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Introducing Android 9 Pie (googleblog.com)
481 points by nsriv 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 357 comments

Did anyone see these privacy changes? https://developer.android.com/about/versions/p/android-9.0-c...

* Limited access to sensors in background

* Restricted access to call logs

* Restricted access to phone numbers

* Restricted access to Wi-Fi location and connection information

* Information removed from Wi-Fi service methods

* Telephony information now relies on device location setting

Great stuff. However, while I'm happy that they're limiting third-party access to this data, given Google's business model, I still wouldn't trust them with it.

You're right Google no longer has the trust it used to enjoy. So many apps have been uploading entire call logs and it's really absurd this was so easiy accessible to all apps.

It's the only reason stopping me from getting an Android phone. I think Apple is better on privacy.

Haha, but in Apple case, you can't even see the code, dude.

You realize the entirety of Google Play Services is closed source, right?

Woops... well, but at least Android core is not, which is better than "everything close" (Apple).

How would that be better? If there is any code that they don't want to see, they would just not show you.

Android and ios are both completely opaque operating systems... stop pretending they are not.

You would be surprised how little of your Android phone is actually open-source code.

At least is better than 100% closed (Apple).

You can't even see the code for most Android OEM phones either.

I'm choosing the lesser of two evils here, glad you downvoted me.

Android may have always been available at no cost, but it was never free. Always assume if you are given a service gratis, that _you_ are the product being sold. This doesn't just apply to Android, but to gmail, Drive, Docs, etc.

I think that's a good general assumption. But in the case of Android, I think of it (and Chrome) more as a defensive move. Google's business depends on having access to users. A free browser and a free mobile OS are a loss leader so that nobody can cut off their major revenue streams.

Not that we shouldn't keep an eye on them, of course. The great bulk of their revenue comes from advertising, which is all about selling users to advertisers. But I don't think Android makes the picture any worse.

Google location services makes the picture much worse though, which the majority of Android users (in the US at least) have enabled.

Yes, it feels really spooky getting notifications to review the supermarket, coffee shop or anything else close to our surroundings.

The spookiness is even greater for those of us that know what it means to live under repressive regimes.

Google maps stalking is indeed bad and I hate it but you can easily disable it by not running Maps in the background.

Honestly Android allows me to tune out of the internet business model a lot easier than iOS. Just dive into permissions and install a system wide adblocker. You can even bypass the app store.

I always have location off but my old coworker used to leave hers on. One day after work we were waiting for the bus she took a picture of some grafitti near the bus stop. A minute later she got a notification from google asking if they could, I can't remember if it was, tag the picture or add the picture on google maps or both for the gas station next to the bus stop. It was fairly creepy, i'd never seen one of those before. She started turning her location off after that.

I must say, now that Google is buying people's credit card purchase history from third party data brokers, their behavior is much more creepy than just tracking your location.

>Google has been able to track your location using Google Maps for a long time. Since 2014, it has used that information to provide advertisers with information on how often people visit their stores. But store visits aren’t purchases, so, as Google said in a blog post on its new service for marketers, it has partnered with “third parties” that give them access to 70 percent of all credit and debit card purchases.


A product only useful at the Billion User data points level. I am 100% fine participating in what's essentially the training data for all future AI products coming out of Google. It feels like a happy family of devices all working together for a more scientific future.

In history, people allowing one entity to accumulate a lot of power on the basis that they will remain benevolent have almost always be wrong.

Don't assume people at the top have an agenda that are compatible with yours.

The fact we are enjoying a lot of peace and freedom right now should now be a signal for us to relax : democracy is a system that needs maintenance, not some legacy you can claim ad vitam.

It's our duty as a citizen to always doubt the intentions of those in power. Just like it's a flight intendent duty to check that the planes doors safety are engaged again and again. It's not a moral issue. It's just a technical requirement.

There is no democracy, just the appearance of one. As an adult, I think it's everyone's responsibility to start and understand this sooner or later.

Well yes, I do believe we are in an oligarchy and not a democracy. But it's a different point, and would strike a debate that would not help with the main argument of my comment. So I just use the word "democracy" where most people expect it, otherwise, it gets complicated.

>It feels like a happy family of devices all working together for a more scientific future.

With this philosophy, I’d suggest you’d avoid paying attention to the trajectory of Chinese society, perhaps even more so now that Google plans to get in bed with the CCP’s censorship and dissident quashing regime...

I believe they claim they aren't really doing that. It could be the great negative attention forced them to say that wasn't their actual plan.

They said the same thing about their participation in the drone program, until an internal revolt forced them to reveal their true hand (they were actually doing it and hoping to do more of it), and subsequent internal backlash put a stop to it altogether.


I too hope that Googlers block what their execs are planning to do in China, but we're not there yet, and it should give one pause that their leadership are onboard with doing this in the first place.

Google didn't try to hide that they were working with the Pentagon to better identify targets. Their participation was well known and in the open.

No it wasn't. They specifically tried to misrepresent what the project was, minimize the scope of their involvement with it, as well as Google's plans to expand it further.

From the article I linked, which is an interview with a Googler who helped lead the resistance-



They also tried to downplay the scope and involvement of the project. But that rhetoric dissolved when we found out that leadership had been lying.


What were they lying about?


From the beginning, they told us that Project Maven was a small contract purely for non-offensive purposes. They said that we weren’t building anything custom. They said that this was a one-off project only worth $9 million, and that it wasn’t part of any further collaboration with the Pentagon.

Those all turned out to be lies. On April 12, DefenseOne published an article that landed like a bombshell in the company. Drawing on conversations with Pentagon officials, it revealed that Project Maven was actually a pilot project for future collaborations between Google and the military. In particular, Project Maven was part of Google’s push to win the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract.

JEDI is the military’s next-generation cloud that will network American forces all over the world and integrate them with AI. It’s basically Skynet. And all the big cloud providers want to win the contract because it’s worth $10 billion.

When we found out that Project Maven was an audition for JEDI, people started becoming extremely concerned. And as the media attention to the story increased, we learned a lot more. For instance, Diane Greene had told us that the Project Maven contract was only for $9 million, but internally they expected it to increase to $250 million per year. And they weren’t just giving the Pentagon access to open-source software — they were going to build a massive surveillance system that gave military analysts real-time information on people, vehicles, and buildings in a Google Earth–style interface.

Exposing all of those lies damaged leadership on this issue just as much as anything else that we did. That loss of trust really hurt them.

Free (Libre) Software is very often gratis as well, and generally breaks the "if you're not the customer..." rule. In the case of Android, there are community-maintained forks that do not include any of the Google stuff.

It might be true that libre software can break that rule. AOSP isn't libre, and the libre forks are so hobbled by limited access to Apps and the Play Store that there IS a cost to using them: the cost of losing very useful features that are only available in AOSP.

I think Dropbox, with its free tier, is a counter-example. The storage offered is advertisement itself.

That being said - for the end user Android isn't free. It's a part of a device sale that they're paying for.

There's a difference between the product made by a manufacturer, and the OS distributed by Google (their "service"). If we are talking about Google's incentives, than we have to look at their relationship with Android as a product. They are giving away Android to manufacturers for free. It's _Google_ that has the incentive to sell the users' data. That we purchase devices preloaded with Android doesn't pass that sale off to Google (like it would to Microsoft with a Windows computer), so it doesn't take away their incentive. So for the purposes of determining at what social cost you use Android, it might as well be gratis.

Note that 'their "service"' includes the Play Store, which is a not insignificant revenue generator for Google.

guess the same must be true for Linux, gIMP, emacs, vim, gcc, clang, LibreOffice.

There is a cost to using FOSS, though it's much less sinister than that of using Android or Google Apps. You are giving up convenience in exchange for software that respects you. In terms of the user becoming the product, I suppose that would be harder to argue. Maybe one could say the users become co-opted to promoting the cause/agenda of FOSS.

Could you cite some popular apps that do this? This is news to me.

Facebook is a popular app.

Wow, it uploads your call logs? I had no idea. I thought it was only ("only"...) contacts.

And if you have Whatsapp installed on the same phone, it possibly gets all the data that you have given Whatsapp. Ditto for Instagram.

Don't trust Facebook or anything they own.

Ironically, there's probably no organization on the planet that you should trust more with your personal information than Google. No organization takes privacy and security more seriously and spends more money and time getting it right. (Yes, that includes well-funded intelligence agencies like the NSA and your closest friends and family.) The idea that Google is going to turn around and start selling your information to third parties is just dumb.

> Ironically, there's probably no organization on the planet that you should trust more with your personal information than Google

Thank you for the suggestion. We likely have different ideals about what a healthy version of the future looks like.

> ...selling your information to third parties...

Not what I said. Google’s business model is to extract and store as much information about consumers as possible, enrich and correlate it, and then financially exploit it. Currently the best way they’ve found to do that is targeted advertising.

By doing so, they make this extremely revealing data available to every government in every jurisdiction in which they operate, which is pretty much all of them. They work to normalize this surveillance as inevitable and unstoppable.

Additionally, while it would currently run counter to their business model to sell raw data, there’s nothing to legally stop them, if that business model should change.

Just like Facebook, Google are now very close to market saturation. To keep growth up, they’ll need to increase revenue per user. How will they do that? We don’t know. But there’s a relatively high chance that I’ll like it even less than what they’re doing now.

> ... dumb


> The idea that Google is going to turn around and start selling your information to third parties is just dumb.

Google's business _is_ selling my information to third parties. Don't Apple have a better track record, and a more privacy oriented business model here?

> Google's business _is_ selling my information to third parties.

No, Google's business is using your information as a tool to build products it sells to third parties. Actually selling your information, as such, would undermine that business.

Google business is no more about selling your information to other people than a ferryman’s business is selling his boat.

Your privacy against non-Google actors is Google's moat. They have every interest in protecting it.

> No, Google's business is using your information as a tool to build products it sells to third parties.

Really? If we're going to be that pedantic, then it's probably more like " Google's business is using your information to build products it sells to third parties." They're not using my information as a tool, they're using my information (location, interests, browsing habits, searches) to sell a product (advertising). At that stage, they _are_ selling my data.

This is the top comment I came here for. I really hope there is a way to turn off all the "machine learning stuff" because I would rather not sacrifice any of my personal data so that Google can better predict how to "optimize my phone experience". My human brain learns the random quirks of an OS in a matter of days, I don't need the OS brain trying to learn how I use it, as it would be confusing for both of us.

I just wish there was a global "NO NO and NO!" override button for any kind of "help make your service better by using your personal information" feature. Just recently, I discovered that www.google.com was also accessing my Chrome browser's location, and I can not recall when I said "yes" to any such location prompt. It's a bit sad -- I think of these features as being intentionally obfuscated similarly to how Facebook intentionally obfuscates their "account deletion" mechanism.

I'm afraid the majority of people just don't care about these needlessly nosy "smart" systems, and I'm probably going to suffer from it as someone in the privacy-niche.

> I discovered that www.google.com was also accessing my Chrome browser's location, and I can not recall when I said "yes" to any such location prompt

This is the worst when traveling through Europe. Cross a border and suddenly all Google services are in a language you don't speak.

I really hate that and I do speak quite a few.

It is not only the UI language that changes, the search results do as well.

Suddenly something that was easy to find becomes a mess of local results with similar names or machine translated, even though I used the original language name.

Note that this is often done based on your IP address if you've not opted-in.

It's often a quirk when using CCC (Chaos Computer Club) IP addresses at events in other countries; you'll be looking at google.de for the first couple of days until google correlates enough location data from people that have opted-in to correct the IP location.

On the plus side it means that a personal VPN with no opted-in devices will give you your home-region services (ymmv).

Google likes to ignore the Accept-Language header. Obviously they know better than you and your browser what language they should use!

The top comment is describing the positive advances in privacy. I think you jumped the gun -- may be worth a second look.

And I'm adding the NB: While they have better app-level restrictions, the real question is whether or not Google uses this information for their new ML-powered OS features.

These are awesome. Android is slowly catching up with iOS in this regard.

They are both slowly catching up to Java ME[1] where all of this worked perfectly well, except for the silly decision to disable the "always allow" option for non-trusted apps.

If they had just let the users (rather than Verisign) decide for themselves which apps they trusted, so that every app wouldn't have to pop up i confirmation dialog every time it wanted a network connection, I would be much happier with what we had then than with Android's model.

[1] https://www.wosign.com/support/resources/MIDP_2_0_Tutorial_O...

And Symbian. :)

The "privacy" and "security" features also mean a less powerful computer. Which is probably the right trade-off for most users but a pain in the ass for more niche use cases.

Most of that data is still available, just gated behind permissions that require explicit consent from user now.

Does the permission model even work at this point? The vast majority of users just accept whatever the app asks for without a second thought. The rest is bullied by platform monopolies.

There is very little real choice for users.

There may be few real alternatives. But this is a choice: You're getting the information, you're making a choice to use all features, use limited features, or just drop the app.

And you have explicit control and granular control, even if 99% of the people won't ever use it. Before, if you didn't want Facebook accessing your Microphone, the only option was to not use the app at all. Now, I can specifically disable that option.

Facebook may just make the app not run unless you give it mic permission. Of course you don't have to run it. I have seen apps that explicitly refuse to run unless you give them the permissions they want on iOS even though they shouldn't need them for 99% of their functionality.

Wouldn't such a behaviour be against GDPR? Probably not because of technicalities, but then I would hope the EU to make yet another piece of legislation to address this.

That's where Google/Apple should step in and ban those apps from the store.

Of course it works, why wouldn't it? If you want a crippled device that never lets anything access to data, you can always buy a dumbphone.

I hope that the permissions are better to understand and control than the current ones. Right now they seem to be designed to give the appearance of giving users control but the implementation is pretty bad and user unfriendly.

And the other problem is you install an app all the time and the permissions aren't clearly laid out. I want:

1. tell me I install an app that wants "some list of permissions".

2. let me disable this permission for all apps installed now and in the future.

1) it is not really realistic in practice:

- Permissions are requested incrementally at runtime. For large apps, a LOT of these permissions depend on corner cases BUT you still declare all the permissions you might ask for.

So maybe I will declare that I might ask to see the content of your screen .. because there is an help menu where I take a video of your screen to send to support after asking you for the permission.

Same for camera .. we might use Google Pay for most cases, but in one of the countries where we have the app, a local player has a very popular solution that scans your credit card. So we declare that we might need Camera because of this sdk.


This is one of the reasons why the previous model where you asked the permissions at install time did not work very well in practice.

Anything targeting API level 23 has all permissions denied by default (and targeting higher level is mandatory for all new apps right now).

I would also like to give permissions only for a limited time and see a log how the permissions are being used in detail.

They don't limit the power of the computer, only who can access that power. It's not hard to grant an app full access if you trust it - but the "trusted by default" model is hopelessly outdated now that the vast majority of software is sourced from anonymous internet 3rd parties rather than a few well known software vendors.

> Limited access to sensors in background

I'm amazed this took so long. There have been papers coming out for years demonstrating how to extract all kinds of sensitive information from the vibration sensor.

One of the quieter features of Android 9 is that they are reducing the API surface of Android by explicitly black-listing and white-listing various APIs and fields that previously required reflection to access. None of these APIs were documented, but none of them were explicitly "off limits" before Android P.

That suggests that the life of Java as Android's primary language might be really coming to an end, even though Android is very much a platform built on Java/C++ at its core.

That's a bizarre conclusion to come to. The real motivation is that if you know apps are reflecting into your internal implementation details, and you want to make a change, you're stuck with a bunch of bad choices.

1. Break the apps.

Users tend to get annoyed when they upgrade the OS and their apps stop working.

2. Maintain a compatibility shim.

Depending on what the change you're making does, this might not even be possible. Assuming that it is possible, how do you know what needs a shim and what behavior is actually expected?

3. Give up and do something else instead.

Things get worse if you consider that OEMs may want to modify implementations as well, so you'll end up with apps that work, except on some devices. There's no sensible way to prevent app breakage when there are apps depending on your internal (and explicitly private) API; the solution is enforcement.

Break the apps. Undocumented APIs can not be relied on.

Of course it's a shame they were available/undocumented in the first place, but at least they are finally fixing this.

Dumb question: isn’t this what the Google Play submission process is for?

Yes, the problem is that many use private APIs to get around bugs that never get fixed, or even if they do, never reach customer devices.

Google is promising that now things will be different, take it with the usual skepticism.

> That suggests that the life of Java as Android's primary language might be really coming to an end

Huh - how did you get to this conclusion? What would be the alternative? Do you mean Java was essentially "better" because it had access to all the undocumented APIs while other languages didn't?

Apparently you haven't been paying attention, declaring off limits APIs started with Android Nougat for NDK developers.

Because Linux APIs were never really intended to be called by NDK developers, only the POSIX subset and Android public native APIs.

Likewise with Java, which is only a subset of proper Java.

In any case, it might relate more to an eventual future support of Java 9 module system, where private really means private, than anything else.

> Because Linux APIs were never really intended to be called by NDK developers, only the POSIX subset and Android public native APIs.

That's not even slightly true? Android doesn't pretend to be anything but a Linux system, with all the Linux details shining through in all their glory.

There is a seccomp policy that blacklists some syscalls, but it's only 17 out of 271 for ARM64 and it's things like setuid or reboot which you won't have permission to do anyway. Other than that you're completely free to go nuts with raw syscalls, you're in no way, shape, or form stuck going through a POSIX layer.

You can try to do it, but good luck guaranteeing that your APK doesn't crash and burn across Android OEMs and people want to still give you money.

These are the only APIs devs are officially allowed to touch.


Anything else is "works on my phone" kind of thing.

No, that's just wrong.

It becomes your responsibility to ensure your syscalls match and are available on the kernel you're actually running on which you may be confusing with "not allowed to use".

And very nearly all of the time this is a complete waste of everyone's time since the syscalls are a direct mirror of what's in libc anyway just with libc doing the compatibility for you.

But just to really prove that you can absolutely syscall on Android, one of the largest, most widely deployed & shipped NDK/SDK apps does it to workaround a missing futimes in bionic: https://cs.chromium.org/chromium/src/base/os_compat_android....

> Because Linux APIs were never really intended to be called by NDK developers

But pretty much all the "unintended" uses of Android APIs (undocumented or not) have been the most original and best-integrating apps I've seen. It's a pity.

Would you please offer an example of such an app and its outstanding features?

I wouldn't say "outstanding", I'd say original. For example the app that mapped the Samsung Bixby button to something else, Greenify, Island and Helium. There are others, but these came to my mind first.

I don't see how you come to this conclusion.

This change is only made because devs used the openness of java in order to access private APIs.

It is ok in some cases, but in others private means private.

Like you would have 'smart' devs manipulating the system resource cache .. even though it is not supposed to be a public API and they can mess up their app very easily if they touch it.

Nothing to do with moving away from Java.

undocumented => documented

Thanks, fixed my typo.

Essential has done a fabulous job with Android updates - https://twitter.com/essential/status/1026516461907369984?s=2...

I hope they stay afloat and release a successor to the PH-1.

Yes, this is great. I purchased an Essential Phone on Amazon Prime Day. Amazon was (is?) an investor in Essential; they sold these for $250 on that day. The 360-degree camera is available from Essential at a deep discount.

I got the idea that they were winding down operations, but the unlocked bootloader gave me some hope that I would be able to use this device to learn Android app development.

And here they are, supporting Android P as an OTA update on launch day! I'm typing this on Android P...

I heard they cancelled it, but in all honesty, they did something that every one caught up on, including Apple I think, the notch! And they even did it right. I think they should get to release another device, this time just pricing it right would probably help them get a better market hold. PH-1, is amazing because of the updates!

> We partnered with DeepMind on a feature called Adaptive Battery that uses machine learning to prioritize system resources for the apps the user cares about most.

You know what mind I would like to control what apps get more resources?


Not most people though. There was a time when in MacOS, one could manually limit the amount of memory a program was launched into by setting the required and preferred memory footprint.

But that kind of low-level stuff isn't something most people care about or want to do. They just want the damn thing to work.

That wasn't a feature, it was a bug. It's not that you could limit the amount of memory a program could use, you had to implement one contiguous block of memory an app could use and you had to close apps even when you had plenty of memory to get a contiguous block.

That was like Mac users who said that cooperative multitasking was better because it let games run more smoothly, while technically correct. It was like being happy that your dog pooped on your carpet because now you have free fertilizer.....

Furthermore, isn't the idea here to put the control into the user's hands?

Think of it as a resource manager controlled by you, but with the only interface that the general market will be able to use for something with a fair amount of technical nuance - ML.

I see your point that most people don't want to dig into the nitty-gritty details, but I don't think it'd hurt to be able to mark applications as High, Normal, or Low priority for memory and CPU use.

But this isn't really high/normal/low priority for mem and cpu, its how often the applications should wake up. And from my cursory understanding, background resource consumption can be highly variable, and most apps don't really need that much.

Its the same thing as using those battery manager task killer apps. For a pixel, those apps will result in worse battery life, because recent android versions manage resource consumption better than users will.

I don't want to micromanage things but there's definitely an app or two that I want to ban from running in the background...

Do you know what I would like? For Android to actually show what apps/services drain battery life.

I noticed recently that WhatsApp, Reddit Sync, and a few other apps were draining battery life like crazy. But none of that drainage was being shown in the battery stats.

Google is purposefully hiding how some apps use battery, and it started years ago when they allowed apps to hide under "Android OS" and "System" categories. In more recent versions they "fixed" this by simply not showing the Android OS and System categories in the battery stats anymore.

Google doesn't want to show how some apps use your battery because they drain the battery with similar methods that Google itself uses to drain your battery (by polling your location all the time, etc).

Noone is purposefully hiding anything. If you need advanced battery data, you can use Battery Historian even on non-modified phones and you'll get all the battery stats your heart desires, down to reason for each CPU wakeup.


Personally, I think my mind has better things to do then mechanistic micromanaging of OS level resources. Some people will be upset that ML is obsoleting these sorts of repetitive tasks, but not most people.

making a feature available does not make it required

It does, however, require supporting it, and those are engineering resources that could be spent elsewhere.

Software developers also often forget that UX is a thing. "Just add feature X, Y & Z". This is why you never let a programmer design UIs, you end up with a mess with dozens of buttons, menus and submenus everywhere.

Every new feature comes at a UX cost, and in this case, the cost of the UX outweighs the benefits of you micromanaging your memory footprint.

People also seem to underestimate how complex resource management on a mobile OS is.

That's not exactly an easy problem.

Currently used apps

scheduled background work

currently active foreground services like the navigation app you are curently using, the image that is uploading in the background or the music that is playing .. stuff without a visible UI (except for a notification so you know what is going on). All important but not the main thing displayed right now.

You also need to throttle the CPU when the phone runs too hot.

But not run it at minimum speed either because it would make everything laggy.

Also, if you pick up your phone out of your pocket, it automatically wakes up and increase CPU frequency because it is likely you are going to use it.

Etc ..

This is very complex problem, it is ok to let a machine balance this for us.

Good for you. I don't want to waste time on taking care of my phone. It should save energy regardless of my actions.

I don't know a lot about kernel scheduling, memory allocation, I/O scheduling, etc, but from what I understand there are OSes with much cleverer implementations of these things, and OSes which are pretty dumb. I believe Linux is somewhere in the middle. Surely there is lots more scope to optimise these schedulers with regular rule-based approaches, rather than bringing in DeepMind magic? It's always difficult to understand the reasons why machine learning algorithms choose the things they choose, and they often have unintended consequences or awful edge cases. This just seems like it was done for marketing reasons more than technical reasons?

Ugh, I want to be optimistic, but I think this feature is going to suck and here's why:

I use snapchat, but I actually hate the app. It's a bloated memory and battery hog in my opinion. Is Adaptive Battery going to think I love Snapchat and prioritize more system resources for it just because I use it? Cause I want the exact opposite to happen. I want Snapchat using 0% of my system resources except for the few times a day when I check my snaps.

Also I hate losing control of my system in favor of some nebulous decision making criteria I can't control (ML)

First, one thing: the people working on these projects are not dumb. They are not going to launch a feature that simply does not work. These teams run experiments and confirm that the feature actually does what it's supposed to do (e.g improve battery life) before launching them in production.

It sounds like this feature is exactly made for cases like the one you describe: if you don't use Snapchat throughout the day, it won't stay in memory like it currently does (which seems to be ~ a LRU cache), instead staying in memory only when you're predicted to use the app over and over. (so not Snapchat in your case)

> the people working on these projects are not dumb. They are not going to launch a feature that simply does not work

I've seen no evidence of this. Plenty of features that do not work or work poorly are launched every day.

Especially machine learning stuff, which is hard to test for normal (and abnormal) users and debug the recommendations. See e.g. the Nest. I know people who got one and hated it since it never get the hang of their schedules and would make bizarre decisions. Others love them.

Yet I get ads for something I bought weeks ago, I get ads saying "sign up for Facebook" even though I'm logged in on the very same phone, and Facebook's "advertising profile" is completely backwards for my political views. When I accidentally click a certain type of YouTube video my recommend fills up with that type of video even if I watched it for 5 seconds. Same with Amazon recommended.

In my experience, "personalized recommendations" are universally trash

Personalized recommendations make or break certain businesses like media and e-commerce. Not unusual to see an increase in revenue between 10% and 30% after adding recommendations. They're not "universally trash", since the alternative is showing you truly random items, or whatever item is the most popular.

Check YouTube's "trending" tab and come back here to say if you'd rather have that instead of the personalized recommendations.

YouTube's trending tab is algorithmically generated, not the actually most popular. That's why is called something vague like "trending" and not "most popular".

It is trash, but that's what you get when you use data based recommendations.

I don't think it'll ever use /more/ resource than it is right now. From my understanding, all apps right now are at "maximum" usage. All this does it reduce usage of apps you never use.

So in practice, the resource usage of Snapchat for you would probably not change at all, but that one game app you downloaded 2 months ago and never played will stop querying the master server every day to serve you more ads.

That's why I only use Android with ROMs like LineageOS where I can block apps from opening on startup and running in the background (you also get more granular permissions for free).

Why does Snapchat need to run at all when you’re not using it?

To ruin your battery life.

I can't be the only one getting a chill down my spine when I read this. Google, a company "committed to reach and engage the right users safely and cost-effectively around the world", doing deep analysis of my every input and my context in order to "drive engagement" and "surfacing the best parts of the apps [I] use all the time"?

I hope this stuff is kept out of AOSP. Yes, I know it seems like at least some of the computation happens on-device, but I am not comfortable having it done on a device out of my full control regardless.

They already do this with your searches and geolocation data. Why not this?

I can still dodge those by disabling Location Services and using something else than Google app-wise. It is not clear how opt-out this will be. Even if it can be disabled today it might become pushed harder as time goes.

You can disable this too: Home Settings > Suggestions

I believe the computation is done fully locally, as for "tracking", every single OS has a history of what applications you've launched recently, how is that any different?

> doing deep analysis of my every input and my context in order to "drive engagement" and "surfacing the best parts of the apps [I] use all the time"?

This is much richer data than a list of recently used apps, right? Do OSs also record that information?

A lot of those words are from the commenter, not sure where they pulled it from. The article says:

> Actions take advantage of machine learning to surface your app to the user at just the right time, based on your app's semantic intents and the user's context.

"Semantic intents" are basically Android intents. So yes, it's more than just what app you are in, but rather which window of the app you are in. There is also user context, which is things like what time it is or what other apps you have opened.

All this is fed to a model that basically practice, given the current context, what other intents you may need. It's nothing really out of the ordinary.

The commenter tries to imply it that it tracks every input, which is unfounded.

Mainly it just looks really annoying.

Not just you, hope can turn off, do not want.

It's actually _all_ done on device.

One small annoyance about the new version I've hoped they would revert is the new clock placement on the left. It was done to accommodate notches better but Android has always had notifications there. I've been running the beta for probably 6 weeks now and I still think I have notifications pending at a glance. It should move based on the presence of a notch only.

Edit: Also there is now a 4 notification icon limit with the clock on the left, whether you have a notch or not. I often have a lot more than 4 notification icons up (1) (esp since a couple are permanent from background apps) and the rest will just disappear under a dot-dot icon.

(1) - 3 email account alerts, Trillian, SMS, Ebay, and a Photos alert on my phone right now. Half aren't visible.

* It looks like they've taken away the "apps" homerow button and swapped it for "swipe up from anywhere". So that is one less gesture available to apps, unless you install an alternative desktop.

* Wi-Fi RTT sounds pretty neat, I had not heard of that before.

* Shutting mic, camera and sensor data off for idle/background apps is neat, though I'm shocked that wasn't an option before.

> Shutting mic, camera and sensor data off for idle/background apps is neat, though I'm shocked that wasn't an option before.

I wonder if they'll ever get around to letting the user limit or deny internet access to applications, something that Cyanogen/Lineage has had for years.

But think of the ads!

> Shutting mic, camera and sensor data off for idle/background apps is neat, though I'm shocked that wasn't an option before.

What do I do now if I want a skype or wechat voice call in the background while using the phone normally?

That is still possible. The authors of those apps have to modify their designs to use foreground services - essentially, services that don't require a full UI but have to show their status in notification bar.

Most popular apps already use foreground services for use cases like yours. This restriction is to prevent dodgy spying apps that recorded without user knowing about it.

It also looks like the back button is gone... how is that supposed to work?

The back button is now contextual, it appears in apps, but disappears when it can't do anything.

What about when an activity in app A opens an activity in app B? Can I still go back to app A's activity from app B's activity?

I just tested this (I think):

I opened a link from fb messenger in chrome. The back button is still there, and clicking it returned me to messenger. So yes I believe so.

That might not be a bad thing. I've used Android for a while, but I'm not always clear if/when the back button will do in-app navigation vs. return me to the phone's home screen.

I've always regarded the back button as a completely random thing.

I've always regarded the back button as the single most important reason why I prefer Android to iOS. Interesting how different people perceive the world.

I agree. The back button in Android almost always seems to do what I would expect. I'm not an iOS user so my perspective probably doesn't mean a lot, but the occasional times I try to use someone else's iOS phone I have no idea what's going on. Nothing seems intuitive.

iOS's Swipe From Left works differently than Android's (at least 8.1 Oreo's) does, but often accomplishes the same task. It's pretty equivalent to Android's back button in a lot of cases, acting as hierarchical navigation and back to previous screen when applicable. The difference is that it only works within an app, which means it won't kick you back to a previous app (unless it's opened in a web view) and won't take you back to the home screen. I typically found iOS to handle it more elegantly than my <=Android8.1 phone, but I haven't updated to Pie yet to see how it's different.

I never said I didn't like it.

The random way the back button works -- moving to iOS I didn't miss it. There are plenty of ways to switch apps, or go back within an app.

I thought I'd miss it. I didn't. Now I wouldn't need it on Android.

If one app activates another (camera -> album -> photo editor -> share), how do you go back from mid-way if you decided to?

Because Android features this metaphor, it's used extensively. Because iOS doesn't, it isn't as much. iOS features different metaphors which achieve the same outcomes in different ways, such as pop-up sheets for the camera, album views and share panes.

And in cases where one app does activate another, you can go back one step by tapping the top-left corner of the screen. There's only one level of "app back", but that's plenty since iOS doesn't tend to jump you between apps a lot, and because that navigation isn't co-mingled with other "back" operations.

There is a link at the top left of the screen that goes back to the previous app during these "app activates another another" phases.

I don't work on Android but isn't that behavior defined by the Android OS and just apps doing whatever they want?

In the event you don't like the new gesture based navigation system you can always revert back to the traditional Back, Home, and Recents layout in settings.

It's now an application navigation function and not an OS navigation function. So in screenshots demonstrating core OS functions it's absent but in screenshots demonstrating Apps it's present.

What are you talking about? I'm using P preview and it's still there. It's also still there in several screenshots at https://www.android.com/versions/pie-9-0/. It's just now hidden when it wouldn't do anything.

I haven't been following P development very closely. It looks like they added it back in Beta 3.


It's not gone in all of the screenshots the home, back, and menu button are all still there. I think swiping up is just going to be an additional feature to reach the new recents+home row screen.

Running it on my Pixel 2XL, the new navigation pill is strictly optional.

Nope, it's just hidden on the home screen where you're already as far "back" as you can go.

The back button shows up when you open an app.

Probably the same way it works on iPhone, where developers incorporate navigation into the apps.

Until apps adapt what is one supposed to do?

Nothing. It's still there. It's just hidden when it wouldn't do anything.

I can see the back button in two of the screenshots.

The back button is not gone. Yet.

RTT does sound really cool. Their application in a mall is definitely interesting. I wonder how well it works with multi-floor though. And how accurate it can be.

Meraki's control software is sort of able to triangulate a device, but because how spotty WiFi can be sometimes, it's absolutely not perfect.

If I remember correctly, developers had to do it manually themselves before. It was considered a best practice

As a developer working with an app that integrates fingerprint authentication - thank god for BiometricPrompt! It sounds awesome - finally a cross-OEM official API to do fingerprint auth with one callback and with a uniform, "standard" UI. Does anyone have any idea if and when will it be backported to the support library?

Surprised not to see mention of the cutout stuff yet. It seems pretty dumb to me that Google is jumping on board with this ridiculous feature. Maybe this'll be one of those Dropbox-style HN comments which in hindsight looks misled, but I honestly can't find any redeeming factors to the cutout idea.

Except developers being able to properly support their apps around it? OEMs have decided to add notches, want it or not. Not having a API to work with them would be a huge pain.

The purpose of AOSP Android has always been to lower fragmentation. If every OEM implements their own notch handling, then apps have no chance to properly support every single implementation. Google providing a standard way will greatly help the ecosystem. To give a really awful analogy, think of providing clean needles to drug addicts. It doesn't necessary mean you approve, but the benefits are bigger.

People loved it when Apple did it which gave everyone else the okay to go ahead and do it themselves. It allows phone manafacturers to advertise higher screen to body ratios and is really just a step in the progression towards bezelless phones. There's definitely a loud group of people who strongly dislike it but I think most people are okay with it

the progression towards bezelless phones

I hope not. The bezel has a very real purpose: a place to hold it without your fingers interfering with the screen, whether by activating a touch or just plain blocking the view. I have an older Android with ~5mm of bezel on all the sides and ~8mm of thickness, and trying to get a good grip while not activating or blocking the screen is hard enough. I remember being handed an iPhone 6, and trying not to drop it was the most difficult part. Holding something that thin is just not comfortable, as is trying to pick it up off a flat surface.

I use to agree, but I would except most devices to account for this. I'd except a virtual bezel or software controlled dead space around the edge of the phone.

You'd basically push buttons and the status bar into the bezel, then use the sides much like the Galaxy Edge does.

I've never had, or heard of this been a problem with the iPhone X, and I know plenty of people who use it with a case or without a case.

Just have to comment that for myself a notch would be a deal beaker for a new device. I've played with a couple devices and really think it adds no actual value while complicating the user interface. I will avoid it as long as I can.

How does it complicate the UI for you?

This link displays it best:


In short there is a 4 notification icon limit now with the clock on the left, whether you have a notch or not. I often have a lot more than 4 notification icons up (esp since a couple are permanent from background apps) and the rest will just disappear under a dot-dot icon.

Wait. Everything has notch support, even if the device doesn't have a notch? That's odd, right? Given the notch is still an exception? Although they could make the status icons (top) tilt 90 degrees so they are usable from within landscape yet remain on their position

Yep, seems the compromises they have made for notches are global across all devices which to me is a UI mistake.

People didn’t “love it” they tolerated it

Because it is a trade off between the largest, consistent screen size, having a front camera, and a notch (that's how we call it, this is the first time I see the term cutoff).

I dislike the notch, but it isn't very annoying. You still got your status stuff on the top left and right. However, if I'd be having my device in landscape it'd thoroughly annoy me no matter what. It destroys the device symmetry!! However landscape is a niche for me; I don't watch many videos.

I do think your comment hits the nail though. Apple gets away with all kind of innovations: TouchBar, butterfly keyboard, no 3.5 mm...

The notch is in a separate category. It was definitely a natural necessary technical compromise. For ergonomic reasons, a phone can only be so large, but you also want the screen as large as possible. There is an argument to be made for getting rid of the headphone jack to increase the room available in the phone.

The butterfly keyboard was an unnecessary attempt at thinness. The laptop did not need to be thinner for ergonomic reasons.

The touchbsr generates a lot of nerd rage but most people don’t really care about the function keys.

Some phones which had 3.5mm jack removed have been opened; they actually easily had room for the jack.

Essential Phone had a notch before Apple. Didn't have Apple's Mindshare though.

The essential added first it and it was ok to do not have an API for it since it was a very small cutout.

But now that Apple has sadly made cutouts ok, OEMs are going to implement them whether we like them or not.

I really hope that they are a fad that dies in a quick although very painful fire BUT right now Google needs to add support for it.

Which they did.

I can't remember where I read it, but the theory is if you're a manufacturer who wants glass/displays in any quantity at the moment, you get a notch or you don't get a display at all. Blame the supply chain.

Funny. My Essential already has the update, but my pixel doesn't. Go figure...

My pixel 2 sees it.

I strongly suspect that this is a gradual rollout. Maybe that force checking if an update is available allows to force enroll ? that's how I saw the update and I now that Google has moved in this direction for the most impatient users.

You are correct. If you force check for an update, then it lets you update to Android Pie. I assume that the gradual rollout will send notifications to phones that it's available.

Force check on my Pixel 2 did not work =(

Ah well. That proves me the hell wrong then. Bad luck, try again tomorrow XD. FeelsBadMan.

Interesting that the Digital Wellbeing features that were teased at IO aren't being launched today, but part of _another_ beta that you have to opt in to. (And Pixel series only?)

It's almost like they're there to satisfy some strategist in Google so they can say to governments that they're trying, while not actually believing there's any issue and with zero chance of any user take-up.

It seems like tracking began with the last beta update which I installed on July 30th if I remember correctly.


By the time Android P actually makes it to non-Pixel devices, the beta will have long since ended, so this doesn't really matter.

Android P is available for the Essential phone[0] the same day as the Pixel. Technically, every device in that was enrolled in the Android P beta could have also had it day one.


Yup. I've got Android P on my Essential PH-1 right now. I'm bummed I don't have the wellbeing features that were promised.

It's crazy that in 2018 we are still using GIFs to do short animated demo.

Those few "images" in the article were ~40Mb, come on.

It is amazing how each new version of Android has a complete new UX and none of them are actually good. Google is basically a back-end company incapable of doing good UX (if it is more than a search bar).

Every update has improved the UI. I think its way better then ios.

I have a more negative view. The entire Android development experience is substandard from front to back. The entire framework feels over engineered and bloated no matter which system or API it is.

This. I am a React Native developer, while working on a lot of backend things, bridging native API's to JS, I must say the developer experience on iOS is absolutely fantastic. Made me switch from Pixel to iPhone X, I've had android since the Google Nexus One, so yeah longtime Android user.

I would certainly not call the iOS developer experience fantastic. Xcode lacks basic IDE code editing features. Compiling Swift is slow and still somewhat buggy. Interface builder is next to useless for building complex apps decomposed into reusable components. Provisioning and signing is not as bad as it used to be but you can still get off in the weeds for an hour fixing issues there.

It might be a better developer experience than Android overall but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

I would agree with you, but after spending the last two years using an Android phone after almost a decade using iOS, I feel that Google has made some fundamentally bad decisions below the UI layer as well. Despite using a phone that is newer and more powerful, my Android phone is slower, less responsive and runs out of battery much faster than any of my iPhones.

The only reason I stay with Android is Google Fi.

I wholeheartedly disagree. I tried using both the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X and none of them came close to the Pixel 2, UX and feature wise. I couldn't download files, couldn't even change my ringtone to a custom melody, couldn't attach files coorectly, the integration with their Maps app was awful, the battery life drained faster after one update... I just felt so limited!

iPhone X seems like a bunch of clever but costly gimmicks to fix a self inflicted problem. Instead of just moving the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phone they got rid of it entirely and replaced it with FaceID and this new gesture based interface. It's an impressive piece of technology but a step backward in UX overall.

I find my Pixel 2 XL more usable and reliable than my iPhone X and Project Fi has saved me countless hours sitting in phone shop offices waiting for SIM cards in every new country I visit. The UI may not be quite as snappy as my iPhone but I don't feel it really holds back my use of the device at all and battery life is actually better and it recharges faster.

I do think this new gesture stuff they added to Android P is kind of dumb though and seems like a cheap and failed effort to copy some buzz from Apple.

Does anyone know if Final Cut Pro X or Premiere Pro (or other popular video editing tools) yet support encoding to the "HDR VP9 Profile 2" ?

(HDR VP9 Profile 2 is isted as a new feature, as per "Android 9 adds built-in support for HDR VP9 Profile 2, so you can now deliver HDR-enabled movies to your users on HDR-capable devices." yet I wonder if this is effectively a telco-friendly video codec not widely used by media publishers or creators?)

I don't think publishing to a single specific profile is an appropriate use of a desktop video editing application. It's like typesetting a paperback book by pressing "print" from Microsoft Word.

You should be exporting a "master" file from your editor and getting your delivery platform (or at minimum a dedicated transcoding app) to output to the various profiles.

Also, exporting HDR content isn't as simple as changing your export setting. HDR changes the way you handle content from the earliest moments of data capture; the real question is how you choose to crush the high dynamic range down to a standard dynamic range for everyone else.

Yeah, all good points, although sometimes one just needs to export a file or two (as opposed to setting up a publishing workflow or a system).

And Compressor for Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Media Encoder CC for Premiere Pro CC are effectively integrated (or some of the export code) for such a function - or are launched via the apps when you ‘Export’ or ‘Share’, although this can depend upon your CC plan or whether you have purchased/installed Compressor, or not.

The ‘crushing the HDR’ is a good point, I’ll have to look up how this codec handles DR and colour gamet :)

Feels kind of lazy going with "Pie" after having used "Key Lime Pie" in the past. Though technically not a dessert, I was rooting for "Pancake".

It was changed from KLP to Kitkat though. So Pie was never used.

Disc: Googler but nowhere close to Android.

I was rooting for "Pumpkin Pie", a nice alliterative two-word name. And not trademarked! :)

Peppermint was the obvious choice in my book

Surprised with the naming, did Google just miss a great opportunity for collaborating with candy manufacturers like they did with Nestle for Android 4.4 'KitKat'?

Only KitKat and Oreo have been branded. The rest have been generic dessert names.

That was a pretty strange and off putting piece of marketing, IMO.

me too, but what would be a world-renowned candy that starts with 'P'?

Pie seems consistent with their infatuation of the number and it just makes sense from a dessert naming perspective.


Why not Popsicle? It doesn't have to be strictly candy.

I was pulling for (unbranded) Petit four


Android 1.1 was called Petit Four

I've been living in France for 16 years and eaten a lot of petits fours. Today I learned that they can be sweet? I've never seen somebody use the term for sweet foot.

I live in Australia and I only ever see petits fours used to describe small sweet morsels served at the end of fine dining (a three course meal, a tasting menu or degustation) often delivered with your order of coffee or tea.



Peanut Brittle



> Popsicle

Wait what, did someone trademark this name?

Yes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popsicle_(brand)

It was invented by Frank Epperson, who left stirring sticks in fruit juice that was left to freeze. He called it the Eppsicle, as a combination of Epperson + icicle, but his kids started calling it "Popsicle" (as they called him Pop), and the name stuck. The name is now owned by Unilever.

Given the number of times the post mentions Machine Learning (ML), I'm surprised they didn't skip the P for Pie and go straight to naming it Android ML ;)

Even in Pie, "Adaptive Brightness" is terrible. The display often abruptly drops in brightness for seemingly no reason. I think I could do better with a photocell and an opamp.

> App Actions is a new way to raise the visibility of your app and drive engagement. Actions take advantage of machine learning to surface your app to the user at just the right time, based on your app's semantic intents and the user's context.

Aside from the unnecessary jargon, this irks me how it portrays the user as some passive consumer. It really drives home how Google is, first and foremost, an advertising company.

Compare Apple's ad copy: https://developer.apple.com/ios

> Siri can now intelligently pair users’ daily routines with your apps to suggest convenient shortcuts right when they’re needed. Use the Shortcuts API to help users quickly accomplish tasks related to your app, directly from the lock screen, in Search, or from the Siri watch face.

See how this is much more respectful of the user, by treating her as an active entity? Overall, Apple's copy is less jargon-y and terrible too: https://developer.apple.com/ios/whats-new.

You're reading a developer blog.

The Android.com page is more similar to Apple's:

> App Actions predicts what you’re about to do, so you get to your next task more quickly. If you do something like connect your headphones, the playlist you were listening to earlier is front and center. [1]

[1] https://www.android.com/versions/pie-9-0/

> You're reading a developer blog.

Both things that I quoted are for developers:

> Siri can now intelligently pair users’ daily routines with your apps to suggest convenient shortcuts right when they’re needed.

The Android.com copy you quote, by contrast, is directed to users ("connect your headphones").

I don't really see any difference besides what appears to be your own personal bias.

Google markets how a feature "drives engagement." Apple talks about how it "help users quickly accomplish tasks."

You're comparing developer marketing materials which should show the reason devs would want this vs human marketing materials?

I get apple is for developers too but they word things in the most utopian way it's almost like they believe they're in a Utopia.

They're both "developer marketing materials." And Apple's marketing materials aren't "utopian." They're how developer marketing materials have always been written--in a user-centric way because the point of computers is to help humans do things.

Even Balmer-era Microsoft never put out developer materials with anything as user-hostile as saying that a feature "drives engagement." It's a Freudian slip revealing that in the Google ecosystem, the user is the product, not the customer.

Google speaks marketing speak, which isn't a strike against them. They worded it honestly, it's an opportunity for apps to be useful and have more activity for developers. Apple only focuses on it's vision of a power user on Apple having flexibility. It a nice vision but it's not the reality I see on iOS. On Android at least this was already a thing for years since notifications can be app slices.

It's all dependent on frame of reference. Nobody reads Google's developer blog looking for user centric stuff, it's being pitched to devs and their metrics

Some devs. My metrics are about helping the user achieve their goal, not fishing for engagement.

I'm with you. Google writes it like they're trying to exploit the user. Apple writes it like they're working to help the user. They're both working toward the same goal, but it definitely speaks to how they're designing Android (for the app ecosystem, not the user).

One could easily construe this with the bias reversed, and say that Google tries to be transparent, while Apple is actively deceptive.

Oh, that thing where iOS shows a oarticular app icon on the dock that I don't want there, but then hides it again before I have to remove it. Gee, thanks for that Siri. I guess the Android version will also have no Off switch for the user.

just my opinion: i dislike Android's new use of the word 'action', because, from a developer perspective, there's already another, longstanding meaning attached to that word.

>Aside from the unnecessary jargon, this irks me how it portrays the user as some passive consumer. It really drives home how Google is, first and foremost, an advertising company.

It's amusing that you're taking a quote from the Android Developer blog (a blog, you know, for developers) and trying to misconstrue it as a public facing comment for users.

Here's their public facing comment that is aimed at users:

Android 9 also helps you get things done faster with App Actions, which predicts what you’ll want to do next based on your context and displays that action right on your phone. Say it’s Tuesday morning and you’re preparing for your commute: you’ll be suggested actions like navigating to work on Google Maps or resuming an audiobook with Google Play Books. And when you put in headphones after work, you may see options to call your mom or start your favorite Spotify playlist.


> It's amusing that you're taking a quote from the Android Developer blog (a blog, you know, for developers) and trying to misconstrue it as a public facing comment for users.

I did no such thing--to the contrary, my point is that how Google talks about users "behind their back" reveals a lot about how it views users as passive eyeballs. Note that the Apple copy I linked is from Apple's developer site as well.

This is just our own bias. Apple dumbs down their marketing to users.

"It's nice!" ... or at least that's what I would say if my phone wasn't limited to Android 7.0

I was worried my S5 was doomed to Lineage 14.1 forever, but some saint dev ported it to 15.1 last month.

LTE doesn't work, but hey, 15.1.

Whats really scary is that the official Samsung Touchwiz ROM stopped getting updates two years ago and is stuck on 5.1 I think. Ain't it great when hobbyists support a device for over 3 major revisions past when the billion dollar manufacturer that made it stopped updating it less than five years after it was released.

>LTE doesn't work, but hey, 15.1

Ah, XDA, where critical features become optional.

Thank you for writing this. I'll stay on 14.1 till it's fixed.

I was just hoping for them to retire those stupid round adaptive icons. They did not.

Also it's not clear if the old style of switching "opened" apps will still be there? Because the new one with the full screen preview seems more flashy but less practical(think alt+tab vs win+tab on Windows).

I think the idea was good, it's just too bad so many apps (many by Google) went the lazy path of leaving the icon as-is and adding a white background layer.

Also note that they're only circular on Pixel.

To be fair the API given is pretty c*p when you have to target older Androids as well (and don't want to give them an uglier icon). If I remember right I had to simplify the icon as well (remove transparency I think) because Android doesn't like many things that are okay in svgs.

I just used Android Studio to generate the icon for older versions. Yes, I would assume no transparency, since it needs to be a simple single-layered image, AFAIK.


I don't know, they are round by default on my OP5.

I'm really against the idea of having a uniform shape for all apps, it makes it harder to quickly locate them.

So use another launcher which allows you to customize that? Nova is very popular and gives you what you want.

Throw on developer mode and you can change these to anything you want, it's built into the launcher.

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