Android Q adds shiny new APIs while blocking others

Android Q is approaching which means developers are getting treated with a few shiny new APIs while others are getting blocked to boost platform security.

The first preview of Android Q has been released for developers and early-adopters to start tinkering with. In this article we'll provide a rundown of what's changed so far.

API Additions

What's being added or changed is always more exciting than what's being taken away, so it's where we'll start.

Neural Networks API 1.2

We know Google is taking AI seriously and is building it into most of its own products, this API helps developers in doing the same.

The API was first released in 2017 but in Android Q it's being updated with performance improvements and support for 60 new operations including ARGMAX, ARGMIN, and quantised LSTM.

Primarily, it will help apps function more independently while improving capabilities such as object recognition for hardware manufacturers.

Native MIDI API

For those who create apps for creative types, this could be very useful.

The API enables Android devices to talk with MIDI audio devices more effectively.

By communicating through the NDK, performance is particularly improved for apps which use C++ for audio processing.

MediaCodecInfo API

This API is useful for developers of apps which display video content.

It aims to simplify identifying the relevant specs of a device – in particular things like screen resolution, size, frame rate, and ratio – and, perhaps unsurprisingly, what codecs it supports.

Using this information, it can help to deliver the best video playback tailored for each device.

API Policy Changes

Less exciting, but still important, are the API policy changes that Google will soon begin enforcing.

Public APIs

This is not a specific API but rather a pledge from Google to support less APIs that are private.

Such APIs are often locked to specific organisations and more prone to stability and security issues.

Here's a greylist of private APIs up for the chop.

This switch will be a gradual process, with Google requesting users of private APIs to switch to public alternatives over time. However, only apps targeting Android Q and above will have to adhere to this new policy.

API Targeting

Speaking of targeting, Google will require developers to start building their apps for newer versions of Android.

Later this year, developers will need to ensure their apps are compatible with Android 9 ‘Pie’ at the minimum. Users will receive warnings shaming the developer(s) of their apps if they haven't.

Also worth a reminder at this point that later this year Google will enforce the need for apps to have 64-bit versions.

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