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Google’s bringing new options to older variations of Android

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Google is taking one other shot at bringing new options to telephones that haven’t gotten OS updates in years. It’s releasing one thing known as the “Extension Software program Developer Equipment,” which ought to let builders use options like Android 13’s new photo picker in apps working on some variations of Android 11 and 12. In a weblog put up asserting the change, the corporate says the characteristic lets it “prolong the help of sure platform performance to current Android variations.”

Whereas extra entry to the photograph picker beforehand unique to Android 13 is certainly good, Google appears to have a lot larger plans for the Extension SDK. “This replace additionally units the stage for increasing Privateness Sandbox testing on Android,” says Scott Westover, a Google spokesperson. Privateness Sandbox is Google’s in-progress replacement for its present ad-tracking system, and the corporate is planning to roll out the beta for the system on Android 13.

Up to now, Google isn’t speaking about backporting Privateness Sandbox to older variations of the OS. As an alternative, it looks as if the Extension SDK will assist the corporate replace Privateness Sandbox on newer variations of Android with out having to place out main OS updates. The weblog makes use of the take a look at for example of how with the ability to introduce new options exterior of main updates “permits sooner improvements.”

The best way this works is difficult, and the weblog put up asserting the information is principally aimed on the builders who will truly be making use of the system. The TL;DR is that Google’s been laying groundwork for years that lets it replace core parts of Android by means of the Play Retailer. Now, it’s benefiting from that system to make modifications to the APIs that builders use and giving them new methods to test what the system is able to. Within the photograph picker instance, a developer might have their code test to see whether or not the consumer’s Android 11 telephone has a sufficiently up to date API — and use the brand new photograph picker if it does.

That is simply the most recent effort from Google to be sure that customers can nonetheless get new options, even when the corporate that made their telephone isn’t releasing software program updates. (One thing I deeply respect as somebody who simply purchased a phone that will likely stay stuck on Android 11.) With Android 10, the corporate introduced “Project Mainline,” which is supposed to make it in order that some elements of the OS might be up to date by means of the Play Retailer. Mainline itself adopted Android 8’s Challenge Treble, which XDA Developers says was meant to make it simpler for telephone producers to push out updates.

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We’ve truly seen this work repay. A few of Android’s techniques for controlling issues like media playback, Wi-Fi, permissions, and even the Android Runtime itself have been modularized, giving Google extra management over how they’re up to date. And the corporate has taken to rolling out new options like digital state ID cards (which might theoretically be used on gadgets working Android 8) by way of Google Play Companies, which will get updates by means of the Play Retailer, as a substitute of level releases to Android itself.

As for this newest effort, there’ll nearly definitely be limits. For one, it’s not like Google made the whole lot modular in Android 10. Every OS replace has added new modules — Android 12 modularized ART and scheduling, whereas Android 13 turned issues like Bluetooth, AppSearch, and UWB into parts. Should you’re on Android 11, it wouldn’t be as straightforward for Google so as to add options for these techniques to your telephone as a result of they’re nonetheless constructed into the OS slightly than being items that may be up to date by way of the Play Retailer.

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