In the wake of the newest iPhone release, it’s easy to forget just how powerful the Android platform has become since its inception a few years ago. Not only do more people rely on Android devices than its Apple counterpart, but there is a lot more you can do from a developer standpoint thanks to the open source availability of the Android OS.
Unlike the Apple App Store, which requires developers to use a specific type of computer and wait weeks for their application to receive approval, you can start creating and even selling Android applications almost immediately.
Whether you are an avid smartphone user or just recently purchased your first Android phone, you can build Android applications. Oh, you don’t have any programming experience? Also not a problem. Fortunately for you, there are tools available that make creating useful Android applications about as difficult as completing an online banking transaction in your web browser.
Before you dive into creating your own Android applications, a brief history lesson is in order about the origins of the mobile platform and its future as the predominant mobile operating system in the world.
Android got its start in 2003 as a separate company trying to design software for phones and digital cameras. In 2005, search giant Google purchased Android and quietly began building the most powerful mobile platform in history.
The first Android powered smartphone was introduced in 2008. Known as the G1, this pioneering phone was originally released by T-Mobile. The following year, Verizon began offering the Motorola Droid which featured a new version of Android.
2010 marked the introduction of the first Samsung Galaxy S series smartphone. The Galaxy series has gone on to become the most popular Android device in the world. By 2009, the Android operating system had more market share than both Blackberry and iPhone.
Android is based on the popular programming language Java. Although not required thanks to tools like the MIT App Inventor discussed below, you can learn a lot about Java from Java for Absolute Beginners. Using a combination of four key components known as Activities, Services, Broadcast receivers, and Content Providers, anyone with proficiency in Java can create stunning applications on a home computer.
Some of the key benefits of the Android platform include:
A rich user interface library
Support for 2-D and 3-D graphics using the OpenGL libraries
Access to the file system
Embedded SQLite database support
Also, because Android is open source and freely available for manufacturers to use, it means major manufacturers like Samsung and HTC can spend more money researching and developing new hardware and features for Android powered devices. Not only does this mean that Android devices tend to be more “cutting edge” than other smartphone variants, but it also means that the cost to consumers tends to be lower.
Learn Android Development from Scratch explains many of the key features of Android in great detail.
All of these things add up to make for one of the most powerful and popular mobile platforms in the world. Android smartphone and tablet sales continue to increase annually and the platform is even being implemented into laptop computers this year.
Hopefully by now you are sold on the benefits of learning to create Android applications and are eager to get started. Although there are many ways to successfully create Android applications, as a beginner you should be looking at WYSIWYG editors that do most of the programming tasks for you.
Using MIT App Inventor to Create Awesome Android Apps
The Java prerequisite has all but been removed thanks to the introduction of app building tools such as the MIT App Inventor. As a beginner, the App Inventor is a powerful tool that allows you to create functional applications without any prior programming experience.
You will definitely pick up some Java as you use the App Inventor, but do not be discouraged if you are unfamiliar with Java or any other programming language for that matter. The program provides you with a “drag-and-drop” interface with GUI (Graphical User Interface) elements that are preconfigured with proper coding.
Don’t be fooled by how easy it is to create an Android app with the App Inventor. The program also offers a multitude of advanced features that can be used to create rather complex applications as your experience grows. As an added benefit, the App Inventor is open source – meaning that new plug-ins and add-ons are being created all the time. It could very well become the primary application development tool for individuals and businesses alike in the near future.
At this time, the App Inventor requires an Internet connection to operate. All of your projects are stored in the cloud via your Google account. If you do not currently have a Google (Gmail) account you can create one for free. If you really want to maximize the potential of Gmail, consider becoming a Gmail Master. An added benefit of using the cloud storage model is that you can access your applications from anywhere assuming you have Web access.
Everything you create in the App Inventor can immediately be run using the built-in emulator. This allows you to test out features in real time on a simulated Android device without actually having to compile the application and install it on a smartphone or tablet.
The MIT App Inventor is so good at teaching beginners how to program Android applications that it is being adopted as part of the curriculum at many high schools and colleges around the country as an introduction to computer science. Just like any other modern programming language, Android relies on the object oriented programming model. The concepts are easily applied to other languages such as C++.
Android Apps in 1 Hour: No Coding Required teaches you how to leverage the power of the App Inventor quickly.
Once you become more familiar with creating Android applications, you may decide to move away from the App Inventor and start using a conventional Interactive Development Environment (IDE) to create applications. If you choose to go this route, Eclipse is an excellent IDE for Java that has a free plug-in for Android. Similar to the App Inventor, the Eclipse plug-in allows for real-time device emulation and testing.
Android is currently the most popular operating system in the world. Your applications could theoretically reach millions of people globally and have a significant impact on the future popularity of this mobile platform. Leveraging new technology such as the MIT App Inventor, anyone can create the next big app. Could it be you?