Android Development Restarted

It has been quite a while since I touched an Android phone the last time for code projects. I got in contact first time with an Android phone during an open source conference in 2008 in Sydney when I met Chris DiBona (Director of Open Source at Google). Announcing the SDK 1.0. Soon after I got the G1, aka HTC Dream phone which was the first Android phone available. I could not even imagine this platform would be so widespread adopted and pushed in the years to come. I was even thinking about the investment that time, spending a few hundred dollars on a phone that might be just a experiment. In 2010 I also bought the Nexus One.

Anyway I created some apps for personal use, experimented with the apps market but due to other development and work focus lost it out of sight and just remained normal Android user.

Now my interest returned, at least to update my knowledge about this technology. Today things are becoming a bit easier (IDE, documentation) but also more complex, mainly due to the massive range of devices and manufacturers which makes screen design quite challenging, but also to security concerns as more spam and junk apps are around, users are no longer so flexible with the app security settings.

Coding becomes more convenient, now Android got its own IDE, the Android Studio. After an initial download and subsequent additional downloads of required packages you can start with your projects straight away.

With Ubuntu just just download the linux package, make sure you have a JDK installed, and execute the studio.sh shellscript in the bin folder.

Android Studio

Android Studio

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OpenSource Hardware

OSS is nothing really new anymore, even Microsoft announced 60% of their software (they use!) is OSS. But OpenSource Hardware is still fairly new, at least on a broader market. Over the years I read about various initiatives to launch this kind of products. I believe only geeks and hackers are attracted by hardware they can build, program and configure to their needs and ideas. Many years back I did some electronics (during my studies), but often started from the scratch with simple stuff to control household devices, as simple as dimming the light with a remote, etc.

I came across the Arduino board which gives you a micro-controller platform that you can connect to your Windows, Mac or Linux desktop to program it and let it run independently. It is all open and documented, you can control something simple like a LED but can go to the extend of reading acceleration, temperature, controlling cameras, an almost infinitive field of appliances. Google for Arduino projects and you find amazing stuff, built on top of a 29$ device.

I recommend at least some basic knowledge of electronics, but even without any clue, you can get started, there are plenty of books and websites with tutorials.

Get started here: www.arduino.cc and buy the device from here, and if you live in Singapore from SGBotics.

Arduino Platform

Thoughts about Android

What is still missing in the market (the official Android Market) ?

  1. Language filter
    Now with a total number of apps beyond 150.000 it becomes harder by the day to find apps. Time to release a feature that allows to search apps in one (or more) languages. It does not help to browse through Chinese or Korean or Spanish apps (depending on your mother tongue).

    Language Filter ?

  2. Dates Added and Last Updated for apps
    There is currently no way to identify when an app was added or when it was updated last time. There are too many apps which are outdated or not maintained any longer (I have one app with 250.000 + downloads without an update since more than one year, despite obvious bugs). Maybe create an automatic flag “this app was not update for more than 12/24 months” so user dont waste their time looking at it, or even filter it out. Of course there are alos stable apps that dont need to be updated.
    PS: You can see the changelog with www.androidzoom.com, I guesss they maintain it independently.
  3. Sandbox for “Hello World” and “Test” apps
    Give the developer community a sandbox area where they (we) can do our tests and fooling around with features. The noise factor for the real apps gets higher and higher. OK, you dont search for “hello world”, but it would help doing the housekeeping.

    Test App

    Hello World

More statistics

Made some more statistics just by looking at the number of apps within one month (using the frontpage of androidzoom.com).
Of the roughly 175.000 apps, only 12% are games. There is a vast number of apps disappearing every month. Look at wallpapers and cards games.
I doubt many developers actively remove their apps from the market, so who else is doing it ? Are so many apps flagged by users or is Google looking at IP infringement at last ? (How many wallpapers can you count of movies and cartoons which are definitely NOT licensed by the respective owner?)
Look at it by yourself..

Homemadde statistics

Android Investigations (3)

You remember my recent ranting about the noise ratio in the market, with same apps showing up hundred’s of times ? I checked further on “Boost The Cat” and obviously our friend with 8 different names/pseudonyms submits the exact same app 30 times in each account. You will 250 versions of Boost the Cat ! Hoping for users to click the Google ads in the app. If only 10 users a day click the approach proofs him right and the noise level in the market will increase more.
The guy is uploading the same app as update every day, you will always find it under “Just in”.

Boost The Cat Spam

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Android Investigations (2)

Not enough with the foul play from the previous part, developer also hook on current affairs, like catastrophes and incidents.

Let’s search in the market for “japan nuclear”. We find about 50 apps with these keywords. There are lot of good apps, or apps with good intention, showing current radiation level, etc. Most of them are free. This shows apps can be useful, even in bad days.

But now look at the other side of the medal, some developer try to make cash with apps covering some kind of radiation apps, or try to promote poor games with the crises. Let me put one thing straight, if your app is paid and you donate the revenue to the Japan rebuild/crisis efforts, it is perfectly fine, if not you should be ashamed.
How can I verify if the app is charity related ?

Apps covering the Japan nuclear crisis

Apps covering Japan nuclear crisis

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Android Investigations

I love to examine the physics of the Android market, specifically since it is open and there is no controlling, approving or censoring authority (like the other shop from the fruit department). Anything can be submitted to the market, as long it is not breaking some basic rules and no one flag it as inappropriate (even then I am curious who looks at the flagged apps).

Quite often I browse through news apps and games to see how other developers start new apps in the market, to get ideas and gather more insights of the market ecosystem. I came across another pattern for some new apps, specifically homebew ones. The way the developer try to promote his app by self-praise. This can be achieved by..

App name and description, Keywords and Developer Name

Now you can see more apps with a title including the words free, best, cool,..

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Android Samsung Galaxy Tab Alternative

I believe it makes no sense to buy a ~ 900.- SGD (3g, GPS), respectively a 500.- SGD (wifi only) device running Android 2.2 without any chance even to update to 2.3, such as the Galaxy Tab, the same time Galaxy is releasing already the new 3.0 based models. So how to find a cheap device that can compete with the Galaxy Tab ?
After buying one Android 10″ Tablet from DHGate.com without problems I decided to look for a second one, a 7″ device. Certainly not easy to find a good device among the many offers on the trading platform, but I was lucky enough to choose this PC-7006 1Ghz device for 223.- U$ (incl. shipping) from the dealer avatar2012:

Android MID 7"

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