Developer Mood, Android M and Android Auto

Attracted by the announcement of the mobile open source platform in 2007, Friedger Müffke sticked to Android since. He co-founded the Berlin office, OpenIntents and Droidcon.

Recently, I made my mother proud as I was cited in the internationally known German newspaper “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”. I’d like to add some comments to it.

Photo: Gregor Fischer

The article “Streben nach mehr Freiheit für Android Apps” (issue 07 July 2015, page T4) was about the mood in the (European) Android community, Google’s strategies around Android and some vaguely described features of Android M and Android Auto.

Unlike the article’s subtitle may suggest: “Developers feel patronised by Google”, I want to clarify that I do not feel patronised by Google. The author claims that many developers do not like the fact that Google provides new features only in Google Play services, that developers have to use Google Play services involuntarily and that Google is layering pressure on developers who do not use Google’s services. Did I miss anything or are there really many developers that feel like that? An unease that I can think of is the effort that developers have to bring up to cater for Google’s offerings and the needs of consumers who can’t use their Android Wear or Android Auto devices with their Amazon Fire? This is something for the EU commission to investigate.

I’d like to go into more detail regarding the technical parts mentioned in the article. The automatic backup system introduced in Android M was used to highlight Google’s greed for user data. There does, however, not appear to be much difference between the existing backup service and the new one in Android M. Both, the old and new service use the configured Backup Transport method to transfer app data from and to the device. Hence, nothing has changed when it comes to support by alternative backup apps (with service action TRANSPORT_HOST). The way how the backup of app data is configured has changed to become an easier, zero-code feature - probably because many developers are too busy to look into this part of their application. If, however, you take the time for your apps' backup procedures you see that you can even encrypt the app data before transferring it off the device.

As a second example for Google’s bullish acquisition of user data, the author uses Android Auto. It is true that cars produce a lot of interesting data for car manufacturers, service providers, insurances and other players. However, Android Auto is technically nothing more than a communication protocol between Android devices and the head unit of the car infotainment system.

Android Auto Protocol

It is important to understand that having Android Auto in the car does not necessarily mean that any Android code runs in the car, see for example Genivi platform. The data that can be collected by using Android Auto is the same as the data collected on any Android device. If there is an update of Android Auto in the future which allows for the sending of more data from the car to Android devices then it is up to the car manufacturer to decide which data. Once opened up, the data will obviously be available to other mobile platforms and the web. If this happens at all - here I agree with the author - is still to be seen.

Feel free to contact us with your comments and thoughts and also if you are interested in implementing new Backup Transport services or building apps for Android Auto with us at Novoda.

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