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Last update: May 2021

4 mins to read - 2021/05/21

Android 12 Beta Release: Data Privacy and Push Notifications

This past Tuesday, Google announced at their Google I/O 2021 event the beta version of Android 12 is now available for public download. As we already know from their preview from March, Android 12 marks a lot of exciting changes for the OS. First of all, many have noted its radical new design change, with widgets, a new clock format, and customizable colors and interface layout. In addition to visuals and aesthetics, the Android update features more fluid motions on-screen, and improvements to their gesture-based navigation for a truly seamless UX. What’s more, they’ve made some important updates to notifications, and how they interact with the device interface. We will explore this more below, as well as changes to Firebase Cloud Messager (FCM) and Android’s approach to data privacy.

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Android 12 Beta Push Notifications

First of all, Android is revamping how your device displays push notifications, in an attempt to make it easier for users to stay on top of all their notifications. In line with their aesthetic overhaul, they have redesigned notification templates for Android 12. Design elements from previous releases have returned, updated to match the new color palettes, themes, and topography, with new rounded corners, etc.

The API will take care of adapting notifications to the new style. However, for developers using their own custom remote views, they will have to put more work in:

“We’ve actually fully deprecated fully custom remote views. You can still use the decorated custom template style, where you specify just a small amount of remote views layout to apply within standard system decor. But we need to get away from this loop of developers having to reconstruct, carefully piece together the new templates every year. And for every device as well. Fully custom remote views don’t work as expected anymore. They wil acutally get moved into the decorated custom view style.”

Trampolines

Android are making a second major change to notifications, this time from a UX angle, by addressing trampolines. Trampolines are when, instead of launching an activity (i.e. an app open) when a user clicks on it, a notification sends a broadcast to do some other work in the background. This then creates a gap in activity, where from the user’s perspective the notification closes, nothing happens, and the device seems non-responsive.

“It’s measurable as latency, and we can’t generate a nice animation from teh notification to your activity when those two things aren’t linked.”

The Android 12 beta changes that. Once your app targets the OS, developers must connect a specified front-end activity to the notification. Otherwise, the notification won’t work.

Toasts

TOASTS (pop-up grey boxes at bottom of the screen) have been updated. Android added attribution (the icon of the app that’s sending the toast) More transparency for user

They’ve also reduced the amount of text you can put in a toast

Rate limiting to toasts – capped number of toasts each app can have out.

android 12 beta firebase emulator suite
Image Source: https://events.google.com/io

Firebase Cloud Messenger (FCM)

There have been notable updates to the Firebase Emulator Suite (FES) for Android 12. FES allows developers to develop their code locally by running emulated versions of ackend products on their own machines. Thus, they can rapidly iterate without interfering with production data or costs.

Firebase authentication and Firebase storage will be joining the emulator suite, allowing developers to upload, download, modify files. They will interact seamlessly with all other emulator applications for streamlined and intuitive use.

Firebase extensions

Firebase already has 9 extensions, and will receive new ones in the Android 12 update:

  • Run Subscription Payments With Stripe
  • Analyze Toxicity with Perspective API – ML to pre-review blog comments
  • Search With Algolia – indexes database to add search & discovery features
  • Manage Marketing With Mailchimp – sync personalized user information with Mailchimp
  • Send Messages With MessageBird – integrate with MessageBird to send messages to users across any social network

In addition to this, Crashlytics provide improved insights on your app’s stability, including real-time alerts to crashes, so you can address bugs and glitches. Firebase performance monitoring will also gather and present data about your app’s performance from a user perspective. Then, Firebase Remote Config improvements lets you remotely configure your app without performing a release, to optimize UX. This means developers can:

  • manage feature flags
  • create targeted configurations for specific user groups
  • run A/B tests, and more

Also, parameter descriptions are longer, and it’s easier for developers to see very long parameter values. They can also expand and contract parameter values, depending on what they need to look at in the moment. An improved publish flow will make it more obvious which configurations are pending. And results for A/B tests will be easier to understand, with a clearer, less cluttered layout on the results page, and better visualizations for test results.

Finally, Android 12 beta will be launching a new personalization feature to automatically personalize app experiences using Firebase + ML.

Data Security and Privacy

Google is already making strides in protecting users’ digital information with their plan to replace cookies with FLoCs on the Chrome browser. Android 12 will also see new approaches to user data privacy and secuity. Ultimately, these changes will make it possible for users to know what’s being done with their data, and to revoke permission from apps accessing it if they wish. Transparency, clarity, and user control are key.

Location

Previously, Android apps have been running into UX problems due to failure to smoothly connect to devices’ Bluetooth. Now, apps will be able to scan for these devices and connect to them without needing the location permission. However, users now have the option to disallow apps to access their exact location. Instead, they can share their “ballpark” location, which works for the purpose of the app, while protecting their privacy.

Clipboard Access

The Android OS will now inform users when an app requests data from clipboard. Currently, the only apps that are able to do that are the keyboard and the foreground application. But when the foreground app requests access to the clipboard, the user will receive a notification to information them when it’s happening.

Android 12 is now available to download as a public beta, with the general release of Android 12 is predicted for September 2021. You can download to OnePlus 9 or OnePlus 9 Pro devices, by going to Settings > System > System Updates and clicking on the icon in the top right for the Local upgrade option.

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