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Google I/O: From Android 12 to Firebase and Flutter

There are so many announcements coming out of this year's Google I/O virtual conference this week that I couldn't cover it all it in one post. So, here's a quick rundown of other announcements from this (very well produced) event. (Loved the outdoor keynotes.)

Google's Jacob Lehrbaum, director of Android developer relations, advised Android developers to get ready for Android 12, due later this year, but available now in beta for some devices. This release will come with "one of the biggest design changes ever" in Android's history, he said. And that's not an understatement.

The stunningly refreshed UI includes a new "color extractions" feature that changes the system’s theme based on your current algorithm, a dynamic lighting feature, and a Quick Wallet Access feature on the lock screen.

Android 12 also comes with some new safety features, including the ability audit app data requests, which is similar to the privacy features in the recently updated iOS 14.5. Developers can learn more about how their apps and their dependencies access private data from users by performing data access auditing. (Details on this Android Developer page.)

The Android 12 beta is available to anyone with a Pixel 3 or newer, the Xiaomi Mi 11 and devices from ZTE, Asus, OnePlus, Oppo, realme, Sharp, TECNO, Vivo, and TCL. The Nokia X20 is also on that list, though no link was available on the Android 12 'eligible devices' page at press time.

Google also announced new features for its Firebase mobile web app development platform "after taking a hiatus in 2020." The platform, which Google says is now used by more than 3 million apps per month, gets a new AI-powered Personalization enhancement of its Remote Config service. Currently in alpha, Personalization uses Android's on-device machine learning (ML) capabilities to allow devs to deliver optimized individual user experiences automatically. The only thing current Firebase devs will need to do is provide different configuration options and Personalization will monitor app users and tailor aspects of those configuration options to what it "thinks" will improve engagement. 

Google also announced that devs can now use the Firebase Storage API locally through the Emulator Suite, a feature that lets developers run local versions of some of the tools in Firebase. The Firebase Local Emulator Suite is a set of advanced tools for developers "looking to build and test apps locally using Cloud Firestore, Realtime Database, Cloud Storage, Authentication, Cloud Functions, Pub/Sub, and Firebase Hosting," the company says.

Anything that uses this API can now be tested completely offline, which means devs can take advantage of cost savings and enhanced testing automation.

Android 12 also comes with new hardware APIs for Chrome designed to provide access to device peripherals, and new Privacy Sandbox APIs now available to test. Remember that Google plans to phase out third-party cookies from Chrome.

And then there's Flutter, version 2.2 of which was announced at the conference. This release of Google's open-source mobile UI toolkit comes with several new features, including a way for developers to monetize their apps with in-app purchases and ads. This release also makes it possible for developers to connect to cloud services, and it comes with APIs that extend apps to support new capabilities. 

Based on Google's in-house language, Dart, Flutter was released by Google in 2017, and it's star has been on the rise ever since.

Google also launched a very cool new MLOps platform called Vertex AI, which you can read about in our sister publication, Pure AI.

Posted by John K. Waters on 05/19/2021 at 4:25 PM