Blog, Technical Development, WEM / WCM

Getting Started with Android Development

Establishing a business presence in the mobile marketplace inevitably involves the need to develop applications for high-demand mobile operating systems. Google’s Android currently represents a high-value target platform as it sports a significant share in the mobile operating system space.

The popularity of Android is thoroughly enriched by its integration with many services that Google offers traditionally, including email, cloud storage, chat, etc. Publishing an Android application can extend business reach with little upfront cost; the Android platform is open source and the developer learning curve is shallow.

Prerequisites

Developing Android applications requires experience with the Java programming language and XML (Extensible Markup Language). With the approachability and high-level orientation of Java and XML, developers will learn to build applications quickly. The development installation guide that follows enables developers to both build and debug their Android applications in one environment, resulting in rapid, quality application deployments.

In order to publish an Android application on the Google Play application store, you will need to register as a developer. Paying the nominal one-time registration fee allows you to start releasing free or paid Android applications.

Preparation

Android Studio is the preferred integrated development environment (IDE) to begin Android development. It currently supports Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Although currently in a pre-release state, Android Studio provides a solid, free, all-in-one production environment with the following modules:

  • Device Manager, allows creating virtual Android testing devices

  • Software Development Kit (SDK) Manager, granular control of Android versions to support

  • Layout Manager, preview and modify layouts for virtually all screen sizes

Android Studio is built on the IntelliJ IDE platform, which boasts a host of features that can accelerate the development process. For example, IntelliJ supports scope-aware auto-completion and hyperlinking for variables and methods. Android Studio builds on these features to provide automation suggestions specific to Android development.

In order to use Android Studio and develop Android applications, you will also need the Java Development Kit (JDK). Android Studio currently works with all recent major versions of Java (1.6+). It is recommended that you match your operating system’s architecture; if your operating system is 32-bit, select the 32-bit JDK to download. If your operating system is 64-bit, select the 64-bit JDK to download.

Installation

Before you begin with the installation of Android Studio, you must ensure that a JDK has been installed. If you already have a JDK installed, feel free to move on to the instructions pertaining to the installation of Android Studio. Otherwise, proceed with installing the JDK mentioned in the Preparation section. The installation process for the JDK requires little to no interaction, other than advancing through a series of wizard dialogs.

The installation process for Android Studio is relatively straightforward. Similarly to the JDK installation process, the default values for the dialogs Android Studio installer need little or no modification. When you finish installing, attempt to open Android Studio. If you receive any error relating to the location of the JDK, this troubleshooting tip will help with solving the issue.

With a successful launch of Android Studio, you may be asked to import previous settings. As a first time user of Android Studio, you will want to choose the option to ignore importing previous settings.

Once you have reached the welcome screen for Android Studio, you are almost ready to begin developing Android applications. Check for updates to Android Studio from the welcome screen and apply any that are found.

The last task you will need to perform is downloading the appropriate Android SDK levels. As Android has evolved over time, milestone releases of the operating system have been categorized into application programming interface (API) levels. From the welcome screen for Android Studio, choose the menu option Configure, and subsequently choose the SDK Manager.

Choosing what minimum API level to support is an important factor in determining the potential market saturation for your Android application. Supporting older API levels will introduce delays in application deployment through additional compatibility library support. Depending on how you implement your application, you may also have to restrict the usage of newer features in order to support older API levels. However, supporting a sufficiently low API level will guarantee that you reach a larger Android device population. Relevant API usage statistics can be found at the Android Developer Dashboards page.

Once you have decided what minimum API level you will support, select that level and all higher API levels. Once the downloads and unpacking are complete, you will have everything you need to start creating an Android application.

Taking Things Further

The development, testing, and release of your first Android application is much more involved and dependent on your specific requirements. It is recommended to overview the basic fundamentals and documentation for Android development in order to avoid confusion and ensure compliance with best development practices.

Chris Jones
Christopher Jones is a software consultant at iCiDIGITAL. Christopher has gathered extensive experience with Android applications and Adobe Experience Manager (Adobe CQ) development. He enjoys going to the gym, watching science fiction TV shows and movies, and hiking/camping when time permits.
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