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Android App Development: The Evolution  

October 29, 2014

Another week of tense discussions, task reviews and meetings went by. Between all this I occasionally slipped into the thought of where our work was headed with so many developments going on around me. Google recently released Lollipop, the 13th major release on Android and it’s been a ritual to update myself and my peers. So I decided to explore the platform and see what’s in store for developers like me. The platform has new, more fluid animations, a cleaner design with a bolder color palette, a revamped multitasking menu, and also offers new ways to interact with voice.

With earlier Google sdk versions our apps were mainly on Mobile phones. Most of our lives revolved around the various apps installed on our phones that helped us stay in touch with limited realities, but with Lollipop moving more towards wearables (smart watch), television and even vehicles, we are headed for a totally new experience, a world of connected possibilities and extrapolated realities.

Let’s get into what is therein for us to envision an exciting future of possibilities.

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The Features:

Lollipop features Material design, which carries a common look across various devices such as cars, Televisions, Watches as well as with the core Android smartphones and tablets. It also features enhanced notifications, personal unlocking, Device sharing, Quick Settings and Android television support.

One of the key features is the Improved Cross-Device Interaction: Lollipop is all about unifying your Android experience across your smartphone, tablet or smart watch (Apple fans might say we did it long time back, but it’s on Android and it’s going to be available to the masses). Android Lollipop will now let you pick up where you left off by syncing your songs, photos, apps and recent searches. The system is also optimized for each of your devices, so you’ll just see your emails as they arrive on your smartwatch, but you’ll get your inbox alongside the message on your tablet’s bigger screen.

The Evolution of Android App Development:

It’s been a wonderful journey. But now let’s go back in time when T-Mobile’s G1 first launched in 2008, the phone only had a small selection of free apps. Since Android’s humble beginnings, the entire face of mobile and android application development has drastically changed. And that’s why it’s vital for developers and mobile marketers to fully understand how Android apps have changed and what the future holds for the world of mobile development.

Location aware apps are continuing to become more popular in 2014. Users love apps that help them locally with travel, shopping, dining, finding friends and even tracking their car and it is the multitude of Android applications that continue to make the most of built-in GPS features.

The Villains of smarterphone experience namely Battery drain, slow performance and delayed graphics all help developers back. Any apps that required fast interactions or utilized multiple features of the phone created a horrible user experience. With the release of Gingerbread (Android 2.3.3 and 2.3.4), developers had access to advanced video drivers, more efficient event handling for less CPU strain and the concurrent garbage collector for smoother and more responsive apps.

Honeycomb (Android 3.x) introduced a complete redesign for Android users with a much richer interface, better widgets and many features that Android developers use today. Animations between objects, better control over graphics, high-performance 3D effects, performance boosts for all apps, in-app drag and drop and better notifications are just a few of the much needed features developers needed to create stunning apps and help boost the Android marketplace.

Google continued to improve upon the Android OS and available developer tools with the releases of Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0 and 4.0.3), Jelly Bean (Android 4.1 – 4.3) and KitKat (Android 4.4). Users were able to experience real-time interactivity without delays, advanced screen orientation modes, better animations than ever before, improved CPU usage, geo-location features, improved notifications, better network management, high-quality media and of course, multi-touch.

Android 5.0 is using a new Android Runtime called ART, which makes apps encoded and compiled to run on a mobile device once they’ve been installed, rather than the Davlik JIT way it was done before. This is quite technical, but in previous versions of Android the OS and phone had to compile and prepare each app “Just in time” as you launch them, turn code into a working app, then launch the app.

With ART it’s all done when it is installed, then saved, and apps now all load quicker than ever before. It isn’t a huge difference, but apps open extremely quick, the animation as they take up the full screen is fluid and smooth, and overall we’ve had zero issues. Most apps are compatible with ART with no changes, and the few that aren’t have been updated since ART was announced as a test feature in Android 4.4 KitKat last year.

Android development is constantly changing. The more advanced the OS and hardware, the more possibilities for apps. The best way to make your Organization’s app stand out is to build upon the best features Android has to offer while incorporating trends and letting your creativity run free. Let loose your imagination and build the unseen, unheard interactive app and Thank Google for Lollipop!

 

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About Author; Binish Balakrishnan is  an Android Product Engineering Team Lead at July Systems. He has been working in Android Development since 2011.