First Android 14 developer preview released

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Google has today rolled out the first Android 14 developer preview, making it available for download immediately.

In a similar fashion to the path taken with Android 13, Android 14 will go through a series of developer previews before reaching beta in April, platform stability in early June and reaching production-ready status sometime in late July or early August.

While Google is no doubt keeping some features up its sleeve for Google I/O or announcement later this year, for developers there’s a number of important changes that you need to be aware of. They include:

  • Changes to the declaration of services, including limiting the types of services that can be permitted
  • Context-registered broadcasts have some minor changes when an app is cached
  • A new SCHEDULE_EXACT_ALARM permission for setting exact alarms
  • Requirement to declare if receivers are exported or unexported
  • Changes for apps using dynamic code loading
  • Apps with a targetSdkVersion lower than 23 can no longer be installed to protect against malware
  • Credential manager and passkeys support
  • OpenJDK 17 support

In addition, users will be able to increase their font size up to 200%. Currently Pixel devices allow customers to enlarge their fonts by 130% – so developers will want to test to ensure screens are still functional at the larger font size.

“Android 14 continues our work to improve your productivity as developers, along with enhancements to performance, privacy, security, and user customization,” Dave Burke, VP of Engineering wrote. “This preview is just the beginning, and we’ll have lots more to share as we move through the release cycle.”

The Android 14 SDK can now be installed in preview builds of Android Studio Giraffe. You can also flash Pixel devices with Android 14, but keep in mind you may need to use developer support images to downgrade.

Google announces Play Console tweaks to make it easier to send changes for review

black android smartphone

Google is today announcing an upcoming change for the Play Console that’s designed to make it easier to know what modifications need to be reviewed when publishing.

From the Android Developer blog:

One challenge you’ve shared with us is a lack of predictability and control over the app review process. Previously, it was hard to predict which changes would be sent to Google for review, and which changes would be published immediately. There was also no way to send multiple changes for review together, for example, if you wanted to update your app at the same time as one of your store listing screenshots.

As a result of your feedback, we’re making some changes to give you more flexibility and control over the app review process.

When publishing app changes today, it’s often difficult to know what changes need to be reviewed by Google’s Play team and which ones can be published immediately.

It’s also not possible to update screenshots and an app update together at present. But Google plans to address this soon with a new update to the Play Console.

Firstly, all app metadata including screenshots, Store listing and Data safety form information will show in the publishing overview if you have managed publishing turned on (it’s off by default). This allows you to publish the changes only when you need to – they will no longer publish immediately when you click save.

In addition, you’ll also soon be able to remove items that have already been sent for review or that are ready for publishing. Once removed, they’ll be moved back to a new “Changes ready to send for review” section on the publishing overview screen.

Android to get official RISC-V support

Ars Technica:

 Lars Bergstrom, Android’s director of engineering, wants RISC-V to be seen as a “tier-1 platform” in Android, which would put it on par with Arm. That’s a big change from just six months ago. Bergstrom says getting optimized Android builds on RISC-V will take “a lot of work” and outlined a roadmap that will take “a few years” to come to fruition, but AOSP started to land official RISC-V patches back in September.

As Ars mentions, this is a significant turn of events from Google who in mid-2022 at Google I/O were remaining coy about their interest in RISC-V. At present, Google has the build system for RISC-V up and running with initial emulator support expected in early 2023.

While support for RISC-V is very much still in its infancy, having it as a tier-1 supported platform for Android means manufacturers will eventually have a strong competitor to ARM. RISC-V is defining open standards and specifications, making it less likely that commercial or political interests will cause issues.

Facebook Android app to drop system web view

Engineering at Meta:

Over the past few years, we’ve observed that many Android users are updating their Facebook app but not updating their Chrome and WebView apps, which may result in security risks and a negative user experience.

For example, people with outdated versions of the Chrome and WebView apps may be more susceptible to zero day exploits and other security holes that might have been fixed in newer versions of Chromium. In addition, we also observed that, due to the way Android loads the System WebView, when users were updating the System WebView app, they were experiencing a Facebook app crash.

To help solve these issues – and following the precedent of browser vendors such as Microsoft Edge, Samsung Internet, and Mozilla Firefox who all ship custom browser engines on Android – we have been building and testing a separate Chromium-Based WebView for a few years.

In short, because of the way that Android updates the system web view Facebook have decided to drop the use of it altogether and build their own web view that’s updated at the same time the Facebook app is.

By building their own web view, Facebook is also able to improve performance by using a device’s GPU to render pages and games.

The fact that in Android 13 there’s still no way to detect when the system web view is being updated is damning, and made even worse given third party apps that use it will crash if they happen to use the API at the same time an update is occurring.

New Android MAD videos released

Google has released a new series of 6 videos covering some core concepts surrounding Modern Android Development (MAD).

They cover a broad range of topics including the data, domain, UI and data layers. I’m only just starting to watch, but so far they seem well-suited to beginners and intermediate developers alike.

There’s even a recording of an interactive Q&A session at the end of the series, covering many questions that cropped up during the course.

These aren’t the first MAD videos Google has released – but it’s great to see the company release refreshed content. If you’re after more MAD content, you can find more in the MAD portal on the Android Developers site.