Android M - Still No Name But An SDK Update And NDK Support
Written by Mike James
Friday, 10 July 2015
Google still hasn't given us a name for Android M but it has provided an update to the Android M SDK for use with Android Studio. The first preview wasn't particularly stable - does this make things more workable?
Even though most users still haven't installed Lollipop, Google seems to want us to move on to Android M. It is difficult to say why exactly as from a programmer's and a user's point of view there isn't much compelling about the upgrade. Add to this the fact that Google has abandoned the Nexus 7 and it is difficult to see what the rush is?
The first preview was issued back in June and, while it included most of the features that are promised for Android M, it wasn't particularly easy to use because of the number of bugs and instabilities. Preview 2 seems better from the stability point of view but it still isn't 100% complete. As the Android Developers Blog puts it:
"The Developer Preview 2 update includes the up to date M release platform code, and near-final APIs for you to validate your app. To provide more testing support, we have refined the Nexus system images and emulator system images with the Android platform updates. In addition to platform updates, the system images also include Google Play services 7.6."
Updates to the supported Nexus devices, 5,6, 9 and Player, can be installed by over the air update.
The emulator has also a new image. Google are calling the update "incremental" and this is accurate.
The changes listed on the Developer Blog are:
Modifications to platform permissions including external storage, Wi-Fi & Bluetooth location, and changes to contacts/identity permissions. Device connections through the USB port are now set to charge-only mode by default. To access the device, users must explicitly grant permission.
Updated Bluetooth Stylus APIs with updated callback events. View.onContextClickListener and GestureDetector.OnContextClickListener to listen for stylus button presses and to perform secondary actions.
Updated Media API with new callback InputDevice.hasMicrophone() method for determining if a device microphone exist
The preview comes with the assertion that the project is on target and we should see Android M ship in the fall. It will be interesting to see the takeup rate for M. At the moment Lollipop stands at around 12% with Kitkat most popular at 39%. Of course, if Google keeps on dropping popular devices like the Nexus 7 you can't expect a full uptake. The rapid turnover of versions that make lots of hardware obsolete isn't good for the developer community, even if it is good for the manufacturers.
Preview 3 should be out at the end of the month.
Probably more important to many than the SDK update is the news that the latest Android Studio 1.3 RC 1 has just been released to the canary channel and it includes support for the NDK. It is only a preview, but it seems to be working well enough to allow its use. The bad news is that now it will remain in preview in the final release of 1.3.
At the moment you have to go though some hoops to use it but there is the promise of an integrated installation with Android Studio. Since Google announced that it was no longer supporting Eclipse the lack of NDK support in Android Studio has been a serious problem.
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