I didn’t intentionally aim to create a rhyming title, but there you have it. Each year, I look forward to Google I/O like a kid going back to school. This year was no exception. I watched as many videos as I could that were related to App Quality, Firebase Crashlytics, and Jetpack Compose. Here’s what I think engineering leaders should know.
- Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning dominate. Hiring these engineers will remain unbelievably competitive
- App quality matters and will impact your success on Google Play
- Large screens aren’t going away any time soon. Designers will need to adapt
- User data privacy changes are coming fast and furious
- Jetpack Compose: learn it or get left behind
Grateful for the increased transparency and direction about how your app’s quality impacts its success on Google Play. Over the years, I’ve seen gradual improvements to the data available on the Play Console. However, I struggled with understanding what I should have the team focus on to create meaningful business impact. The recent updates to Android Vitals are ideal for pinpointing specific groups of issues and then making the business case for addressing them.
Additionally, the updates to Firebase Crashlytics and Performance Monitoring were exciting to see. Being able to connect your Google Play account to Crashlytics opens up opportunities for being able to fine-tune the crashes that are displayed. This is particularly helpful for finding and diagnosing issues while your app is only released to a subset of users.
I connected our Google Play account. I was then able to easily view the issues in the test build before it was released to production. And then promptly harassed the team about what I saw. *wink*
Next, I added an alert on our primary GraphQL API call in the Performance section of the Firebase Console. This was another new feature announced at I/O. Having these alerts will aid us in finding out when backend API changes impact the apps as soon as they happen.
What to look out for
All changes related to the Privacy Sandbox on Android. But first, what is it, and what are the stated goals?
Privacy Sandbox will introduce new technology that operates without cross-app identifiers – including Advertising ID. This helps apps remain free through ads while your data stays protected.
Privacy Sandbox also aims to limit covert tracking and collection of user data, including safer ways for apps to integrate with third-party developers.– Pivacy Sandbox documentation
Ok, that sounds like a good thing. Users’ data stays protected and we get safer ways to integrate with third-party developers. What’s to look out for?
Here’s how I see it. The current status is a set of design proposals. After skimming through them I see that it will require significant work from the Ad Network SDKs. What concerns me here is that after working with a programmatic ads partner recently, they aren’t up-to-date with what’s already been released in the Android ecosystem. I worry that the proposed changes will be more than they can reasonably implement in the specified time. Where will this leave businesses that rely on the ad revenue?
Additionally, the proposed changes to attribution reporting and the handling of the advertising id scare me. We’ve heard about how the Apple ad changes will cost Facebook $10 billion in revenue this year. Will the Android changes do something similar? From the wording of the proposals, it appears as if Google is aiming to approach these privacy changes gradually and in collaboration with the ad industry. But we can’t know the potential impact until we see more from them.
The final thing to look out for is the new Notification runtime permission in Android 13. If a user installs your app on a device that runs Android 13, then your app’s notifications are off by default. You have to request the new permission and the user must grant it before you can send notifications.
It’s not the end of the world. Most businesses should be familiar with this as there’s already a similar requirement on iOS. However, if you rely on notifications to drive key user actions for your Android app. It’s time to consider the implications of this new permission.
I’ve already started reading more about a few of the new features. And as I’ve mentioned, I adjusted some configurations in the Firebase Console. So while I’m still excited about all of the goodness I’ve heard from Google I/O, I plan on doing the following:
- Sign up for updates on the Privacy Sandbox initiatives
- Inform business leaders responsible for ad revenue about the upcoming ads proposals
- Get moving on supporting Android 12 in our apps
- Find out what could be breaking in Android 13
- Start investigating Baseline Profiles for improved startup time
- Download Android Studio Electic Eel for the Crashlytics integration and more
- Meet with the team to see what they think I need to know
If you’re an engineering leader at your company, I’d recommend you do the same.