Google Android is the world’s most popular operating system, with a market share of almost 80% of mobile devices . In June 2019, there were 3.1 million apps available in the Google Play store – more than a million than in the Apple Store.

At Built to Roam, we are of the opinion that the best option for app development is cross-platform development. However, if there are reasons forcing you to choose to develop only for Android, then this article, a deep dive into Android app development, offers valuable insight into the process.

Creating an Android app follows the familiar design, build, test, release cycle that most applications and web sites follow, but uses tools, languages and terminology specific to Android.

The fundamentals you need to know about Android app development include:

  • Programming language with Kotlin, Java and C++.
  • Integrated Development Environment (IDE) like Android Studio, Eclipse or IntelliJIDEA.
  • Libraries and frameworks like Picasso, Realm or Android Jetpack.
  • Applications components including:
    – Activities,
    – Services,
    – Content,
    – Broadcast receivers.

There are benefits to working with Android. An Android app can be built for far more devices than iOS, so you can expect a high ROI with a lower investment cost.

Android programming languages are used by a significant amount of developers around the world, so time to market for an Android app can sometimes be quicker.

Android app development – the specifications

Android Software Development Kit (SDK) and IDE, the low-down

To start developing an Android app, download Android Studio, which is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE). Android Studio comes with the entire Android SDK and is by far the easiest way to install and update the Android SDK. This software provides the tools to write, build and test your app.

Some of the popular IDEs are:

  • Android Studio – Google’s free official IDE, combining code editing, debugging and testing tools. As Google created Android Studio, apps developed using this interface are optimised to perfectly work on Android devices.
  • IntelliJIDEA – highly customisable and open source community supported. The tool is designed for a productivity purpose – the developers complete their task quicker thanks to the suggestions code available in every context.
  • Eclipse – The primary Android IDE for native Android App development before Android Studio. Many developers still use it today to create cross-platform apps as it can work with various programming languages.
  • GameMaker Studio – Tool to create game apps with very little code.
  • Cordova – best for creating hybrid mobile apps with HTML, CSS & JS.
  • Visual Studio – a development environment to build cross-platform apps using Xamarin.

What are the languages used to develop an Android mobile app?

While Java, or even C++, has long been the staple language for programming Android apps, Kotlin is a newcomer that is rapidly gaining ground. Kotlin is an open-source programming language developed by JetBrains and now supported by Google for developing Android apps. It has become the preferred language for many Android app developers thanks to an effective coding experience. Its big advantage is that it enables multi-platform programming. Kotlin also identifies issues in compile time rather than run time like Java.

What libraries and frameworks are available for Android app development?

Libraries and frameworks are collections of pre-written code to speed up your app development. They offer functions you can call to handle processes like user interaction, database control or security management.

Android Jetpack is a Google collection offering Android elements like data binding and architecture components. As it is updated more frequently, it replaces the need for the Android Support library. Developers use Android Jetpack, following its best practices and focusing on the codes that matter most.

Android app components – what are they?

Components are the building blocks of an Android application. There are 4 main types of app components serving a distinct purpose:

  1. Activities. The activity component deals with the user interface and user interactions with the screen. Activities are independent of one another but all form the user experience.
  2. Services. The service component lets your app perform background tasks with a user interface by being combined with an activity.
  3. Broadcast receivers. The broadcast receiver component responds to messages from other applications or from the system.
  4. Content providers. The content provider component transfers data from one application to another. It also writes and reads private data.

Android app: Developing and publishing

The Android development guidelines are valuable resources. While you can find a lot of these resources online, we recommend you start with Google Services allowing you to learn more about the latest Google-powered features. The API guides and a sample code library also permit you to grow the idea and better determine your future app.

The Android design guidelines have information on all the devices available with Android, the specific patterns to understand the building blocks of your app and the material design with Google’s very own visual language.

Testing on Google Android

One of the issues with Android app development compared to coding for iOS is that the testing time is longer and more complex. Android runs on such a wide variety of devices whereas there are a defined number of Apple devices available.

However, you can test your app on an emulator, such as the one in Android Studio, which runs automated functional tests on your app.

Is your Android app ready? Compile your package.

When you’ve finished programming your app, compile your code, along with data and resource files (like images, audio files, fonts) into an APK file – a release-ready optimised Android package.

This packages everything up into one file so that’s all you need to distribute. You can use the Gradle build system directly from Android Studio.

Submit your Android app to Google Play Store

First, create a Developer Account, using your Google Account login details, and agree with the distribution agreement. For a one-off fee of $25 USD, you can submit as many apps as you like to the Google Play Store.

If your app requires a payment functionality, create a merchant account through the Google Play Console.

When filling out the Google content rating questionnaire, it is important to know in which category fits your app . Your application will go through an automated review process, so include as much detail as possible and provide explanative promotional graphics.

Cross-platform development

While Android has the lion’s share of the market, it’s still important to develop for other platforms as well. This means multiplying your resources and costs for each platform.

You might want to consider cross-platform development to reduce the total cost of development as well as the time to get your app to market. By using cross-platform development software, like Xamarin.Forms or Flutter, you only need to write the code for your mobile app once and then compile and run it on each platform.

Cross-platform tools have evolved rapidly to be a viable and, in a lot of cases, stronger, more efficient, alternative to developing native apps. Australian app development company Built to Roam are the Sydney-based experts in cross-platform development, getting your app to market faster and keeping your costs under control.

Want to know more about cross-platform development?

Talk to us today.