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The Android Mobile Development Platform: A Reference Guide, Page 2

  • July 18, 2010
  • By Lauren Darcey, Shane Conder
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Publication Opportunities and Target Audience

In terms of market share, the Android platform has been gaining ground steadily against competitive platforms such as the Apple iPhone, RIM BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile (all of which have been around considerably longer). The latest numbers from The Nielsen Company (as of Summer 2010) show BlackBerry in the lead with 35% of the smartphone market, and declining. Trailing close behind and gaining is Apple's iPhone at 28% and Microsoft Windows Mobile is declining with a 19% showing. Android is trailing with 9%, but its growth numbers are accelerating rapidly and according to some sources Android devices are selling faster than most, if not all, competing platforms. If you look back over the past 18 months since Android first became available to consumers, you can see that the platform has been gaining ground steadily at the expense of its competitors, yet the market could potentially accommodate substantially more growth by the platform.

Android applications have none of the costly and time-intensive testing and certification programs required by other platforms. Android developers are free to choose any kind of revenue model they want. They can develop freeware, shareware or trial-ware, ad-driven applications, and paid applications. With Android, developers can write and publish any kind of application. Developers can tailor applications to small demographics, instead of just the large-scale money-making ones often insisted upon by mobile operators. Vertical market applications can be deployed to specific, targeted users.

Because Android developers have a variety of application-distribution mechanisms to choose from, they can pick the methods that work for them instead of being forced to play by others' rules. Android developers can distribute their applications to users in a variety of ways. The most popular distribution mechanism is Google's Android Market. The Android Market is a generic application store with a revenue-sharing model. As of July 2010, more than 90,000 applications were available in the Android Market. Many other Android applications have been sold through other publication channels. More than 180,000 Android developers have downloaded the Android SDK and developed Android applications.

Android Platform Pros and Cons

PROS

CONS

Apps written in Java, which is an easy, commonly understood programming language

If you don't like Java, you're out of luck.

Very low barrier to entry. No vetting of developers to determine whether they are worthy of developing apps. No fees to join development community.

Developer expertise and application quality will vary greatly. Neither apps nor developers are "curated" as they sometimes are on other platforms, but technically, malicious developers exist on all platforms.

Freely available development tools are popular, powerful and generally well designed. In fact, the Android development tools are impressive compared to other provided for other mobile platforms.

Like all mobile platforms, developers are reliant on the platform and tool developers to address tool defects and limitations.

Android SDK and operating system is powerful, full of features, and easy to use. There is no distinction between developer apps and native apps. Developers have unprecedented access to underlying hardware on device in a safe and secure manner.

With this power comes greater developer responsibility to design stable, responsive applications.

Many publication channels available, including publishing through consolidated app markets as well as self publication. Suitable for mass market, enterprise development and everything else.

When developers choose to publish through third-party app markets, they often must give up a portion of their profits. Because there are many publication channels, software piracy becomes a bigger concern.

Vast variety of devices available throughout the world, on many carriers, with many plans, including many with unlimited data.

Device variety (aka fragmentation) makes compatibility something that developers must address (various screen sizes, optional hardware features, etc.).

Rapidly growing market share. There's still room for lots of growth. Applications can still distinguish themselves, and killer apps are developed all the time.

Still smaller market share than more mature mobile platforms such as BlackBerry and iPhone.

Free, open platform allows any hardware manufacturer to build devices based on the open platform.

The freedom to grab the open source Android platform and place it on any device -- without anyone's permission -- can lead to incompatible devices, confusion among users, and proliferation of platform devices and distribution mechanisms for developers to support.

Summary

Android developers enjoy many benefits over competing mobile platforms. Android is relatively new to the mobile scene, offering a distinctly different approach: it's open and free with robust access to the underlying device hardware. Designed in Java, Android applications can be created on a variety of operating systems with free and readily available tools. Getting started with writing mobile applications has never been so easy or affordable. And after you've created those apps, you can rest assured that there are millions of Android users all over the world who are ready to use them.

About the Authors

Lauren Darcey and Shane Conder have authored two books on Android development: an in-depth programming book entitled "Android Wireless Application Development" (ISBN-13: 978-0-321-62709-4) and "Sams Teach Yourself Android Application Development in 24 Hours" (ISBN-13: 978-0-321-67335-0). When not writing, they spend their time developing mobile software at their company and providing consulting services. They can be reached at androidwirelessdev+dc@gmail.com and via their blog. Follow them on twitter: @androidwireless.



Originally published on http://www.developer.com.

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