We’re just 5 months through and 2020 has already welcomed us with more surprises then we’d expect. And as we may feel busy and overwhelmend adapting to the new way of life we still need to make sure that our Android apps stay robust and work as we designed them. It’s even more important now to provide our users a seamless and unbroken experience which will support them to carry on with daily tasks and take off some burden from their shoulders. In this article we’ll go through the incoming deadlines and important changes that are coming to the Android environment later this year.
Let’s start with having a look on the consise list of upocoming Android and Google Play Deadlines and then head up to what’s coming in this year’s update to the Android OS and make sure that Your apps are ready to embrace it in advance!
Upcoming Android and Google Play Deadlines
In April 2020, the FirebaseJobDispatcher library will be archived and Google will no longer provide support for issues filed on the library.
As of August 1, 2019, apps and games published on Google Play had to support 64-bit ABIs for their corresponding 32-bit architectures. Apps and games that use a Corona Labs SDK or Adobe Air software and the AIR SDK have until August 1, 2020. Games built with Unity 5.6.7 and lower have until August 1, 2021.
By August 3, 2020, new apps must target at least Android 10 (API level 29). By November 2, 2020, all apps that are being updated must target at least Android 10 (API level 29). Until these dates, new apps and app updates must target at least Android 9 (API level 28).
As of November 1 2020 GCMNetworkManager client libraries are no longer supported. To embrace these changes You should consider switching to the Work Manager library. Once your app updates the target API level (targetSdkVersion) to above Android 10 (API level 29), FirebaseJobDispatcher and GcmNetworkManager API calls will no longer work on devices running Android Marshmallow (6.0) and above.
Also, by May 1, 2021 You have time to switch from AIDL to Billing library. AIDL is now deprecated and will be removed in a future release and Google Play Billing Library 2.0 will be required for all new apps and app updates that use Play Billing.
… and Android 11 is coming!
It’s a tradition already that every year Google delivers a new version of their mobile operating system along with an updated version of their flagship Pixel series devices. In the age of information these events impact not only technology geeks but also casual users as smartphones are the default way we use to communicate and also businesses which use mobile technologies to boost their effectiveness and reach. Inspired by a similar roadmap posted a few weeks ago for the iOS platform I’d like to give You a look ahead into what’s new coming to the Android ecosystem and how to embrace those changes - both if you’re a business owner or a developer.
In February Google surprised developers with an early release of the first developer preview of the Android 11 (codename R). It’s an early baseline build focused on developer feedback, with new features, API’s and behaviour changes. Together with the following releases in March (Developer Preview 2) and April (Developer Preview 3) they serve mainly developers to give us a notion of what to expect and start planning necessary updates for our apps.
One of the biggest updates this year concerns privacy. First of them is a one-time permissions that the app can request temporarily whenever it needs to access location, microphone or camera. It’s something that may give better sleep to ones concerned about their privacy as it will make it more clear when the app uses certain functionalities of the device. Also, everyone who’s using location permissions should have a look on the changes done to the
BACKGROUND_LOCATION_PERMISSIONS. First introduced a year ago with Android 10 now being moved forward to emphasize user control over location information. For the full list of the privacy related changes visit official documentation.
We also already learnt that Android R brings a groundbreaking change to the AsyncTask object. Introduced in 2009, AsyncTask for years was a default way to perform various asynchronous tasks. In Android R API it’s finally marked deprecated in favour of Kotlin coroutines component being the new default tool for async jobs. King is dead, long live the king.
Anyone who’s using Android in the enterprise will also welcome improved support for work profiles on company-owned devices. These changes are designed to enable easier management of both work and personal use of the device and are explored in detail here.
Also to see a full list of the behaviour and API changes have a look on the Android 11 Developer Preview homepage.
Next big date in the Android developer calendar occurs in May. This is when Beta 1 is being released followed by two more updates - Beta 2 in June and Beta 3 in early Q3. Beta releases come with improved stability compared to Developer Previews and this is the time when You can start testing how Your app works with the new OS. Definitely something to keep an eye for as the update finally rolls out over the air and is also available to everyone enrolled in the Google Beta program. Also in June Play Store opens for publications.
May has also other important significance - it’s usually when a Google I/O takes place. Google I/O is an annual developer conference held by Google in Mountain View, California where Google announces new hardware, software and various updates for existing apps and services. Sadly this year the event was cancelled due to the COVID 19 epidemy and Google has no plans to host it in any other form. However developers can probably expect some new announcements coming via the developer blogs and community forums. Here’re few sources worth to check:
By the time of Beta 3 release in Q3 your app should be prepared to face new requirements imposed by Android 11 and leverage new functionality. It’s also in Q3 when the final version of Android 11 will be available to download. When exactly in Q3? We don’t know yet - Android 10 debuted on Sept 3rd 2019 and Android 9 (Pie) was released to the public on Aug 6th 2018, so better get prepared for the migration in advance.
To ensure compatibility with Android 11 and provide great experience for Your users start with adjusting the targetSdkVersion in Your project and follow these steps:
What devices will get Android 11 on day 1? Android 11 will become available straight away for anyone using Pixel 2 or newer editions of Google’s flagship device. For other manufacturers it’d take at least a few months as they need to adapt and customise new OS for their own devices and needs.
It’s worth noting that if You own at least Pixel 2 then You can try out Developers Preview already following instructions from official docs. Betas will be available in a similar way later this year.
Speaking of Pixel there’s more to come this autumn. Despite it’s not officially announced it’s usually around that time when Google unveils it’s successor - all the Pixel devices so far were announced in October and we can expect this year won’t be different. Especially because Google has to address its competitor - iPhone, which new iteration appears at the same time.
Pixel devices are worth having a look not only because it gives an early access to the system updates but also because it offers a pure and smooth Android experience, not overlaid with custom UI/functionality often proposed by other manufacturers. And this is something both developers and testers can see as valuable.
Google is not that much restrictive with forcing developers to implement all the new OS features and changes immediately. If Your app’s not targeting the latest SDK then You’d get away with Android 11 updates for another year or so. However it also means that You won’t fully benefit from the new system’s improvements and Your app can fall behind the competitors!