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Google Pushes for Better Android App Quality

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Google has launched a new quality section on its Android developer site and updated the Core App Quality checklist. These moves continue Google’s push for better app quality, such as improved privacy and battery life. It also reacts to device trends, like increased gesture navigation. Google promises quarterly revisions of this checklist, updates to its other checklists, and more tools and best practices.

A YouTube video accompanied the announcement on the Android Developers Blog in February 2021. Google has given public advice on Android app quality since at least 2010.

The Core App Quality checklist includes five core quality criteria. Here are the updates for Q1/2021, dated February 10, 2021. As the Internet Archive reveals, the site Core App Quality checklist received its major update on February 12, 2021, with the previous content last updated on February 4, 2021.

For the Visual Experience, Google suggests that apps use Material Design Components to get a modern look and to support the dark theme more easily. Gestures are now also a recommended part of back navigation. Notification recommendations now include the channels, priority, groups, timeouts, and advice on messaging/social apps.

The new Media area of the Functionality section states that videos should use HEVC video compression and show picture-in-picture during playback. Apps should share content with the Android Sharesheet because they have limited visibility to other installed apps by default in Android 11. And to save battery life, Google discourages running background services and instead recommends Kotlin coroutines, the WorkManager, and the AlarmManager in Android.

The next criterion is Performance and Stability. Google recommends Android vitals for app metrics logging to developers and reminds them that they can fix Application Not Responding (ANR) errors. A new rule makes it clear that apps shouldn’t use private Android APIs - the ones that are not in the Android framework package index.

To improve Privacy and Security, apps should ask for as few permissions as possible, show web content securely, and not track users with hardware IDs, such as the IMEI. The new Identity area recommends autofill for credentials and other sensitive data, OneTap for sign-in, and biometric authentication to protect sensitive information.

With the last criterion Google Play, Google simply reiterates existing policies and links to guidelines, such as content policy and content rating.

The Core App Quality checklist now recommends using device test labs, like the Firebase Test Lab, for testing on a wider variety of devices. Google also emphasizes the importance of always testing against the latest Android version (currently at version 11).

Google plans to update the other app quality checklists, too: for Tablet, Wear, TV, car, and Build for billions. But it didn’t say when this will happen and if that would follow a regular schedule, too. The announcement contained no details on the "additional tools and best practices" or when they would arrive.

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