‘Fold the Phone’, says Google at Android Dev Summit

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Google made a raft of announcements at its Android Dev Summit last week, including recommendations for the new generation of foldable phones that is just around the corner.

In a special session on foldables, the company laid out information for developers about how to transmit information between screens on these new devices, which offer displays that fold up like the pages of a book. It also explained how they should handle OnPause for applications that are in multi-window mode but which don’t have focus. Many apps aren’t doing it very well today, it warned, but this will become more important as foldables hit the market.

Samsung demoed a folding phone last week (albeit not for the first time). Google said that the Samsung unit would make its way onto shelves next year, and that other Android manufacturers were close on its heels.

The company announced the ability for developers to send automatic in-app updates to Android software with a new In-app Updates API. It offers two options. The first is an ‘immediate update’ option for critical updates. This displays a full-screen update prompt that stops the user from using the application entirely until they have given it one-tap permission to update itself.

The second option is a flexible in-app update, which simply recommends that they update the application using a slide-in menu prompt. When they accept, it updates in the background, only prompting them to restart the application if necessary when the update is complete. The company is making the feature available to early access developer partners now in tests, and will launch to all developers “soon”.

Also announced was the beta of Android Studio 3.3, which includes tracking options for profiler memory, the ability to inspect frame rendering data in Java apps, and built-in support for both installed apps and instant apps. The latter are app-like experiences delivered via the web that remove the need to install software. The company also increased the general size allowance to 10Mb for instant apps delivered via the Try Now button in the Play Store and via web banners. Its FAQ says that the previous size limit for instant apps was 4Mb, aside from games which already had a 10Mb allowance.

Google also vowed to build support for new features introduced in Kotlin, a popular language for coding developers. Its creator, JetBrains, announced version 1.3 late last month. Developers will be able to use inline primitive types that don’t allocate unless they are wrapped with object properties (aka ‘boxed’). This helps with resource preservation on low-memory, low-compute power devices. The Kotlin enhancements also include unsigned numbers as part of the standard library, the ability to target JavaScript or native with code written for Android or the JVM, and stable support for coroutines that simplify concurrent work on Android devices

Google will build support for these enhancements into Kotlin-specific APIs as part of its Jetpack developer toolset.