We have another I/O in the books, and even though we didn't get any updates to the Nexus family or official updates to the OS; there were a lot of announcements regarding the future of the platform. During several Android sessions it was mentioned that we would get an incremental update to Jelly Bean (API 18) in the next couple of months. But while we wait for it, there are many updates that we can start leveraging right now. These are the ones that I think will have a major impact in the short term,
- Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) – This one was new to me, still it seems that it is widely used and with great success. GCM allows you to communicate with your entire application install base through the cloud. GCM includes several communication patterns and, as part of I/O, they just announced upstream communication, which allows your applications to communicate with your server through the GCM service. This is part of the Google Play Services so it is available for use right now for all OS versions higher than Froyo.
- Volley Networking framework – This really piqued my interest since it has a lot of potential. This framework promises to take care of all the heavy lifting regarding network communication. It is multithreaded and optimized for tasks such as downloading images.
- ActionBarCompat – The action bar will be added to the support library making it available for older OS versions. Finally you will be able to standardize your navigation and UI look and feel for older devices (version 2.2 and above). This one was a "soft" announcement since, as with many other things, they didn't provide a release date. The fact that is being used by the I/O application distributed for the event indicates that it should come sooner rather than later.
- Android Studio/New Build System (Gradle) – I list these two together because the new Android Studio relies on the new Gradle build approach. They are effectively deprecating the ant support for builds. Support for Eclipse will continue, however, it is clear that they are investing heavily in the IntelliJ IDE. The release for Studio that is available right now is marked as "early preview release" and it is not recommended yet as a primary IDE.
We will continue to expand on the I/O announcements in future blog posts. In general this I/O was more about incremental updates to the platform instead of introducing significant change. In my opinion this speaks to the maturity of the OS, after project Butter and Jelly Bean we now have a stable environment that provides most of the necessary pieces to build incredible applications. Now if I could only get my new Pixel to run Android Studio, everything would be perfect :).