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Google Play Services 3.1 Adds Cross-platform SSO and More, New Android Studio, Play Game Services

At the I/O 2013 conference, Google announced that over 48 billion Android apps have been downloaded from Google Play to date, with “over 2.5 billion app downloads in the last month alone.”

To keep this momentum, Google announces a number of new features and advancements both for the Android platform and Google Play, to help design, develop and distribute apps including: “Android Studio, Google Play Services, and enhancements to Google Play Developer Console for better distribution experience.”

Google Play Services 3.1 launched today that offer easier integration with Google products and new capabilities to use in Android apps–now brings some great APIs for developers:

“Devices running Android 2.2+ with Play Store app automatically receive updates to Play services. Enhance your app with the most recent version of Google Play services without worrying about your users’ Android version,” suggests Google.

  • Google Play games services give you great new social features that you can add to your games achievements, leaderboards, cloud save, and real-time multiplayer
  • Location APIs make it easy to add location- and context-awareness to your apps through a fused location provider, geofencing, and activity recognition
  • Google Cloud Messaging enhancements let you use bidirectional XMPP messaging between server and devices and dismiss notifications.

    Using the new geofencing API, your app can set up geographic boundaries around specific locations and then receive notifications when the user enters or leaves those areas.

    Google added new APIs to make it easier to set up GCM in your apps, and in the service itself new messaging capabilities added for your apps to use. “A new registration API lets your app register with the service using a single method call and begin receiving messages as soon as the call returns,” Google stated.

    If you’d like to try out CCS messaging or the User Notifications API, you can sign up for early access here.

    In the GCM service itself, Google says it has added support for messaging over XMPP with the new GCM Cloud Connection Server (CCS). “Your servers now have a persistent connection over which to send large numbers of messages, very quickly, and with no overhead. New APIs in Google Play services let apps send messages back upstream to third-party servers using CCS, without needing to manage network connections. This helps keep battery and data usage to a minimum,” explains Google.

    Also, in the GCM service, Google added a new User Notifications API, that lets you synchronize notifications across a user’s multiple devices — “when the user dismisses a notification on one device, the notification disappears automatically from all the other devices,” Google writes.

  • Cross-Platform Single Sign On (SSO), removes the friction of consent and authentication–and lets users sign in once, for all of their devices using Google+ Sign-In. Now, “when a user signs in with Google on one device, they grant consent once and can continue their experience seamlessly between web and Android devices”,” informs Google.

    For example, “if a user signs in with Google on the web and adds items to their cart but doesn’t get around to completing the purchase, if they switch to your app on their Android device, Google+ Sign-In will automatically authenticate the user, so they can be taken directly to the same state and resume their purchase,” explains Google.

    The feature is now available on the web and via the Google Play services v3.1 on Android over the coming days.

    It will be automatically enabled if you integrate Google+ Sign-In. To get started and learn more about Google+ Sign-In, visit this link.

In additon, new features in the Google Play Developer Console launches today, to give more control over distribution of an app and insight into how the app is doing:

  • “App translation service: a pilot program that lets you purchase professional translations for your app directly from the Developer Console.
  • Revenue graphs: a new tab in the Developer Console gives you a summary of your app global app revenue over time.
  • Alpha and beta testing and staged rollouts: you can now distribute your app to controlled alpha and beta test groups, or do staged rollouts to specific percentages of your userbase.
  • Optimization tips: design your app for tablets and understand how to expand your app into new language markets.
  • Google Analytics: launching later this summer, your Google Analytics usage stats will be viewable right in the Developer Console.
  • Referral tracking: also launching later this summer, you’ll get a new report in Google Analytics to show what blogs, campaigns, and ads are driving your installs,” Google explained.

Android Studio, a new Integrated Development Environment (IDE) preview for Android, is based on the powerful, extensible IntelliJ IDEA Community Edition, with features designed to simplify and optimize your daily workflow for creating Android apps.

  • “Android Studio uses a new build system based on Gradle that provides flexibility, customized build flavors, dependency resolution and much more. This new build system allows you to build your projects in the IDE as well as on your continuous integrations servers.
  • It includes a powerful code editor, which supports features such as smart editing, advanced code refactoring, and deep static code analysis.
  • This release of Android Studio lets you preview your layouts on different device form factors, locales, and platform versions. Below you can see a multi-configuration preview side by side XML editing.
  • Easy access to Google services within Android Tools. Google made it trivial to add services such a cloud-based backend with integrated Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) to your app, directly from the IDE.
  • And, the new ADT Translation Manager Plugin, assist with localizing your apps. You can use the plugin to export your strings to the Google Play Developer Console for translation, then download and import your translations back into your project.”

Google also notes, that starting next week, it’ll be doing all of development in the open source mode. You can find the Android Studio project in AOSP at this link.

Android Studio Preview is available for try here.

Android Studio Preview GUI

Also, introduced today is the Google Play Game Services, to help building a gaming platform for the next generation of games.

The Game Services help you make your games more social, with achievements, leaderboards, and multiplayer, as well as more powerful, storing game saves and settings in the cloud. With game services, you can incorporate:

  • “Achievements that increase engagement and promote different styles of play.
  • Social and public leaderboards that seamlessly use Google+ circles to track high scores across friends and across the world.
  • Cloud saves that provide a simple and streamlined storage API to store game saves and settings. Now players never have to replay Level 1 again.
  • Real-time multiplayer for easy addition of cooperative or competitive game play on Android devices. Using Google+ Circles, a game can have up to 4 simultaneous friends or auto-matched players in a game session together with support for additional players coming soon,” informs Google.

Google Play game services available through an SDK for Android, and a native iOS SDK for iPhone and iPad games. “Web and other platform developers will also find corresponding REST APIs, with libraries for JavaScript, Java, Python, Go, Dart, PHP, and more,” Google added.

Check out the developer site to get started.

Google Play Game Services

Google may also launch Android 4.3, and most likely, only Nexus devices would be updated to Android 4.3 shortly after the announcement, while other devices would be updated in 6 months or later or maybe never.

Update 05/17: Google has also released a new Admin SDK tha lets developers build customized administrative tools for organizations that use Google Apps. “The SDK consolidates many of the existing domain APIs into a new uniform structure and introduces new functionality with the Directory API and Reports API,” informs google.

Finally, Google+ API for businesses, now available as a pilot for developers who want to build apps that handle tasks like auto-provisioning Circles and reading or writing posts.

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