Verizon announces Windows Phone 8.1 upgrades for Lumia 822 and Lumia 928

Do you have a Lumia 822 or Lumia 928 on Verizon? Verizon has announced today they are rolling out upgrades for the Lumia 822 and Lumia 928 to Windows Phone 8.1 – the update also known as the Lumia Denim update. These upgrades will make these Windows Phones even more awesome with new features such as your very own personal digital assistant Cortana, Action Center, Word Flow, and folders to organize all your favorite apps from the Windows Phone Store on your Start screen. The Lumia Denim update also brings improvements specific to Lumia smartphones such as the new Lumia Camera and photography enhancements. For more on Lumia Denim, click here.

We also recognize that many of you on Verizon who have the Lumia Icon are anxious to hear about updates for your Windows Phone. Today we are confirming that the Lumia Icon will receive the upgrade to Windows Phone 8.1 in early 2015. This upgrade will also be the Lumia Denim update!

To deliver upgrades for Windows Phones, we work really closely with carriers like Verizon to make sure these upgrades bring the best experience possible for customers. These upgrades go through extensive lab testing to ensure quality and mitigate any network-dependent issues. Because of this, delivery timelines for upgrades can vary carrier to carrier (and even by device).

Verizon also hopes to deliver upgrades to Windows Phone 8.1 for the HTC W8 and Samsung ATIV SE very soon as well!

‘Tis the season for big updates to several top apps and games in the Windows Store

The Windows Store continues to grow, with stockings full of new titles every day. And new and old favorites alike continue to get better-and-better, too. Here’s a sampling of some of the latest big app and game updates:

Blackberry Messenger (BBM)

BBM1 BBM2

One of the pioneers of easy, reliable messaging has now added features that let you control what you share – and have some fun along the way, too. Retract messages you’ve sent in error. Set a timer on a message or attachment so you control how long it can be viewed. Or use new Stickers to add a little fun to your messages. Free in the Windows Phone Store.

MiCoach

Top-notch running companion and high-tech trainer MiCoach (Free) offers premium voice coaching by select Adidas athletes. Pin training plans to your Start Screen, and listen to MixRadio while you’re training. And now, MiCoach supports the latest adidas miCoach Fit Smart devices. Free in the Windows Phone Store.

Shazam

Shazam1 Shazam2

Big improvements make Shazam lovely to look at and even easier to use. There’s a fresh user interface, including new song pages with song pages with lyrics, videos and links to Xbox Music. And a new music recognition engine delivers faster, more accurate results. Free in the Windows Phone Store.

GoPro

Control your GoPro camera remotely with your Windows Phone, and do more with your GoPro content than ever before. Get full remote control of all camera functions. The latest update adds HERO4 compatibility. And Video of the Day and Photo of the Day feeds have been updated, too. Free in the Windows Phone Store.

RDIO

Rdio2

With tens of millions of tracks in its collection, RDIO gives music lovers something to enjoy, from new hits to all-time classics. With the latest update, enjoy a mix of music stories personalized for you, quickly see what’s Trending, stay on top of your Favorites, and Browse by genre and new curated stations to fit any mood. Free in the Windows Phone Store.

Fitbit

Use the Fitbit app for Windows Phone 8.1 on its own to track basic activity, or connect with Fitbit’s line of activity trackers to get a complete picture of your daily stats—including steps, distance, calories burned, sleep, and more. And with the latest Fitbit app update, enjoy Cortana support including activity and calorie logging, new graph designs, and syncing support for the new Fitbit Surge. Free in the Windows Phone Store.

World at Arms

WorldArms1

In this all-out modern-war strategy game, you can either battle across the globe on a solo campaign or in multiplayer mode. The game’s latest update adds Xbox Live support, so you can now earn Xbox Achievements as you battle it out. And you can now join Factions with other players or form your own to wage war, dominate, and win rewards. Free in the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store.

Onefootball

Stay close to the action and on top of the news for “The Beautiful Game”. The latest update to the popular Onefootball app includes a new user interface for faster navigation, new match overviews, and quick access to league and team favorites. Free in the Windows Phone Store.

Age of Empires: Castle Siege

AoESiege1

Choose your civilization, then choose your battle in this game that takes you from the Dark Ages to the Renaissance. In the latest update, alliances can use Alliance Messaging to collaborate and create communities. There are expanded building, squad and hero upgrades for Age 8. And for a limited time, all NEW players will receive exclusive Holiday BONUS Gold upon creation of their Empire. Free in the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store.

Get all these great updates in the Windows and Windows Phone Stores today. And let us know in the comments what big update is your favorite!

Build Mobile App Services with Google Cloud Tools for Android Studio v1.0

Posted by Chris Sells, Product Manager, Cloud Tools for Android Studio

Cloud Tools for Android Studio allows you to simultaneously build the service- and client-side of your mobile app. Earlier this month, we announced the release of Android Studio 1.0 that showed just how much raw functionality there is available for Android app developers. However, the client isn’t the whole picture, as most mobile apps also need one or more web services. It was for this reason that the Cloud Tools for Android Studio were created.

Cloud Tools put the power of Google App Engine in the same IDE alongside of your mobile client, giving you all the same Java language tools for both sides of your app, as well as making it far easier for you to keep them in sync as each of them changes.

Getting Started

To get started with Cloud Tools for Android Studio, add a New Module to your Android Studio project, choose Google Cloud Module and you’ll have three choices:

You can add three Google Cloud module types to your Android Studio project

The Java Servlet Module gives you a plain servlet class for you to implement as you see fit. If you’d like help building your REST endpoints with declarative routing and HTTP verbs and automatic Java object serialization to and from JSON, then you’ll want the Java Endpoints Module. If you want the power of endpoints, along with the ability to send notifications from your server to your clients, then choose Backend with Google Cloud Messaging.

Once you’re done, you’ll have your service code right next to your client code:

You can build your mobile app’s client and service code together in a single project

Not only does this make it very convenient to build and test your entire end-to-end, but we also dropped a little extra something into your app’s build.gradle file:

The android-endpoints configuration build step in your build.gradle file creates a client-side library for your server-side endpoint

The updated Gradle file will now create a library for use in your app’s client code that changes when your service API changes. This library lets you call into your service from your client and provides full code completion as you do:

The client-side endpoint library provides code completion and documentation

Instead of writing the code to create HTTP requests by hand, you can make calls via the library in a typesafe manner and the marshalling from JSON to Java will be handled for you, just like on the server-side (but in reverse, of course).

Endpoints Error Detection

Meanwhile, back on the server-side, as you make changes to your endpoints, we’re watching to make sure that they’re in good working order even before you compile by checking the attributes as you type:

Cloud Tools will detect errors in your endpoint attributes

Here, Cloud Tools have found a duplicate name in the ApiMethod attribute, which is easy to do if you’re creating a new method from an existing method.

Creating an Endpoint from an Objectify Entity

If, as part of your endpoint implementation, you decide to take advantage of the popular Objectify library, you’ll find that Cloud Tools provides special support for you. When you right-click (or control-click on the Mac) on a file containing an Objectify entity class, you’ll get the Generate Cloud Endpoint from Java class option:

The generate Cloud Endpoint from Java class option will create a CRUD endpoint for you

If you’re running this option on a Java class that isn’t built with Objectify, then you’re going to get an endpoint with empty methods for get and insert operations that you can implement as appropriate. However, if you do this with an Objectify entity, you’ll get a fully implemented endpoint:

Cloud Tools has built-in support for generating Objectify-based cloud endpoint implementations

Using your Cloud Endpoint

As an Android developer, you’re used to deploying your client first in the emulator and then into a local device. Likewise, with the service, you’ll want to test first to your local machine and then, when you’re ready, deploy into a Google App Engine project. You can run your service app locally by simply choosing it from the Configurations menu dropdown on the toolbar and pressing the Run button:

The Configurations menu in the toolbar lets you launch your service for testing

This will build and execute your service on http://localhost:8080/ (by default) so that you can test against it with your Android app running in the emulator. Once you’re ready to deploy to Google Cloud Platform, you can do so by selecting the Deploy Module to App Engine option from the Build menu, where you’ll be able to choose the source module you want to deploy, log into your Google account and pick the target project to which you’d like to deploy:

The Deploy to App Engine dialog will use your Google credentials to enumerate your projects for you

Cloud Tools beta required some extra copying and pasting to get the Google login to work, but all of that’s gone now in this release.

What’s Next?

We’re excited to get this release into your hands, so if you’ve haven’t downloaded it yet, then go download Android Studio 1.0 right now! To take advantage of Cloud Tools for Android Studio, you’ll want to sign up for a free Google Cloud Platform trial. Nothing is stopping you from building great Android apps from front to back. If you’ve got suggestions, drop us a line so that we can keep improving. We’re just getting started putting Google Cloud Platform tools in your hands. We can’t wait to see what you’ll build.

Google Play game services ends year with a bang!

Posted by Benjamin Frenkel, Product Manager, Play Games

In an effort to supercharge our Google Play games services (GPGS) developer tools, we’re introducing the Game services Publishing API, a revamped Unity Plugin, additional enhancements to the C++ SDK, and improved Leaderboard Tamper Protection.

Let’s dig into what’s new for developers:

Publishing API to automate game services configuration

At Google I/O this past June, the pubsite team launched the Google Play Developer Publishing APIs to automate the configuration and publishing of applications to the Play store. Game developers can now also use the Google Play game services Publishing API to automate the configuration and publishing of game services resources, starting with achievements and leaderboards.

For example, if you plan on publishing your game in multiple languages, the game services Publishing API will enable you to pull translation data from spreadsheets, CSVs, or a Content Management System (CMS) and automatically apply those translations to your achievements.

Early adopter Square Enix believes the game services Publishing API will be an indispensable tool to manage global game rollouts:

Achievements are the most used feature in Google Play game services for us. As our games support more languages, achievement management has become increasingly difficult. With the game services Publishing API, we can automate this process, which is really helpful. The game services Publishing API also comes with great samples that we were able to easily customize for our needs

Keisuke Hata, Manager / Technical Director, SQUARE ENIX Co., Ltd.

To get started today, take a look at the developer documentation here.

Updated Unity plugin and Cross-platform C++ SDK

  • Unity plugin Saved Games support: You can now take advantage of the Saved Games feature directly from the Unity plugin, with more storage and greater discoverability through the Play Games app
  • New Unity plugin architecture: We’ve rewritten the plugin on top of our cross-platform C++ SDK to speed up feature development across SDKs and increase our responsiveness to your feedback
  • Improved Unity generated Xcode project setup: You now have a much more robust way to generate Xcode projects integrated with Google Play Game Services in Unity
  • Updated and improved Unity samples: We’ve updated our sample codes to make it easier for first time developers to integrate Google Play games services
  • C++ SDK support for iPhone 6 Plus: You can now take advantage of the out-of-box games services UI (e.g., for leaderboards and achievements) for larger form factor devices, such as the iPhone 6 Plus

We also include some important bug fixes and stability improvements. Check out the release notes for the Unity Plugin and the getting started page for the C++ SDK for more details.

Leaderboard Tamper Protection

Turn on Leaderboard Tamper Protection to automatically hide suspected tampered scores from your leaderboards. To enable tamper protection on an existing leaderboard, go to your leaderboard in the Play developer console and flip the “Leaderboard tamper protection” toggle to on. Tamper protection will be on by default for new leaderboards.Learn more.

To learn more about cleaning up previously submitted suspicious scores refer to the Google Play game services Management APIs documentation or get the web demo console for the Management API directly from github here.

In addition, if you prefer command-line tools, you can use the python-based option here.

Making a performant watch face

Posted by Hoi Lam, Developer Advocate, Android Wear

What’s a better holiday gift than great performance? You’ve got a great watch face idea — now, you want to make sure the face you’re presenting to the world is one of care and attention to detail.

At the core of the watch face’s process is an onDraw method for canvas operations. This allows maximum flexibility for your design, but also comes with a few performance caveats. In this blog post, we will mainly focus on performance using the real life journey of how we optimised the Santa Tracker watch face, more than doubling the number of fps (from 18 fps to 42 fps) and making the animation sub-pixel smooth.

Starting point – 18 fps

Our Santa watch face contains a number of overlapping bitmaps that are used to achieve our final image. Here’s a list of them from bottom to top:

  1. Background (static)
  2. Clouds which move to the middle
  3. Tick marks (static)
  4. Santa figure and sledge (static)
  5. Santa’s hands – hours and minutes
  6. Santa’s head (static)

The journey begins with these images…

Large images kill performance (+14 fps)

Image size is critical to performance in a Wear application, especially if the images will be scaled and rotated. Wasted pixel space (like Santa’s arm here) is a common asset mistake:

Before: 584 x 584 = 341,056 pixels After: 48*226 = 10,848 (97% reduction)

It’s tempting to use bitmaps from the original mock up that have the exact location of watch arms and components in absolute space. Sadly, this creates problems, like in Santa’s arm here. While the arm is in the correct position, even transparent pixels increase the size of the image, which can cause performance problems due to memory fetch. You’ll want to work with your design team to extract padding and rotational information from the images, and rely on the system to apply the transformations on our behalf.

Since the original image covers the entire screen, even though the bitmap is mostly transparent, the system still needs to check every pixel to see if they have been impacted. Cutting down the area results in significant gains in performance. After correcting both of the arms, the Santa watch face frame rate increased by 10 fps to 28 fps (fps up 56%). We saved another 4 fps (fps up 22%) by cropping Santa’s face and figure layer. 14 fps gained, not bad!

Combine Bitmaps (+7 fps)

Although it would be ideal to have the watch tick marks on top of our clouds, it actually does not make much difference visually as the clouds themselves are transparent. Therefore there is an opportunity to combine the background with the ticks.


+

When we combined these two views together, it meant that the watch needed to spend less time doing alpha blending operations between them, saving precious GPU time. So, consider collapsing alpha blended resources wherever we can in order to increase performance. By combining two full screen bitmaps, we were able to gain another 7 fps (fps up 39%).

Anti-alias vs FilterBitmap flags – what should you use? (+2 fps)

Android Wear watches come in all shapes and sizes. As a result, it is sometimes necessary to resize a bitmap before drawing on the screen. However, it is not always clear what options developers should select to make sure that the bitmap comes out smoothly. With canvas.drawBitmap, developers need to feed in a Paint object. There are two important options to set – they are anti-alias and FilterBitmap. Here’s our advice:

  • Anti-alias does not do anything for bitmaps. We often switch on the anti-alias option by default as developers when we are creating a Paint object. However, this option only really makes sense for vector objects. For bitmaps, this has no impact. The hand on the left below has anti-alias switched on, the one on the right has it switched off. So turn off anti-aliasing for bitmaps to gain performance back. For our watch face, we gained another 2 fps (fps up 11%) by switching this option off.
  • Switch on FilterBitmap for all bitmap objects which are on top of other objects – this option smooths the edges when drawBitmap is called. This should not be confused with the filter option on Bitmap.createScaledBitmap for resizing bitmaps. We need both to be turned on. The bitmaps below are the magnified view of Santa’s hand. The one on the left has FilterBitmap switched off and the one on the right has FilterBitmap switched on.
  • Eliminate expensive calls in the onDraw loop (+3 fps)

    onDraw is the most critical function call in watch faces. It’s called for every drawable frame, and the actual painting process cannot move forward until it’s finished. As such, our onDraw method should be as light and as performant as possible. Here’s some common problems that developers run into that can be avoided:

  1. Do move heavy and common code to a precompute function – e.g. if we commonly grab R.array.cloudDegrees, try doing that in onCreate, and just referencing it in the onDraw loop.
  2. Don’t repeat the same image transform in onDraw – it’s common to resize bitmaps at runtime to fit the screen size but this is not available in onCreate. To avoid resizing the bitmap over and over again in onDraw, override onSurfaceChanged where width and height information are available and resize images there.
  3. Don’t allocate objects in onDraw – this leads to high memory churn which will force garbage collection events to kick off, killing frame rates.
  4. Do analyze the CPU performance by using a tool such as the Android Device Monitor. It’s important that the onDraw execution time is short and occurs in a regular period.

Following these simple rules will improve rendering performance drastically.

In the first version, the Santa onDraw routine has a rogue line:

int[] cloudDegrees = 
    getResources().getIntArray(R.array.cloudDegrees);

This loads the int array on every call from resources which is expensive. By eliminating this, we gained another 3 fps (fps up 17%).

Sub-pixel smooth animation (-2 fps)

For those keeping count, we should be 44 fps, so why is the end product 42 fps? The reason is a limitation with canvas.drawBitmap. Although this command takes left and top positioning settings as a float, the API actually only deals with integers if it is purely translational for backwards compatibility reasons. As a result, the cloud can only move in increments of a whole pixel resulting in janky animations. In order to be sub-pixel smooth, we actually need to draw and then rotate rather than having pre-rotate clouds which moves towards Santa. This additional rotation costs us 2 fps. However, the effect is worthwhile as the animation is now sub-pixel smooth.

Before – fast but janky and wobbly

for (int i = 0; i 

After - slightly slower but sub-pixel smooth

for (int i = 0; i 



Before: Integer translation values create janky, wobbly animation. After: smooth sailing!

Quality on every wrist

The watch face is the most prominent UI element in Android Wear. As craftspeople, it is our responsibility to make it shine. Let’s put quality on every wrist!

WinHEC registration has started!

In September, I announced the return of the Windows Hardware Engineering Community (WinHEC) Summit in Shenzhen, March 18th and 19th. I am happy to announce today that registration for WinHEC has now started. If you are interested in attending, please request an invitation here.

The WinHEC Summit represents an important milestone for Microsoft as we continue to engage and partner throughout our Windows ecosystem. The last WinHEC occurred in 2008 and we’re honored that we’re able to start the series off again in Shenzhen. Microsoft looks forward to connecting with and learning from various OEMs, ODMs and other partners in Taiwan, Shenzhen, and the greater China community as we all work together to make Windows devices great.

Terry Myerson, Executive Vice President of the Operating Systems Group, is slated to keynote on the 18th. WinHEC Shenzhen is designed for executives, engineering managers, engineers and technical product managers at OEMs, ODMs, IHVs and IDHs who work with, or want to work with, Windows technologies. The agenda will consist of deep technical training sessions and hands-on labs across the spectrum of Windows based hardware, ranging from 2-1 PCs to Smartphones and IoT devices, as well as enabling hardware components and peripheral devices. In addition to the technical training tracks, there will also be opportunities to have two-way discussions with Microsoft executives and engineering experts. Specific details on the summit agenda will be disclosed closer to the event. To learn more, please visit http://www.winhec.com/, or to request an invitation, click here.

More to come!

64-bit and iOS 8 Requirements for App Updates

As we announced in October, beginning on February 1, 2015 new iOS apps submitted to the App Store must include 64-bit support and be built with the iOS 8 SDK. Beginning June 1, 2015 app updates will also need to follow the same requirements. To enable 64-bit in your project, we recommend using the default Xcode build setting of “Standard architectures” to build a single binary with both 32-bit and 64-bit code.