android 4.3

app ops

As expected, Google officially confirmed Android 4.3 at its event on Wednesday with Android chief Sundar Pichai. Among the new features/improvements in the update are a redesigned camera interface, Bluetooth Low Energy support, performance improvements such as smoother animations, and multi-user restricted profiles. But there’s apparently something else that Google didn’t talk about. Android Police has unearthed a hidden app permissions manager that allows users to selectively disable certain permissions for apps.

The feature is apparently called App Ops, and lets users toggle app permissions – such as location and the ability to post notifications – on and off for individual apps. Android Police notes that a developer has already created an app (available here on Google Play if you have Android 4.3 installed) that foregrounds App Ops, and has been having a play around with it.

The basic idea of the feature is apparently to give Android users more flexibility over what apps can and can’t do, allowing them to choke off battery draining features, say, or rein in irritating notification behaviour. If Google does decide to fully implement App Ops as a user-facing feature, there are potential big benefits here, from a security and privacy point of view, being as it could give users fine-grained control over what each app can do.

Apps they might otherwise have been tentative about installing could presumably be fine-tuned to fit their tastes now – which may also have some developer benefits, if it helps drive overall installs.

However Android Police notes that while App Ops does work, the feature is clearly not ready for the prime time yet – while testing it with the Facebook app they found certain app permissions only appeared in the permissions list once the app had made use of them, for example. Such messiness likely explains why Google has hidden App Ops and wasn’t ready to talk about it on Wednesday. We’ve reached out to Mountain View to ask for its plans for the feature and will update this story with any response.

Another possible complication attached to the feature is user confusion if a user doesn’t realise that the reason a particular in-app feature isn’t working is because it has been toggled off at source. A similar problem can occur on some Android devices with the quick settings in the notification tray overriding the main setting for things like silencing sounds/ringtones. Add in per app permissions and the potential user confusion is enormous. Android Police notes that one way for Google to get round could be to include some kind of system notifications warning users when App Ops is limiting app permissions. Although that would get old pretty quick if users get nagged every time they open an app with restricted permissions.

It is also possible that the App Ops feature has been created by Google to power the multi-user restricted profiles feature it did announced on Wednesday, which allows for parental controls to be implemented on Android devices.

The Android platform also has the most malware activity associated with it of all the mobile platforms, so the App Ops feature could be something Google is lining up to help bolster security concerns attached to Android. For instance, the feature could allow users to block apps from making calls – to kill off premium rate phone call/SMS malware – or trace which apps have been making calls to identify rogue software.

Google will show off the latest in its Chrome and Android lines this morning.

It’s no secret that there should be a new Nexus 7 – in fact, Best Buy already has the tablet on sale in 16 gigabyte and 32GB configurations.

Android itself is due for a modest update, as well, going to version 4.3 with improvements in Bluetooth and tweaks other areas.

We’re also expecting something called “Chromecast” from Chrome, which will offer another way to get content from a mobile device on to a TV.

9:06 am: Sundar Pichai, SVP of Android, Chrome and Apps, takes the stage.

“At Google I/O, we talked about the fact that we are living at a pivotal moment in computing,” he says. “Laptops, tablets, phones, televisions – it’s a multiscreen world.

“Our goal is to deliver an experience that is seamless.”

Pichai says, “Between Android and Chrome, we have a solution for all the computing devices that users have in their lives.”

Two things coming today: A new Android device, a new Chrome device.

By the end of 2013, consumers are going to buy more tablets per year than personal computers. How is Android doing? More than 70 million activated so far.

Almost one in two tablets sold worldwide is based on Android.

A year ago, 20 billion applications downloaded on Google Play. Today, 50 billion. And, revenue per user is up 2.5x in a year. In that year, Google Play has gone from half a billion apps to 1 billion apps.

Pichai: We’ve worked closely with Asus – the CEO, Jonney Shih is here. The Nexus 7 accounts for more than 10 percent of tablets sold. In Japan, it was the single highest-selling tablet in the holiday season, accounting for 45 percent of sales.

Android exec Hugo Barra hops on stage. We can see he has a tablet in his back pocket.

It’s tiny and thin. Barra: It’s 2 millimeters thinner, with the same display size but reduced side bezels of 3 mm on either side. And it’s 50 grams lighter. “It’s a much more comfortable grip, and of course, it fits easily into your purse or jacket.” It has the same soft touch with added gloss.

It has higher resolution – from 216 pixels per inch to 323 per inch – the highest of any in the market.

It can show a 30 percent wider range of colors, and has stereo speakers, with Fraunhofer virtual surround sound.

Even more specs: 1.2 MP front camera, 5 MP rear camera. 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro, 1.8x CPU, 4x GPU, doubled system memory to 2 GB. Dual band Wi-Fi, BLuetooth 4.0, 4G LTE for any U.S. network. HDMI, NFC, wireless charging. Some extra power compared to the original – 9 hours of HD video and 10 hours of Web browsing.

And it’s shipping with Android 4.3, the new version of Jelly Bean.

It has multi-user support with restricted profiles that give control over content and apps at a user level (for example, for parents).

Now Barra is showing off a jigsaw puzzle app on his tablet … scintillating demo material.

The app hides all the purchasing functionality and only exposes content to the restricted profile that has been approved.

And supporting OpenLG ES 3.0 to support graphics in games.

Here’s Ina Fried’s dedicated post on the Nexus 7.

Barra says they’re going to show car racing with “jaw-dropping visuals.” These demos are always a little strange because we’re watching them projected on a huge screen, not the tiny tablet.

As a lady shoots people while riding a motorcycle amid lens flares, Barra says it’s all rendered in real-time in native 1080p resolution.

Plus, there are new DRM APIs to restrict content access, which Barra says he’s “thrilled” about. Really? Oh no, he’s actually “thrilled” that Netflix has designed for it. Their new app supporting Android 4.3 is already available.

So when is Android 4.3 coming? They’re pushing an update over the air today.

Barra switches over to talk about native Google Apps to show how they look on a tablet. They’ve redesigned Google Docs, with support for offline spreadsheet editing, etc. Chrome now has “print-quality” text and 15 percent more screen space. It also includes automatic translation.

The new Google Maps includes an “Explore” feature. Barra is gushing about how the layout is “awesome” especially at such a high resolution. And lastly, Google Hangouts – it also includes screensharing so people who are video-chatting can watch each other edit docs on their tablets.

Google Play product manager Ellie Powers shows how tablet apps are featured, and says hundreds of games have added the Google Play game services shown off at Google I/O. She demos some games and leaderboards. For instance, a game that looks like Mario Kart on jet skis now features responsive splashes on the windshield, and a game with a guy jumping across rooftops, parkour-style, has the shadows on the buildings change as you shift perspective.

Google Play will have a textbook section starting in early August, she says, with books from all five major textbook publishers. It’ll include purchases as well as rentals for up to an 80 percent discount.

The prices are $229 for 16GB, $269 for 32GB and $349 for unlocked LTE. The first two will be on sale on July 30 at Best Buy, GameStop, Walmart, etc. The 4G model will be available “in the coming weeks,” as will international launches in countries like the U.K. and Germany.

After a kind of odd Nexus 7 commercial about a kid with braces giving a speech in front of his class and then Googling “how do I ask a girl out,” Pichai is back. He’s talking TV. He says every single month more than 200 billion videos are watched in the world. And Netflix and YouTube combined have 49.4 percent share of all peak downstream Internet traffic in America. And lots of that is happening on non-TV devices.

A product dude whose name I didn’t catch says Google’s goals for TV are: “Make it fast and easy to set up, with nothing new to learn, and it works across platforms and devices.”

He holds up what looks like a little USB stick, and says it’s called Chromecast. It’s running a simplified version of Chrome OS. It plugs into the HDMI port on a TV.

Let’s say you want to watch YouTube on your TV, he says – you’ll go to that site on your phone/table/PC and see a “Cast” button on the screen. When you do that, it’s pulled from the cloud and played directly on the TV. Your device doesn’t push the content, it comes direct from YouTube.

For the demo, Rishi Chandra comes onstage. In the past, he’s the guy who demoed Google TV.

Interestingly, this TV effort is built around Chrome OS, where the previous Google TV was built on Android.

Here’s Ina’s pullout story on Chromecast.

Oops, and I missed her Android story. She’s a busy lady.

“If you know how to use YouTube on your phone, you know how to use YouTube on your TV,” Chandra says.

He adds, “Even in sleep mode, the videos continue to play. We don’t drain your battery.”

But, he says, “we recognize that not everyone has an Android phone. And we need a solution that works for everyone. Let’s pretend my wife has an iPhone (heh).” It works the same.

The Cast button can also be used to bring a video back to the phone – if you click it, you can switch to your phone screen and the video will keep playing from the place you left it.

This also works for Netflix. This is the third Netflix callout of the presentation – unusually strong support for a single partner.

Chandra plays the “House of Cards” credits, which are in my opinion possibly awesomer than the show. This demo is to show that you can direct the content from any device that’s connected to the Chromecast on the TV.

In this game of dueling remote controls, you can control content between an iPhone, a Nexus 7 and a TV. It’s not exactly clear to me how this is coordinated – perhaps it’s just the fact that they’re on the same Netflix account.

This can also be used for Google Play Music and Pandora, Chandra says. The “Cast” button – which is a little rectangle with arcs in the corner – shows up there, too.

And lastly, a beta feature: You can project any Chrome tab from the browser to the TV.

“We’ll project what’s on your local device right onto the television – not the entire desktop or the URL bar, but what you want to look at.” Chandra keeps emphasizing that the TV is the best screen in the house with the best speakers in the house, so it’s ideal for content.

This will work with most Windows and Mac laptops as well as Chromebooks.

Developers won’t need to build a new app to work with the Google Cast SDK, which is out in developer preview today.

Actually, the Pandora integration is still under development.

It will retail for $35 and can be ordered today from Amazon, Best Buy and Google Play.

And it will include three months free of Netflix (another Netflix plug/tie-up!) if you buy now.

That concludes the presentation. Bye for now!