Tag Archives: Overview

Android Pie (Image Via XDA Developers)

App Developers Take a Bigger Slice of the Pie with Android P

App developers looking to witness what Machine Learning can do to improve UI should take note of Android 9.0 Pie. First announced in March 2018, Android P was made public in August 2018. Android 9.0 marks a major overhaul of the Android OS focusing on UI and integrating Artificial Intelligence to optimize user experience.

AI HELPS ANDROID PIE HELP YOU

Android’s latest OS takes a big step forward integrating AI into the UI. The Android website advertises that “Android 9 Pie harnesses the power of AI for a truly intuitive experience”.

One of the major implementations of AI in Pie is called App Actions. Android 9.0 monitors your routines, processes data, and offers predicted actions directly in the phone’s app launcher when appropriate. For example, it can recommend a song to you on Spotify when you’re on your morning commute. Android has focused on quality over quantity with regard to App Actions and they are startlingly accurate—when it has enough data collected on how you use your phone, often it predicts exactly what you do next.

In addition to App Actions, Android Pie also offers Adaptive Battery and Adaptive Brightness. Android teamed up with the AI company DeepMind to create Adaptive Battery, an AI-based program that learns how you use your phone and optimizes usage so that inactive apps and services don’t drain the battery. Adaptive Brightness learns your preferred brightness settings and automatically adjusts them to your liking.

Those concerned with privacy should note that Android has stated that all machine learning is happening on the device rather than in the cloud.

ANDROID ADOPTS GESTURES OVER BUTTONS

Perhaps the biggest UI overhaul is the transition from buttons to gestures. Android P is following the  iPhone X’s lead in using gestures rather than buttons. This means UI is very home-screen button centric. The overhaul may be jarring to some. Luckily, app users can have it both ways as gesture navigation is adjustable in the phone’s settings.

Check out the video breakdown of the differences between Apple iPhone X and Android P gestures below.

THIS PIE’S GONNA HAVE SLICES

Android has announced App Slices in Android Pie, but has yet to unveil them at this time. When you search for an app on Android,  the app icon comes up. With App Slices, Android will not only pull up the icon, but will pull up actual information within apps and allow you to interact with the app directly within the search results. For example, if you search for Uber, it may bring up time & price estimates to go to commonly frequented locations and allow you to set a pick-up without having to open the app directly.

Android Slices present a great opportunity for app developers to create shortcuts to functions in their app. They also constitute the beginnings of Google’s approach to “remote content.” Learn more about Slices below:

APP LIMITS FOR ENCOURAGING HEALTHY USE

Addicted to your phone? Android P not only tracks the amount of time you spend on your phone, it allows users to set time limits for how long an app can be used for a day. App Time Limits prevent you from opening apps when you’ve gone over your limit with no option to ignore—the only way to access them again for the day is to turn the time limit off from the Settings page.

HUNGRY FOR PIE?

As with all Android OS’s, Android Pie will have a staggered release across devices. As of November 2018, it is available on Pixel phones as well as The Essential Phone.

Meanwhile, Android Pie is anticipated to be rolled out on many other phones by December 21st. For a comprehensive, frequently updated breakdown, check out Android Central’s list of the expected roll out dates for each phone manufacturer.

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Should My Business Consider Accepting Cryptocurrencies? An Overview

Recently, Bitcoin has flooded the news cycle, rising in value from about 1,000 per bitcoin on January 1st 2017 to upwards of $16,000 as of December 7th 2017. Square, a prominent payment app, recently announced they will pilot a program that allows for Bitcoin trade. With Bitcoin on the rise, the all-important question becomes: Should your app or website accept cryptocurrencies?

Over the next several weeks, we will endeavor on a series of blogs to answer all of the questions necessary to make that decision, including:

  1. What cryptocurrencies are, how they work, and why they are important.
  2. The pros and cons of accepting cryptocurrencies on your app or website
  3. Choosing your cryptocurrency wallet.
  4. What Blockchain is, how it’s important to cryptocurrencies and its other revolutionary applications.
  5. An exploration of why Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency and of  other prominent cryptocurrencies.

In order to explore cryptocurrencies, we must start at the beginning. The first successful cryptocurrency was Bitcoin, created in 2008 by the still unknown inventor Satoshi Nakamoto. While Nakamoto’s identity is still a mystery, the significance of their invention is not. They initially announced it as a “Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”. Past attempts at creating digital currency involved a decentralized system, however, Nakamoto attempted to decentralize the currency by mimicking the technique of Peer-to-Peer file sharing networks.

In order for a payment network to function, there must be a ledger to prevent fraudulent double spending—forged transactions. In the physical world, banks function as the central entity which keeps records about balances. With Bitcoin, Nakamoto created an alternate system. Since the network is decentralized, every entity on the network must have a list with all transactions to check if future transactions are valid. Not only that, there must be an absolute consensus about the records in order for them to become a part of an immutable record of historical transactions known as the “Blockchain”.

Nakamoto set in place a rule that only “miners” can confirm transactions. Miners take transactions, verify them in exchange for a token of cryptocurrency, validate them, and spread them in the network so that every node adds them to the database and the transaction becomes a part of the blockchain. The only way to create a valid Bitcoin is for a miner to complete this function.

Technically, anyone can be a miner. Since there is no central authority to regulate mining and prevent a ruling party from abusing it, Nakamoto set a rule that miners need to invest some of their computing power to the solving of a cryptographic puzzle using the SHA 256 Hash algorithm, in order to verify transactions. Without getting too technical, the miner must complete a cryptographic puzzle in order to build a block and add it to the blockchain, the reward for which is a specific number of Bitcoins depending on the difficulty of the puzzle. Miners compete to solve these problems and the first to solve it and validate the transaction receives the reward. This is part of the consensus that no peer can break.

While the system is complex, the use of the currency is ultimately quite simple. As outlined in BlockGeeks overview, 5 properties separate Bitcoin transactions from other transactions:

  • Bitcoin transactions are irreversible.
  • They are not tied to real-world identities but to pseudonymous addresses. This is one of the reasons Bitcoins are frequently used on the black market.
  • Transactions are enacted instantly and are global.
  • Cryptocurrencies are secured by a cryptography, making them extremely secure.
  • Without a central authority, cryptocurrencies are permissionless to use.

Cryptocurrencies often limit the supply of tokens, which is true of Bitcoin. The token supply of Bitcoin decreases in time and will reach its final number sometime around 2140. The monetary supply is controlled by a schedule written in code—in other words, purely through mathematics.

Whereas the statement on your bank account represents a debt owed to you by the bank, Bitcoins are not indicative of debts, they are literal currency with inherent value like a diamond. And the value of that currency has skyrocketed in the past year. Only 10 years after its creation, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are currently in an inchoate stage, making it all the more important for intelligent citizens to track their progress and global impact.

Next week, we will review the pros and cons of accepting cryptocurrencies through your app or website. Stay tuned!

Android Oreo

Android Oreo Serves Up the Sweets

Like the candy, Google’s newest delectable dessert-themed operating system Android 8.0 Oreo offers the best of both worlds: crunchy cookie goodness of versatile functionality and the creamy frosting of beautiful UI and presentation.

PROJECT TREBLE 

Project Treble is one of the major aspects of Android Oreo that makes it a full 1.0 update. Project Treble is designed to reduce device fragmentation by making it easier for hardware manufacturers to issue updates on Android devices. The architecture redesign modularizes the Android OS away from the drivers and other hardware-specific code. By making it easier for manufacturers to update Android devices, Project Treble makes accessing the latest Android OS from your devices  easier than ever.

HIGH-PERFORMANCE BLUETOOTH AUDIO

Android Oreo is loaded up with BLUETOOTH 5 and LDAC, making Oreo capable of supporting audio quality that surpasses what the vast majority of high-end audio equipment can reproduce.

LDAC is a codec that supports the transfer of 24 bit, 96kHz audio via Bluetooth. The closest competitor is Qualcomm’s aptX HD which supports 24 bit, 48kHz technology. LDAC was created by Sony, who donated the codec to Android for Oreo as a part of the core AOSP code for other OEMS to implement.

Whereas previous iterations of Bluetooth offered a range of 50m-100m outdoors and 10m-20m indoors, Bluetooth 5 can reach up to 200m outdoors and 40m indoors. Additionally, Bluetooth 5 BLE doubles Bluetooth 4.x BLE’s data transfer rate with up to 2Mbps. The kicker is: Bluetooth 5 actually utilizes up to 2.5 times less power while increasing range and speed.

BATTERY LIFE

The Android Oreo update includes multiple initiatives designed to improve battery life. Background execution limits have been enacted to limit requests to scheduled windows of activity, resulting in longer battery life and less strain on the device by inactive apps.

Android Oreo places two major limitations on what apps can do while users aren’t directly interacting with them:

  1. Background Service Limitations limit the use of background services by idle apps. This does not apply to foreground apps, which are defined as apps with visible activity, apps with a foreground service, or apps that are connected to another foreground app.​
  2. Broadcast Limitations prevent apps from using their manifest to register for implicit broadcasts. Apps can still use their manifest to register for broadcasts at runtime and for explicit broadcasts targeted specifically at their app.

For the most part, app developers can work around these limitations using JobScheduler jobs. Android has also made several improvements to JobScheduler.

Background execution limits will have a major impact on the functionality of existing and future apps, check out a full breakdown of the new functionality directly from Android.

Additionally, Android Oreo comes with Vitals. Vitals is an initiative by Google that improves system performance and stability by offering developers various tools to monitor app usage on a device. Vitals enables developers to  optimize their apps for improved battery life and performance.

UI

Google’s strategy with OS updates has become more and more minimal in recent years. The last major visual OS overhaul was enacted by Google in Android 5.0 Lollipop. Android Oreo does not change the name of the game, but offers a variety of UI improvements.

DOWNLOADABLE FONTS: Android 8.0 Oreo offers support for apps to request fonts from a “provider” application, reducing the amount of disk space spent by apps on storing font libraries individually.

NOTIFICATION CHANNELS: Notifications have always been one of the strong suits of Android Operating Systems. With Android Oreo, app notifications must be sorted by the developer into channels based on type, so that the user can then customize what types of notifications they would like to receive and how they receive them.

For example, users can modify characteristics of notification channels that apply to all notifications in that channel, including:

  • Importance
  • Sound
  • Lights
  • Vibration
  • Show on lock screen
  • Override do not disturb

PICTURE IN PICTURE MODE: Oreo ports Android’s famous “Picture-In-Picture Mode” for phones and tablets. Picture-In-Picture Mode allows users to view multiple apps at the same time. It is most handy for watching video or having a video call while using another app.

TAKEAWAY

Overall, Android 8.0 Oreo delivers the goods. It’s sleek, supports the best audio quality available, allows more UI customizability, saves battery life, and it’s a major step toward conquering device fragmentation which has plagued Android since its inception.