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droidcon Berlin 2013 – Android on the Fast Lane

Posted April 17th, 2013 in Blog by Klemens

Last week Berlin was the place to be for Android developers, experts, and enthusiasts from all over Europe. The droidcon 2013 took place from April 7th to 10th in Berlin. We were part of it and sum up the most relevant topics from the two conference days in this article. What has changed from last year’s conference is that Android is now the clear leader on the mobile operating system and smartphones market as far as device sales are concerned. Overtaking Apple’s iOS in market share, the mobile OS by Google can now be found on entry level to high end phones, tablets, TVs, game consoles, watches, etc.

droidcon 2013 Android Konferenz Berlin

Apart from the huge success with devices sold the conference kicked of with the statement that iOS is still ahead in terms of commercial success. There are several factors for that: People are spending more money on iPhone apps because they want to impress, Apple has become the synonym for apps (“there’s an app for that”), and iPhone users are rather early adopters. Also purchasing is fully integrated on iOS and the payment information has to be provided once you set up an iTunes account. On the other hand transparency and privacy could become a competitive advantage for Android. Especially app developers have to keep that in mind and enhance user trust and be transparent.

If you are interested in a smartphone that puts social values first, you should definitely check out FairPhone. It’s still a concept and under development but we think it’s definitely time to have more ethically sourced and manufactured devices!

When it comes to the Do’s and Dont’s for Android UI you should have a look at Android UI Patterns. Probably the best advice for every Android UX engineer is “Don’t use designs from other platforms”. The time when just imitating the iOS user interface on Android was state-of-the-art is definitely long over. “Make you layout scalable and don’t build an extra app for tablets” is another very important guideline – here re-usable Fragments are the way to go.

On a rather technical level there were a lot of interesting talks as well. Anders Göransson of Jayway talked about efficient threading on Android. When scheduling processes on Android you have to consider the four different levels: 1. Foreground, 2. Visible, 3. Service, 4. Background. It’s important to know that background threads get only 10% of execution time. The garbage collector (GC) runs after the onDestroy() method of an Activity, so having background threads that reference Activities is in all likelihood a source for a memory leak. You can read more about this topic at the official developer guide.

Markus Junginger of greenrobot from Munich talked about the lessons learned with Prime Guide, their Android TV guide app for the German market. Apart from the daily struggles of an Android developer he argued about the pros and cons of using Google App Engine (GAE) as the backend of the app. A technology which we are using for our products as well. It might not be the cheapest solution and has it’s weak points, but on the other hand GAE helps them to have high availability with close to zero maintenance effort, easy version control and – most imporant – getting them through usage peaks easily.

Another central theme throughout the conference was how to build high quality apps and what tools and techniques can be used for quality assurance. Just to mention a few:

  • Jenkins: for continuous integration (CI), automated build and device tests
  • Robolectric: a unit test framework
  • Mockito: a mocking framework that can be used for unit tests
  • Calabash: write automated functional and acceptance test with Cucumber
  • Robotium: test automation framwork
  • Sonar: manage code quality (code coverage, source analysis, …)

Testing is very important but quality should start at an earlier stage when developing, so dependency injection (DI) is an important concept to keep the code clean, managable and readable. On Android, RoboGuice – the Android variant of Google’s Guice framework – comes in handy. If you are developing serious Android apps you should definitely use the well known obfuscator and code shrinker ProGuard to reduce application size, increase performance and battery life. Hint: You need to enable it, by default it’s commented out in the project.properties file.

droidcon 2013

Some other interesting topics: Philipp Kandal of skobbler talked about the “Top Ten Monetization hacks on Android”, and Facebook introduced their brand new Android SDK version 3.0.1. Mozilla showcased their new operating system Firefox OS to the crowd – the OS itself is based on the Android kernel but everything is written in HTML5/CSS/JavaScript. Mozilla promotes open standards and a web ecosystem opposed to the “silos” of Google, Apple and Microsoft.

Another talk was about the disillusion of building HTML5 apps on Android. Javascript frameworks like Sencha Touch and JQuery Mobile in combination with Cordova/PhoneGap promise to let you develop cross platform web apps with less effort, but in reality this often turns out as wishful thinking. Of course there is a place and a use case for mobile web-apps, but the customer as well as the developer have to know the limitations well. There seems to be a bright spot in the future for HTML5 apps, as performance and CPU power continues to increase on mobile devices, but as of today hybrid apps combining native and web seem to be a more realistic path to success.

We are definitely keen on using our Android know-how and skills in customer projects and will be happy to help you realize your Android app. We are looking forward to seeing new developments in the Android and mobile sphere in 2013!

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3 Responses so far.

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  2. […] Fixpunkt für uns als App Entwickler. Die Artikel von 2012 und 2013 können Sie übrigens hier und hier nachlesen. Dieser Artikel gibt einen Überblick über ausgewählte Vorträge am Freitag dem 09.05., […]

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