Jim Pruett, Udemy Instructor, on Writing Apps for Android

Udemy is proud to continue its interviews with Udemy’s online instructors.  In this third installment we meet Jim Pruett.  Jim teaches the popular course Write and Publish an app for your Android Smartphone. He can also be found on his website and on Twitter.  In this interview, Jim talks about developing for the mobile applications market and future trends in mobile and education.

1. Can you tell us a little about your background (e.g. where you are based, relevant work experience) and why you created a course on Android development?
My name is Jim Pruett. I followed a startup company to Memphis and never left. Most recently, I was a programmer/developer for the Milstar program.  I have programmed medical, military, gambling, automotive, commercial, everything from the Blackfin DSP, to Python.  Along the way I briefly taught High School Statistics in Cordova TN.  Android for me was the perfect storm, combining GPS, Openness and cheapness.  My previous endeavor was a device that helps you drive the speed limit (gpscruise.com).  I was chugging along with that when the iPhone arose.  One day I dumped my hardware and moved to Android. I haven’t looked back.

As far as Udemy, that was just a way for me to give back, like Sourceforge, so it made sense. To learn Android, I listened on the Google mailing lists, but they are way over my head.  One area I thought was lacking was video-training.  Funny story, in 2009 I entered the Android Challenge and at the 11’th hour, I didn’t know how to sign my app.  It was a foreign concept and almost kept me out of the contest.  I finally barged in to chat with a Google-guy and he helped me.  That hurdle is solved in my videos.  You can learn what took me 3 months in just 50 minutes.  IMHO all GUI’s should be taught by video, especially Eclipse which is becoming a standard.

2.  What benefits does the Android operating system offer, especially for those new to learning how to code?  Also, do you work on any other platforms in addition to Android? If so which ones; if not, why not?  Do you have any plans to increase your course offerings, e.g. to other platforms?

Android is hard to learn.  It has too many options as compared to iOS.  Java was fun to learn and addictive, but “threading” is a bitch.  But I knew three things: I love embedded coding, Google would help me be successful, and that Steve Jobs charged more to publish than Google.  I could make more money launching my app “Back Seat Driver” on iOS, but I just felt more comfortable with Google and felt closer to the inventiveness I crave.  Before Android, the Palm Pilot made people learn a text thing called “Graffiti”.  You essentially wrote hieroglyphs instead of letters.  Why would people do that?  Why were school teachers programming the Palm Pilot?  The answer was that people found it “satisfying” to conquer something new.  That is what Android will be to you.

As far as apps, I hear iOS is easier, but I don’t have any plans to move away from Android. I want to add some cool camera features that are under wraps.

3. Following on the heels of Apple’s iOS, Android has grown exponentially as a mobile platform. Together, these two platforms have revolutionized the smartphone market, what future trends do you see in the mobile applications market?

Yes, Android is growing.  As far as trends in mobile applications, I see single-feature-apps like BSD which get combined into super-apps.  The super apps know that you are stopped at a red light and you are with two kids and you love new places to eat.  I heard Windows is working on that.

Also, in my crystal ball, I see 802.11p (WAVE wireless automotive vehicle environment) entering the picture. In my mind, that will be file-sharing on the beltway.  I also see tablets sold at Autozone soon, cheap ones that are easy to mount and have no battery to mess with.

4. What tools or software do you think are missing from mobile platforms (e.g. how easy is it to create online courses or manage online courses using mobile platforms)?

I would like to see video incorporated into the tools.  The Android developer has a place to post a video for their app. It would be easy for Google to add a video-capture to their Android-Development-Tool (ADT).  Who doesn’t like a 10min video tutorial to pre-try an app.  At present, you have to get Camtasia and edit the video which is a big hassle. Who knows maybe we could submit bug reports via video someday…

5. Recently, mConnect, a mobile English language training platform, was launched in India (here is a link for our readers).  How do you see mobile platforms serving online educational needs in the future?

Funny story, A Chinese friend of mine said, “Chinese people spend as much money learning English as Americans spend on home ownership”.  Obviously we are talking about India, but I can believe self-contained Rosetta-Stone type apps would sell in India or China.  Couple that with the speech recognition already available for free on Android, and the app practically writes itself. I see tablets filling this need more than cellphones, Android tablets of course.  My pet peeve is testing. After you learn a topic, what testing options do you have?  Offer certification, whatever, but have testing and make it fun and extendable. Even more than that, have tutors that popup or suggest prerequisites that you are lacking.  Simple stuff really.

*** Learn Android programming with Jim’s course on Udemy. ***