5 Fundamentals that every beginner in Android app Development should know

5 Tips on Android App Development for Beginners
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Eshna

Last updated October 25, 2016


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The cool features that come along with an app are what draws the interests of users. Apps make phones ‘smart’ and through its benefits, has drastically transformed the functioning of the current generation.
 
Adept programmers are getting busy, designing and building apps of their own and embedding them with favorable features. If you’re one of those enthusiasts, here are 5 fundamentals that you need to check before programming an Android App.

1. Mastery over the language

Java and XML are the two main programming languages used in Android App development. Knowledge and mastery over these programming languages are, therefore, prerequisites to developing an Android app. Some of the fundamentals of the java programming language include:

  • Packages
  • Objects & classes
  • Inheritance & interfaces
  • Strings & numbers, generics,
  • Collections
  • Concurrency

Proper understanding of Java and XML will help you build/develop a more robust and elegant android app.

2. Familiarity with the right development tools and environment

It is very important that you familiarize yourself with the build automation tools as well as the integrated development environment before you start developing your app. You can use Android app studio IDE or the Eclipse for the tools and they will help you learn the basics and many other things that will help improve your code. You can learn Apache Maven, Apache Ant and Gradle as they provide a powerful set of tools to help in managing your builds.
 
It is also important that you familiarize yourself with source control tools and concepts. Learn the git and then create a git-source repository (by creating an account on Bitbucket or GitHub). To understand the basic concepts and terms of how the platform operates, you can use the Git Pocket Guide.

GIT

3. Knowledge of the application components

Application components are the essential building blocks of an android app. Each of the components is a different point by which the system can enter your app. And although each one of them exists as its own entity and plays a specific role, there are some which depend on each other and not all of them are actual entry points.
 
There are 4 different types of app components each serving a distinct purpose with a distinct lifecycle which defines how it is created and destroyed. They include:

Activities: This is a component that represents a single screen with a user interface (for instance, an email app may have one activity showing a list of new emails, another activity composing emails and another one reading emails). Activities work together to form a cohesive user experience in the app. However, each one of them is independent.

Services: This is a component which runs in the background to perform work for remote processes or long-running operations. It does not provide user interface (for instance it might play music in the background while the user is in a different app).

Content providers: This is the component that manages a shared set of app data. Through this component, the data that you store either in the file system, on the web, a SQLite database can be queried or even modified (as long as the content provider allows it). This component is also useful for writing and reading data that is not shared and is private to your app.

Broadcast receivers: This is the component that responds to system-wide broadcast announcements. Most of the broadcast receivers originate from the system, and although they do not display a user interface, they can create a status bar notification that alerts the user when a broadcast event occurs. Generally, it is a gateway to the other components and it only does minimal work.

Activating components: A synchronous message referred to as intent activates 3 of the 4 components (i.e. services, activities and broadcast receivers). Intents also bind individual components to one another at runtime whether the component belongs to your app or not.

4. Awareness over fragmentations, android application, threads, loaders and tasks

Android is a fragmented market with many different devices and operating system versions. Note that, if your device supports more devices and/or versions it will definitely require more maintenance and testing as well as the related costs. The vice-versa is also true. You also require appropriate fonts, assets and layouts that will help in ensuring that the best possible experiences in the various screen characteristics are given. You should also consider the array of android supported sensors or UI facilities. All android apps have an application class, one or more activities and one or more fragments.
 
Sometimes, you may have services for background tasks that should run continuously but other times you may not. If you want to deliver a great and smooth user interface, always ensure that the thread is never blocked. Therefore, the long operations (computations, I/O, network, etc.,) should all be run asynchronously in the background (mainly on a different thread of execution). This is why it is important to learn the Java language concurrency facilities.

5. Making the right choice over needed tools

The simple tools that you need are just a Mac or Windows PC, any type of Linux, and Eclipse, the ADT Plug in, and the Android SDK which are all free. You can go through the installation guide on Google so as to know how to set up your development environment. It has documentation of everything needed. Android has some unique parameters that you should consider when writing an android app. Some of them include:

Performance and responsiveness: You should always respond to user input within five seconds otherwise the operating system will ANR you. (ANR-application not responding – the only option that you will have is to force close your app.)

Lags of more than 100ms will be noticed by the users: As mentioned above, the UI thread should never be blocked because it is only one.

Limited resources: Wake-locks (mechanism that forces the device to do a certain thing despite the recommendation to put the device to sleep by the battery manager) should be used sparingly. Do not unnecessarily poll hardware (e.g. GPS or accelerometer) because it will quickly run down the battery.

Here is a video that takes you through introduction to Android Application Development:

About the Author

Eshna writes on PMP, PRINCE2, ITIL, ITSM, & Ethical Hacking. She has done her Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication and is a Gold Medalist in the same. A voracious reader, she has penned several articles in leading national newspapers like TOI, HT, and The Telegraph.


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