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Hey Google Smart Home Summit: Android 11, Nearby Share, and more

There was no new hardware at this year's “Hey Google Smart Home Summit”, instead there were numerous innovations and updates in the Smart Home area. At the same time, Google also made the second beta of the new Android 11 available for testing. We looked at what was going to be particularly interesting and challenging for developers and testers.

First things first: Android 11 is coming.

All developers should sit up and take notice, because the Android 11 beta version 2 has been successfully released and already offers platform stability - that means: All APIs are already fully functional and nothing will change in the basic setting. Accordingly, developers can start developing their apps for Android 11 right now. However, the beta can still be downloaded exclusively for Google's own Pixel Phones (Pixel 2 - Pixel 4), which we have already equipped with the beta.

The operating system should be officially released in September - by then, other smartphone manufacturers will also be preparing their devices for Android 11.

Android 11 - that's what testers can expect

Android 11 comes up with a whole range of new features, including a new media player and the option of screen capturing with internal and external sound. So it would be no wonder if a whole range of apps - especially social video apps á la Instagram, Tiktok or YouTube - want to connect to the API here. Of course, this also means for new apps: More testing effort!

Android 10 already wanted to introduce so-called bubbles, but the small chat windows that pop up on the screen like Facebook Messenger and contain chats did not make it into the final version. Android 11 now realizes what its predecessor did not: users can create a bubble for each messenger. The fact that the whole thing doesn't work so well is of course due to the beta - notifications overlap and could be overlooked. By the time it is released, it should get a lot better and work with more messengers. So whoever as a tester has instant messengers on the table in the future must also consider and test this new function.

Also new in Android 11 is the long and eagerly awaited Nearby Share, which is the counterpart to Apple's AirDrop. For this, Android had to address one of its major weaknesses, the smooth connectivity between devices. It is mainly used for exchanging files such as music, photos and other documents. Share applications in apps are particularly conceivable. In order to become visible, users have to press the Nearby Share button. Devices can then exchange data with each other within 30 centimeters. The option will mostly appear when users press the “Share” button in an app. In addition, the link with many operating systems should be possible: So the simple connection with all possible Windows 10 or Apple devices. It remains to be seen whether Nearby Share can establish itself as fast data transfer with Android 11.

New smart home functions

But now we come to the actual core of the “Hey Google Smart Home Summit” on July 8th and 9th, because there were a number of new developments that affect testers and developers. Smart home is becoming more and more complex and where it becomes easier for the user, there is more work for the developer.

This is the case, for example, with the new "Flip app". Google is thus simplifying logging into third-party apps from the Google Home app: For example, if you want to call up Philips Hue when he or she was previously in Google Home, you no longer have to press the home button, call up the app and go back and forth switch. If it is necessary to log in, this can also be done directly via the Google Home app. This is great for consumers, but of course more work for development, which from now on has to offer this convenience and ultimately also another instance in the test protocol from us testers.

On the other hand, the new monitoring function and the extended logging in Smart Home Analytics are pleasing. Developers can set individual alarms if certain features of their smart home apps do not work or devices do not communicate with each other as desired. Smart Home Analytics gets an extended dashboard with metrics for request breakdowns or daily users, which will prove helpful for both development and testing.

This support for DevOps by the smart home makers at Google then continues with the Device Access Program, an interface in which all development projects can be managed in the future.

New devices remain the greatest challenge

The biggest challenge for testers and the future will be a whole series of new devices in the Google Smart Home Assistant: Google announced in April that it would make a whole series of entertainment devices accessible for the smart home, including the Xbox, various smart speakers and more. Now, Google has released the API for every form of smart TV, smart speakers, lights, and other devices.

This is of course particularly great for third-party manufacturers and end users, who can now control and link all of their devices from a smart home system. For app developers and testers in particular, however, this opening means having to think about an additional level: In addition to the functionality of a manufacturer app on all devices and smooth communication between the smart home device and the smartphone on which the app is running is running, communication between the Google Smart Home and the two other entities must now also run.

Fortunately, we at Appmatics have such developments on our radar in the long term and test them - as always - with real testers on real devices in the corresponding usage scenarios. No matter if Google Home, Apple Home or Amazon.