Mastering the Android platform as a developer always starts by comprehending the mobile app development basics. And that’s because the Android development ecosystem is incredibly dense and complex. Consider that it’s necessary to know two programming languages for this platform: Java and Kotlin. And while some programmers may scoff at the idea of familiarizing themselves with both languages, it’s a necessary step.
But why should programmers go to such lengths when it’s possible to develop Android apps if they only know one of these languages? That’s because it’s good practice to update apps regularly. And after a certain period, it’s essential to modernize apps, which may include moving from a dated programming language to a current one. Thus, developers planning to update Android apps should have the knowledge and skills to port these from the older Java code to the newer Kotlin codebase.
Then, the types of apps developers make will impact tooling choices. For example, making a short-form video app like TikTok will require a different toolchain to a battle royale game such as Fortnite. And if developers wish to include networking features, considerations regarding backend and integration systems become paramount.
With so many considerations, Android development seems harrowing, especially for newcomers. That’s why we’ve compiled this handy guide to help aspiring and even seasoned developers understand Android mobile app development basics.
Android Mobile App Development Basics: Choosing The Right Development Environment
So you’ve taken the time to research the market and are now busy planning your mobile app strategy. However, you’ve yet to pick your development environment, which will play a crucial role in determining the overall development experience. It may even impact the success or failure of your upcoming app project, so research all the development environments thoroughly before settling on one.
But what do you even pick with so many Android development tools available? If you’re planning on making a native app, then Android Studio is a great choice. It’s Google’s official and recommended IDE and features the Jetpack Compose user interface (UI) designer, Android Emulator, and intelligent code editor. Also, you’ll need to download the Android SDK, NDK, and Java SE Development Kit (JDK).
But if you’re planning on making a cross-platform or hybrid app, you may want to consider another development environment. There’s Visual Studio with Xamarin for cross-platform apps with native performance. And then, there’s Flutter and React Native for making impressive-looking hybrid apps.
If you decide to make a mobile game, you’ll want to use a game engine such as Unity or Unreal Engine. Both engines provide their own asset content pipelines and tooling for creating animations, levels, and visual effects. However, Unity and Unreal recommend and offer a download pathway for the Visual Studio IDE for coding.
Gaining Programming Language Proficiency
If you’ve picked Android Studio, you’ll need to gain proficiency in both Java and Kotlin. But if you’re a new developer, start with Kotlin since it’s a more modern language with a better and more streamlined syntax. If you already have experience in Java or any object-oriented language from the C family, it should only take several weeks to learn Kotlin.
For the majority of Android app development scenarios, Java, Kotlin, JSON, and XML should suffice. But what if you already have C or C++ proficiency and want to develop Android mobile games? The good news is that Google offers the Android Game Development Kit (AGDK) for developers with C/C++ skills. It’s a comprehensive suite of libraries and tools with easy integrations for game engines, such as Unity.
And on the subject of Unity, if you opt for this engine, you may want to use the C# programming language. If you already know Java or Kotlin, C# is easy to pick up and start making simple games within days. Moreover, Unity provides many in-depth tutorials and programming resources to help newcomers become proficient with C#, the game engine, and mobile app development basics.
How To Structure A Basic Android App’s UI With Jetpack Compose
Google recommends that developers use the Jetpack Compose UI framework for making modern Android apps. And that’s because it simplifies the creation of UIs with dynamic animations, styles, and themes. Its composable functions make it easy to change states and add images, texts, lists, grids, and scrollable columns.
A few neat features of Jetpack Compose, which should also excite UI/UX designers, are its Material Design and Material Theming. These allow designers to make their apps more accessible and attractive to a larger demographic of users. Designers can alter all aspects of an app’s UI, from its typography to its colors.
And some of the more advanced features of Jetpack Compose allow smooth navigation between screens, navigation across multiple screens, and passing of data between screens. With the proliferation of foldable Android smartphones, designers must take advantage of the additional screen real estate as efficiently as possible.
One way to do this is by creating an adaptive app featuring dynamic navigation. This approach allows the app’s UI to transform elegantly and fluidly for any screen size, orientation, form factor, and device type. Moreover, there’s no loss or degradation of usability of the app, regardless of these changing factors.
Understanding Persistent Data On Android
It’s necessary to read, store, and manipulate data between an app and a relational database, such as SQLite. And that’s because you’ll need to store all kinds of app and user data and do so securely. But setting up a database and dealing with so much data can be difficult, especially for those getting to grips with Android mobile app development basics.
However, one of the most useful Kotlin APIs for this purpose is Room, which is part of the Jetpack library. It acts as an abstraction layer for configuring SQLite databases and reading, manipulating, and querying stored data.
Sometimes, it’s more sensible to store user data and preferences on the device instead of a relational database, especially if the app will predominantly operate offline. DataStore is yet another Jetpack tool but meant for smaller datasets, such as typed objects or key-value pairs. Another benefit of DataStore is that it performs asynchronous operations but can also perform synchronous operations. This helps deal with legacy codebases designed for handling data and disk I/O operations in a synchronous manner.
The Android platform offers new and seasoned developers a rich and dynamic app development ecosystem that’s worth exploring. But before you embark on this journey, it’s best to internalize a few of the key points that we’ve covered in our guide about Android mobile app development basics. Contact NS804 to learn how we’ll help you create engaging Android apps using the best practices and industry-leading technologies.