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Viva La Blog

A rant about the mobile content industry, from those who have been in the trenches

Android – a world of love and pain

Hi World.

So, we’ve been a busy little team lately and the new website is starting to take shape for 2010. The mobile apps and games industry has changed an awful lot since we started out in 2003 and it makes sense to start discussing these changes and where things are going. Hence this blog.

What we’d like to do is to not hold back. We’d like to discuss what really is going on, who’s winning, who’s losing, what’s working and what really gets our blood boiling.

Okay…i’ll start:

Right now i’m loving Android. It’s the vibrant young prince waiting in the wings to knock off the doddering old King J2ME. It’s got style, it’s got panache, it’s fit and has the world at it’s feet. Unfortunately, just like a young prince, Android is also impatient, misguided and won’t listen to its sage advisors.

I greeted the release of the Android SDK with open arms and a cry of  “huzzah! an end to the woes of J2ME fragmentation”. Sixteen months and seven SDK versions later (count them… 1.0, 1.1, 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.01, 2.1) the no-fragmentation dream seems to be in tatters. What is Google doing?!? While iPhone rips it up, releasing just one new SDK about every 18 months, Google is driving developers nuts with the constant updates, API changes and class deprecations. Combined with a distinct lack of useful documentation, I sometimes wonder if Google is having a gag at our expense over at the ‘Plex.

Our current project ran into it’s first major frag-snag when implementing an email contacts function. On 1.6 and below you use one system to get all your contacts email addresses. On 2.0 they scratched that, and replaced it with an entirely new way. That’s right, they didn’t just deprecate the old method and advise you to upgrade your code for the future. They simply removed the old way completely. Bloody hell!

Next came the multiple screen sizes. When we had 240 x 320 and 320 x 480 we were going ok. Then the Droid appeared with 480 x 854 and I started worrying that this was getting out of hand. When the Nexus One debuted with 480 x 800 I wanted to punch the little green Android mascot hard in it’s stupid smiling head. Harsh, I know, but someone please think of the developers!!

Still, despite it all, I think Android will be huge and once Google feel they have ‘got it right’ they will slow down to smell the roses and let the developers get on with the business of making great apps that can work on millions of handsets *crosses fingers*.

Posted by David Kainer on February 14th, 2010 :: Filed under Uncategorized,mobile development
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5 Responses to “Android – a world of love and pain”

  1. JT Klepp
    February 17th, 2010

    David, I feel your pain. Not only that, with auto updates of the OS, which is great for the consumer in principle, it means as a developer your app just may stop working unless you pay attention.

    As with all Google products it seems to fall into the category of throwing it out there, develop new features like crazy, and hope it sticks. I think they are failing to grasp the complexity of running an open system, with manufacturer specific implementations, and although I believe the potential is huge as well, they stand to risk losing the developer community which will if not spell certain death – will severely hinder or slow down their growth.

    Besides the issues you point out, there are also issues in regards to marketing and promoting the apps: They seem to have solved the OS upgrade (but I am actually not sure if this is consistent on all manufacturers, but my G1 did automatically upgrade), but they really need to get their ducks in a row on multiple issues.

  2. Alex Kerr
    February 20th, 2010

    > It’s the vibrant young prince waiting in the wings to knock off the doddering old King J2ME.

    I don’t want to be purely negative, but as you say “What we’d like to do is to not hold back. We’d like to discuss what really is going on”. The market reality to that sentence above is that J2ME is in around 3 billion+ devices, Android in a few million. Sure a big chunk of the 3 billion may be effectively unreachable, but that still leaves a vast potential userbase. And J2ME is in almost every new mobile handset sold, Android is in hardly any new devices sold (relatively). J2ME is becoming less and less fragmented, and is much better now than it used to be, while it sounds like Android is just becoming more fragmented at quite a pace, and with unpredictable runtime features (sounds familiar!) Of course it goes without saying Android is considerably more capable than J2ME, but I’m simply trying to correct your assertion above. And with Sun-supported efforts like LWUIT for J2ME which allows the creation of great UIs with one runtime on everything from big touchscreens to old phones, developing great J2ME software got a whole lot easier. And the Android store is apparently broken and not making devs any real money, meanwhile J2ME devs have the increasingly powerful GetJAR channels, and Nokia’s Ovi Store (over a million downloads a day now and counting).

  3. C. Enrique Ortiz
    February 20th, 2010

    I understand what you are saying, but I have to laugh a bit.

    During the J2ME days, the complains were that things moved *too slow*. But now things are moving too fast?

    True, APIs should be gracefully deprecated.

    I’m surprised that with your experience developing since 2003 that you complain about screen sizes; are you hard-coding? Or are you referring to having to create new assets as new screen resolutions come out? Can’t wait for SVG…


  4. dkainer
    February 23rd, 2010

    Hey ceo,

    thanks for the comment. Yeah it’s true that in the early J2ME days we all wanted things to move faster – but you need to note that there was virtually no rivals except BREW, which was limited to very specific markets. It’s a very different story now in 2010.

    Regarding screen sizes, of course hardcoding is avoided. Yes, i am primarily referring to having to create new assets, but also changes in the layout design. Sometimes it is little things. For example a widget we recently built was designed for 480×854 Droid, with a standard 2×2 cell size and uses the layout-hdpi directory. Suddenly the Nexus One arrived with 480×800 screen and a slighlty different 2×2 standard cell size. This caused our widget to look slightly wrong on the Nexus One as opposed to Droid.

  5. best android apps
    March 29th, 2011

    Initially, the Apple Store had the largest number of apps, and iPhone users enjoyed a better selection than those that joined Team Android. However, phones like the Google G2 and the Droid X are gaining in popularity, and developers are now producing lots of apps for the Android Market. Let’s take a look at some of the best Android apps available today.

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