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Android developers share solutions to common challenges at AnDevCon IV

By Cameron McKenzie

14 Dec 2012 | TheServerSide.com

The Android Developer Conference (AnDevCon IV) in sunny San Francisco brought together some of the best and brightest from all over the world to really dig into the intricacies of developing business apps for the Android platform. If you couldn't make the trek to check out the tech at this phenomenal event, you missed out. But don't worry, TheServerSide.com was there in force, doing interviews, taking notes and just generally keeping all of the vendors honest. Here's what we discovered:

Mobile development pain points

What issues are making organizations grind their teeth as they wade into the Android app market? How do you Percocet the agony? At the Android Developer Conference (AnDevCon IV), enterprise mobile developers brought up three common pain-points they hit when moving from Web applications to Android apps.

First, end users have zero tolerance for latency. Even one-third of a second delay can mean the difference between smiley faces and #droidRage. If you can't make an app faster, at least try to make it seem faster.

Second, the proliferation of devices is making it a nightmare to do quality assurance (QA) testing because of all the variables involved. Consider crowdsourcing real-world QA testing of new apps to glean data that's simply not available in a test environment. For example, you can uncover hidden issues with real network coverage that don't show up in a virtual test.

Finally, developers find that Android requires Agile development and continuous deployment. Get comfortable blending HTML5 for user interface (UI) with Java for the back end. This approach allows you to create apps that can be updated dynamically, with fewer user-side upgrades required.

Avoid hidden dangers

Everyone knows that security and liability issues are a big deal in general, but they tend to be a little sketchy on specific risks. Here are a couple of tricky issues we uncovered by finding the right people at AnDevCon IV.

Reverse engineering apps are ridiculously easy and can give hackers access to your data and a backdoor into your servers through mobile devices. Use tools that prevent decompilation -- not just those that obfuscate code -- to foil hackers.

Open source is open to interpretation and you could end up in hot water over infringement. For example, it might be fine to use open source in-house, but things get a lot stickier if you are shipping a product to consumers. Understand your use cases and select the type of licenses that give you security and freedom.

Develop mobile applications better

Onward and upward. No matter how good (or not-so-good) a development team is, there are always things that can be done to make mobile application development a little better. Whether you want to go better, faster or cheaper, here are three tips to make your mobile app development team a little better tomorrow than it was yesterday:

Make metrics a priority. Finding an effective way to measure the performance of your apps is essential for making them faster. Build-in continuous feedback mechanisms to learn what matters most to users, and target those areas to trim latency and boost performance.

Go modular with your Android coding by grouping like functions together. That way, you can reuse chunks of code across projects. Going forward, you're going to have to get used to building and rebuilding apps constantly, so you might as well get good at recycling.

If you plan to create apps for many devices (some with a UI and some without), consider headless Android. Again, it's all about being able to reuse resources (including your Android developers). Plus, Android has richer development application programming interfaces than plain-old Linux.

What does the future hold for Android?

There was no giant crystal ball at AnDevCon, but here are some of the best guesses and tips for the coming decade from some very smart, well-informed observers. Operating systems may have consolidated, but devices will continue to proliferate. Embedded will change the face of mobile in every area of life and business, opening up whole new ways to boost profits. 2013 may be the year the Internet of things gets recognized as a mainstream reality.

No matter what security measures you take, you must be constantly vigilant for emerging threats. Every innovative security solution is like a gauntlet flung in the faces of hackers. Don't let the amazing tools in your mobile application become weapons used against you. Secure mobile applications before security becomes a problem.

There's apparently no ceiling on how much people will spend on imaginary consumables with in-app purchasing. If you build it, they will splurge.

Mobile and server-side developers need to get on the same page and overcome their cultural differences if they want to make Android really sing. Right now, mobile devices lack the processing power to really crank through enterprise applications. The client-side app and the server-side applications will need to move together better.

In a few years, users will think today's fastest devices are snail-slow. Be prepared to write ever faster code if you want to keep up with their expectations. In other words, even as the devices change, many of the problems facing developers won't. That's why we'll be sure to keep you apprised of what's happening at the world's top developer conferences in 2013.

 

Follow Cameron McKenzie on Twitter (@potemcam)

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