The Android Edge 4.15.2022
Before we jump into Android platform news, I want to take a moment to highlight our new Esper Architect platform. While this is certainly something businesses and fleet managers will be interested in, the concepts on display here are also very cool (and interesting!) broadly.
Esper Architect is a device fleet platform built for the future. A key component to Esper Architect that we’re particularly excited about is Pipelines.
With Pipelines, we’re making it even simpler to roll out staged updates across groups. This is a core DevOps principle, and with this release, it’s easier and more intuitive to use.
We’re incredibly proud of Esper Architect and the groundwork it lays for the future of DevOps for devices. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the posts above. And if you want to chat about it, hit us up!
In today’s newsletter:
- New stuff in Android 13
- Google’s Android App Excellence Summit recap
- A look at Spire Health, a company using Android for critical healthcare monitoring
- Building AOSP without Google
- …and other morsels of truth and enlightenment 🌈
News for developers
- If you’re developing (or optimizing) an app for dual screen or foldable devices, you might be interested in a new Android component developed by Microsoft called SnackbarContainer. This allows you to define a specific area on a foldable or dual screen device to display a Snackbar without altering the functionality on single screen devices. A full breakdown and explainer on Microsoft’s dev blog covers all the details.
- Kotlin 1.6.20 is out. I will not pretend to fully grasp what this means for developers, but will instead direct you to the JetBrains blog with all the details. There are certainly a number of changes to read through.
- Google’s inaugural Android App Excellence Summit happened on April 12, 2022. If you missed it, you can catch all the sessions on YouTube. There’s also a nice overview on the Android Developers Blog if you’re looking for a quick recap.
Android Bytes: How to make Android (AOSP) without Google
If there’s one thing to take away from this week’s episode, it’s that you shouldn’t toy around with pushing plain AOSP onto devices. Of course, we’ve got all the reasons why. Mishaal and David are joined by Chirayu Desai, one of the developers of the open Android distro CalyxOS.
Android in the news
If you followed Android news this week, you probably know that it was pretty quiet. So, I figured it would be cool to take a look at a few specific features in Android 13 that we haven’t talked about until very recently. These are, of course, pulled from Mishaal’s exhaustive Android 13 Deep Dive.
🎧 Spatial audio with head tracking: Android 12L introduced support for spatial audio, which creates a virtual soundstage that simulates a 3D audio environment, encompassing the user. Head tracking — a feature that uses the accelerometer and gyroscope in many modern headphones so the sound “follows” head movement — was in the works as well, but it was only partially implemented. Android 13 will fix this, assuming the device manufacturer and the audio product enable the feature.
💳 NFC Payments for secondary profiles: Android users with multiple device profiles — like a personal profile and a work profile, for example — will know that NFC payments only work with a single profile. This is a potential issue for people who want to use a personal card on their personal profile and a work card on their work profile, as it limits the usefulness of contactless payments. Android 13 will introduce NFC payment support for secondary profiles (including but not limited to work profiles), allowing users to take advantage of contactless payments on multiple profiles.
💾 Disk encryption is dead; long live file encryption: When encryption was initially introduced on Android 4.4, it used full disk encryption that was cryptographically bound to the user’s PIN, pattern, or password. It was only decrypted upon boot with the correct authentication method. File based encryption was introduced in Android 7.0 as a more secure and versatile form of encryption, and it became the required form of encryption in Android 10. Alongside this requirement, a method for migrating full disk encryption to file based encryption was introduced. With Android 13, this migration option will be removed, so the OS will not recognize the encrypted data partition on devices that haven’t been migrated.
🔌 USB HAL hits version 2.0: Google is updating Android’s USB HAL (hardware abstraction layer) to v2.0 in Android 13, which brings several new APIs and features. System apps will be able to toggle USB data on specific ports (instead of all ports at once), limit power transfer to and from the USB port, and enable data transfer over USB when the device is docked. These are all controlled with separate APIs, some of which haven’t been introduced into AOSP yet.
Android Inside: Spire Health
We often talk about “mission critical” devices, but it’s not always clear what that really means. Spire Health is the perfect example of a company with not just mission critical, but life critical devices. Spire builds remote monitoring tools for the healthcare industry, allowing doctors to monitor patients with chronic respiratory disease 24/7 from anywhere. As you can imagine, these devices must be inherently secure, robust, and offer remote access for debugging and telemetry.
That’s why we’re proud to say that Spire runs on Esper’s platform, which means it’s built on Android. Spire’s device consists of two components: a wearable “health tag” and a Bluetooth hub that receives data from the tag. The hub runs Android, offers cellular connectivity, and works directly out of the box with almost no setup. This makes it an excellent choice for users who require this level of care but may not be very comfortable with technology. Thanks to the AOSP base, this powerful system is secure, future-proof, and automated.
Android Dessert Bites
Move over WiFi 6E, there’s a new sheriff in town. WiFi 7 devices are coming soon, and to prepare for them, Android 13 includes very basic support for the new standard.
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