The Importance of Android

Android is an open-source and Linux-based operating system for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers.

Android offers a unified approach to application development for mobile devices which means developers need only develop for Android, and their applications should be able to run on different devices powered by Android.

The first beta version of the Android Software Development Kit (SDK) was released by Google in 2007 whereas the first commercial version, Android 1.0, was released in September 2008.

On June 27, 2012, at the Google I/O conference, Google announced the next Android version, 4.1 Jelly Bean. Jelly Bean is an incremental update, with the primary aim of improving the user interface, both in terms of functionality and performance.

The source code for Android is available under free and open-source software licenses. Google publishes most of the code under the Apache License version 2.0 and the rest, Linux kernel changes, under the GNU General Public License version 2.

Android software development is the process by which applications are created for devices running the Android operating system. Android apps can be written using Kotlin, Java, and C++ languages using the Android software development kit (SDK), while using other languages is also possible. All non-JVM languages, such as Go, JavaScript, C, C++, or assembly, need the help of JVM language code that may be supplied by tools, likely with restricted API support. Some programming languages and tools allow cross-platform app support (i.e. for both Android and iOS).

Android development environments and language support for it have also continued to evolve and expand since the initial SDK was released in 2008. The official Android app distribution mechanism to end-users is Google Play; it also allows staged gradual app release, as well as distribution of pre-release app versions to testers.

It’s an official integrated environment for Android app development that lets you easily edit code, debug, and test.

Created in 2013, it made a splash and unseated Eclipse Android Development Tools like the one and only IDE for native Android apps.

The downside is that it only supports Java and C/C++, Kotlin (with dependency). If you are building an app in Kotlin, go with another Android IDE.

  • Stetho: Stetho is an open-source library developed by Facebook and designed for quick application debugging.
  • IntelliJ IDEA: JetBrains created a Java IDE with Android support. It’s a good alternative to Android Studio, mainly used for simpler apps. IntelliJIDEA is fast and comes with a variety of development tools right out of the box: smart code completion, instant code analysis, refactoring, and JetBrains plugins.
  • Source Tree: A simple and free tool that provides an easy way to manage Git repositories using Git GUI. You can visually visualize all your changes, commits, branches without having to write even a single command in the command line. Available for Mac and Windows users.
  • Unity 3D: Creating mobile games, you can turn to a cross-platform engine with a wealth of features for graphically intensive and VR/AR games. It’s fine to stick with Android Studio or IntelliJ IDEA for developing games, but Unity is will provide more tailored-to-game-development tools, such as storytelling, next-level performance profiling, real-time rendering, and many more.
  • GameMaker: Studio: This is one of the most popular game engines from YoYo games that allows you to develop 2D games for Android and other platforms. GameMaker: Studio is a powerful yet simple, easy-to-use tool with a convenient drag-and-drop interface. It’s also a good tool to kick off your game development career.

Some Best Practices

When you start the Android Development, you do not maintain the coding standard and do not follow any architecture. After adding more and more features, you start facing the following problems:

  1. Difficulties in the addition of new features.
  2. Introduction of more bugs.
  3. Overall slow development.

These problems can be avoided by following the coding standard and following some architecture in your Android project. Learn about the Android Application Architecture from the following resources:

  1. MVP Architecture.
  2. MVVM Architecture.
  3. Mastering Design Patterns in Android with Kotlin.

Best Practices to follow

  • Always maintain the code quality: Quality matters a lot. It’s not only about MVP/MVVM/MVC/etc., but also about each piece of code in each part of your app.
  • Detect and Fix memory leaks in Android App: Like Out Of Memory Error in Android Application.
  • Use Proguard in your release version: This will remove all your unused code, which will reduce APK size.
  • Use debugging tools: I highly recommend using Android Debug Database This library will be your best friend. It is a powerful library for debugging databases and shared preferences in Android applications. It’s a very simple tool for viewing databases and shared preferences directly in your browser.
  • Use strings.xml: Adding text as string resources is always useful in the long run, especially when support for new languages needs to be added.
  • Create separate layouts for UI elements that will be re-used: Then use the include tag in XML. Another handy tag is the tag. It acts as a pseudo parent and helps get rid of an unneeded root ViewGroup.
  • Place launcher icons in mipmap-folders: When we build separate APKs for different densities, for the APK of the particular density, the drawable folders for other densities get stripped. This will make the icons appear blurry on devices that use launcher icons of higher density. Since mipmap folders do not get stripped, it’s always best to use them for including the launcher icons.
  • Use shapes and selectors instead of images as much as possible: Using shapes and selectors will further reduce APK size.
  • Avoid deep levels in layouts: A deep hierarchy of views makes your UI slow, not to mention making it harder to manage your layouts. Deep hierarchies can mostly be avoided by using the correct ViewGroup. Use Constraint Layout.
  • Use HTTP library: Use 3rd party HTTP like Retrofit, Volley, or Fast Android Networking, depending on your use case.
  • Use the Parcelable class instead of Serializable when passing data in Intents or Bundles: The serialization of an object that implements the Parcelable interface is much faster than using Java’s default serialization. A class that implements the Serializable interface is marked as serializable, and Java serializes it using reflection (which makes it slow). When using the Parcelable interface, the whole object doesn’t get serialized automatically. Rather, you can selectively add data from the object to a Parcel using which the object is later deserialized. Similarly, you can consider the Parcelable in Kotlin.
  • Perform file operations off the UI thread: File operations should always be performed on a background thread, typically by using RxJava, Kotlin-Coroutines. They take time, and if done on the UI thread can make the interface feel sluggish. In situations where they block the UI thread for 5 seconds, an Application Not Responding warning will be triggered and shown to the user.
  • Understand Bitmaps: As it takes a huge amount of memory, it can lead to OOM easily. Users love content! Especially when the content is well-formatted and looks nice. Images, for instance, are extremely nice content, mainly due to their property of conveying a thousand words per image. They also consume a lot of memory.
  • Understand the Context in Android: Learning what is the Context in Android and using it correctly is important to avoid memory leaks in Android.
  • Use styles to avoid duplicate attributes in layout XMLs: If you want to avoid duplicate attributes, use styles.
  • Use Activity LifeCycle correctly: When you use the Activity lifecycle correctly, you can solve most of the problems in Android App Development.
  • Always include unit tests: This is the most important part of application development. I recommend running unit tests on the JVM because it’s much faster than running them on the Android device itself or an emulator. If you need to mock some objects while testing, use Mockito.Use the Dependency Injection Framework(Dagger) in your Android Project to make testing easier.
  • Always include functional UI tests: Functional tests check the functionality of your app from the user’s point of view. They launch your app and test its functionality.
  • Optimize your build speed: Long build times slow down your development process. Start optimizing for the build speed.
  • Secure your Android Application: Android app can be easily decompiled, reverse-engineered. It’s your responsibility to make your Android app secure as much as you can. By making your app more secure, you help preserve user trust and device integrity.
  • Make your Android application bug-free: Always integrate a crash reporting library like Firebase Crashlytics in your application. Develop the ability to read through the crash reports to evolve a better and bug-free app for the users.
  • Use proven libraries instead of your own solutions: In general, use proven libraries instead of your own solutions.
  • Add Analytics to Your Android Application: Check if you have added the correct analytics at all the places where you had meant. The best way to check is that just think of what data you need and what are the metrics you want to measure, see if you can get those data and metrics from the analytics that you have added or not. If you are able to get all of those then you are good to go.
  • Develop for all devices: Do not develop for only one device. Develop for all devices.

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Shashi Kiran

Senior Android Developer

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