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  1. Every Android device comes preloaded with a few different sets of apps, some chosen by the OEM, some by the cell carrier, and usually a set of Google apps. We’ve now learned precisely which apps Google has mandated inclusion on Android 10 and Android Go phones with Google services, which includes some surprising additions. 9to5Google was provided a copy of the latest version of the Google Mobile Services (GMS) agreement that OEMs have to abide by. This document lays out requirements for Android device makers, and it reveals a lot of interesting information about what device makers have to be compliant with. In the document, we found several sections laying out the default apps for Android 10 and Android Go devices. Android 10 Google apps For a new device to be compliant with Google’s rules and provide Google services, OEMs need to include a minimum set of Google apps — or “Core apps” — at first boot. Over the years this list has evolved, and we now have the most recent list of required Google apps for Android 10 devices. Of course, as some of these apps may not be available in all countries, Google allows OEMs to not include them if that is the case. Google Play Store Google Search Chrome Browser Google Drive Gmail Google Duo Maps Google Play Music Google Photos Google Play Movies YouTube Just below the list, in our copy of the document, there’s a note about a change that hasn’t gone into effect yet. Apparently beginning next month, YouTube Music will be a “Core app,” replacing Google Play Music. YouTube previously outlined that change publicly, though there was no date attached in their announcement. Another interesting footnote reveals that, in November of last year, Google Duo replaced Hangouts as a Core app for “non-Telephony” devices, like tablets. The timing of this change actually predates our original report on the shutdown of Google Hangouts ‘classic’ by almost a month. Note on Android Auto Further down in the document, there’s also a special note about Android Auto. According to the documentation, all devices launching on or upgrading to Android 10 — excluding Android Go phones and non-telephony devices like tablets — “MUST preload the Android Auto app as a privileged, headless Core service app in the system image.” By “headless,” they most likely mean that there’s no app icon in the app drawer, normally used to launch the “phone screen” experience for Android Auto, which is slowly being deprecated in favor of Google Assistant Driving Mode. This also lines up with some changes that happened to Android Auto during the Android Q Beta period that led to the app’s icon disappearing from the app drawer for some. Regardless, this means that all Android 10 devices will be able to connect to an Android Auto head unit without needing to first install the Android Auto app. Android Go Google apps Elsewhere in the document, we find a list of the Google applications required to be included on Android Go phones. Below the list, there’s a note that Gallery Go is only a “Core app” as of the beginning of next month. It’s interesting that Files by Google, previously known as “Files Go,” is not considered a “Core app” for Android Go phones. Gboard (lightweight version for Go) Assistant Go Chrome Gallery Go Gmail Go Google Go Maps Go Play Store YouTube Go (or YouTube if allowed in country) Source: These are the new default Google apps for Android 10 and Android Go (via 9to5Google)
  2. For the past year and a half, Google has been pushing a “digital wellbeing” initiative to help us all use our phones in a healthier way. In the latest, and arguably largest, push, Android devices are now required to have a digital wellbeing app of some kind, along with parental controls, according to documents viewed by 9to5Google. According to Google’s latest GMS agreement, the company now requires that all devices that either launch on or upgrade to Android Pie or Android 10 after September 3, 2019 have a digital wellbeing (lowercase) solution. Google offers their own Digital Wellbeing (uppercase) app as one solution for OEMs to use, but they’re also free to create their own solution. 9to5Google was provided a copy of the latest version of the Google Mobile Services (GMS) agreement which lays out requirements for Android device makers who use Google services. XDA first published this information regarding Digital Wellbeing and we’ve been able to verify it in the GMS documents shared with 9to5Google. Should an OEM decide to create their own digital wellbeing app solution, this solution needs to have a decent amount of feature parity with Google’s own “Digital Wellbeing.” For example, the OEM app is required to offer a usage dashboard with at least the following statistics: Total amount of screen ON time Number of device unlocks Count of notifications received Further, those digital wellbeing statistics are required to be able to be broken down specifically for each app and even further on a per-day and per-hour basis. The app even needs to store the historical data going back a minimum of one week. App usage limits are also a requirement from this alternative digital wellbeing Android app, along with the ability to schedule Do Not Disturb mode using Wind Down. In fact, the guidelines specifically call out that the feature “MUST be named Wind Down and MUST support configuring the schedule on a day-by-day basis.” The only main features of the stock Digital Wellbeing app that Google lists as optional for an Android OEM replacement are website timers, screen time goals, and focus mode. Given the stringent requirements for an OEM to create their own digital wellbeing app, it seems far more likely for most Android OEMs to just cave in and add Google’s own Digital Wellbeing. Considering how useful the app is, and the fact Chrome doesn’t currently plan to connect its usage data to third-party wellbeing apps, this is likely for the best. Source: Google now requires all Android devices to have a ‘digital wellbeing’ app (via 9to5Google)
  3. Earlier today, we first reported on Google’s new Game Device Certification program and Digital Wellbeing requirements. We obtained information on both thanks to the latest version of Google’s GMS Requirements for OEMs/ODMs. This document also outlines the deadlines in which OEMs/ODMs can submit software builds to Google to get approval for GMS distribution. Notably, the document confirms that January 31, 2020 is the last date that Google will approve smartphones running Android 9 Pie. After that date, Google will only approve new devices running the latest Android version, Android 10. GMS stands for Google Mobile Services, and it’s a suite of Google apps, services, and libraries that companies must license to preinstall on Android devices. The suite is most notable for containing apps like the Google Play Store and Google Play Services, the lack of which has soured the recent launch of the Huawei Mate 30. In order to be approved to preload GMS, OEMs must submit the software builds for each device they make to Google for approval. The approval process involves meeting the requirements in the Compatibility Definition Document (CDD) and the GMS Requirements document, and also passing automated test suites like the Compatibility Test Suite (CTS), Vendor Test Suite (VTS), and Google Test Suite (GTS). It’s a complex process and there are a lot of requirements to meet, so OEMs apply for GMS approval weeks or months in advance. However, Google wants OEMs to ship newer versions of Android on their devices, so after a while, they stop approving GMS distributions on devices that launch with older Android versions. As you can see in the chart below, Google will stop approving new devices that run Android 9 Pie after January 31, 2020. Android 9 Pie was released to the public on August 6, 2018, so that means OEMs will have had nearly a year and a half to release devices running Android 9. Just because the approval window closes on January 31st doesn’t mean we’ll completely stop seeing Android 9 devices after the date, though, since OEMs can seek approval for their upcoming devices before the approval window closes. However, knowing that January 31, 2020, is the cutoff date for Android 9 means we can expect to see a flood of new devices running Android 10 in the weeks after. For devices that won’t get an official update to Android 10, Google will still approve new software builds based on Android 9 Pie for a few more months. Google will stop approving Android 9 Pie-based software updates after the launch of Android 11, which will likely happen in August of 2020. After the Android 11 launch, Google will no longer approve Android updates except for security patch updates. Interestingly, if Android 11 launches in August as expected, then that means Google is cutting short the software build approval window when compared to how long they used to approve software updates for older Android versions. Another interesting piece of information from this table is the extended approval window for Android 8.1 Oreo (Go Edition). New Android 8.1 Oreo (Go Edition) devices will still be approved until October 31, 2019, 10 months after the approval window closed for the standard Android 8.1 Oreo release. According to Flame Group, a company that specializes in helping OEMs pass Google’s GMS Certification, Google extended Android 8.1 Oreo (Go Edition)’s approval window due to performance regressions found in Android 9 Pie (Go Edition). Android’s overall update situation still isn’t great, but requirements like these have forced OEMs to keep up with new Android releases. We can see what things might be like without such requirements, as Amazon just launched a new tablet today with Android Oreo onboard. Thanks to initiatives like Project Mainline in Android 10, Google is making it easier for system components to get updates, easing the burden of manufacturers to keep up with all the changes in each Android release. Android updates are definitely getting better, and we’re slowly seeing the update situation improve each year. Source: Google will require new Android devices to run Android 10 if approved after January 31, 2020 (via XDA Developers)
  4. Charging has seen massive improvements in smartphones, at least on the Android side of things. Companies are pushing charging solutions that deliver 50W, 65W, and even 100W of power. These fast-charging technologies reduce the need for huge batteries, though I would argue they still don’t excuse companies packing smaller batteries on new smartphones. The biggest problem with all of these competing technologies is that they’re usually proprietary, so they require that you own the manufacturer’s charging cable and brick. There is an open fast-charging standard for devices with USB Type-C ports called USB Power Delivery (USB-PD), but many times devices with proprietary charging technology are incompatible with USB-PD chargers. Google is pushing OEMs to change this. USB Power Delivery can theoretically deliver up to 100W of power, but few smartphone manufacturers fully rely on USB-PD for fast charging and none of them approach 100W of power. The fastest I’ve seen is Samsung’s 45W charger for the Galaxy Note 10 which uses PD 3.0 with Programmable Power Supply, or PPS. I can’t speak for why OEMs other than Google and Samsung aren’t embracing USB-PD, but Google has been working behind-the-scenes for a few years now to make sure that at the very least, devices with proprietary charging solutions aren’t breaking compatibility with standard Type-C chargers. In fact, the Compatibility Definition Document for Android 7.0 Nougat, published in late 2016, contained wording that “strongly recommended” OEMs to “not support proprietary charging methods that…may result in interoperability issues with the chargers or devices that support the standard USB Power Delivery methods.” Although Google wasn’t enforcing any changes at the time, Google warned that “in future Android versions we might REQUIRE all type-C devices to support full interoperability with standard type-C chargers.” Sometime in the past year, Google decided to make this “strong recommendation” into a requirement, at least for devices that ship with Google’s apps and services. We obtained a copy of version 7.0 of GMS Requirements, published September 3rd, 2019. This document outlines the technical requirements that smartphone device makers must meet in order to preload Google Mobile Services (GMS), a suite of Google apps and services including the Play Store and Play Services. Nearly every Android smartphone or tablet sold internationally has met these requirements because having access to Google apps is critical for sales outside of China. Subsection 13.6 is titled “USB Type-C Compatibility” and it contains the following wording: The wording in this statement is a bit ambiguous because “full interoperability” isn’t made clear here. Judging by the phones that have already launched in 2019 like the OnePlus 7 Pro and OnePlus 7T, it’s clear that Google isn’t actually mandating that devices support the higher Power Rules like >27W or >45W via USB-PD support. This is evidenced by the fact that the OnePlus 7 Pro and OnePlus 7T support the “5V3A standard of Power Delivery” when connected to a PD-compatible charger. To better understand how USB-PD works, I recommend reading this excellent article from Android Authority. Source: Google requires new Android devices with Type-C ports to not break USB-PD compatibility (via XDA Developers)
  5. Android 10’s new gesture navigation system is a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s what Google wants to be a standard across every Android device. Now, we’re learning that Google is going to force OEMs to hide their own gesture navigation systems in Android, even going so far as to not include them in the setup wizard. 9to5Google was provided a copy of the latest version of the Google Mobile Services (GMS) agreement that OEMs have to abide by. This document lays out requirements for Android device makers, and it reveals a lot of interesting information about what device makers have to be compliant with. One interesting section of the document talks about gesture navigation systems. Back at I/O 2019, Google confirmed that device makers would be able to keep making their own systems, but they would also be forced to include the new Android 10 gestures as well as the traditional three-button setup. Thanks to this document, we’re getting further clarification on Google’s requirements. Apparently, any Android device using GMS that launches on Android 10 will need to ship out of the box with either the classic three-button or the new Android 10 gestures. If a device ships with the gestures by default, the three-button setup must be supported as an optional setting. Notably, this effectively kills off the two-button “pill” navigation from Android Pie, as Android 10 devices can’t include it as a “user-selectable option.” Google mentions that devices being upgraded to Android 10 are strongly encouraged to keep that option in place. We’ve seen this on Pixel and Essential devices, but OnePlus removed the “pill.” Another interesting tidbit from the GMS document is that Google is essentially forcing OEMs to hide their own gesture navigation systems. While they can be included on a device, Google says that they cannot be advertised by the “Setup Wizard or any other method” including pop-ups or notifications. Obviously, these systems also cannot be the default option. Further, OEMs are forced to bury their systems one level deeper in the settings menu. Google gives the example of putting it under “Advanced or similar.” Clearly, Google doesn’t want users to have easy access to third-party systems. Google also reminds partners that their own gesture navigation systems must still be CDD compliant. We’re not entirely sure how OnePlus’ modified Android 10 gestures fit into this picture, at least based on this document, although there is mention of “implementation details” without further information. Source: Google is hiding OEM gesture navigation systems on Android, can’t include in setup (via 9to5Google)
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