The Pitfalls of Android Development
Despite the many benefits of Android development, like free tools and easy sharing, there are a number of unseen risks associated with the platform. Certainly Android offers some advantages. You can write applications that are easily published and distributed independently for one. While many developers are turning to Android because it offers exciting new methods of developing applications, some are realizing there are certain limitations to the platform. Here are the 10 most common issues that developers may face and how they impact the development cycle.
Generally speaking, the Android platform has been developed extremely quickly which has resulted in the need for frequent updates. Developers may be finding that as they develop apps they become incompatible in certain areas as new updates are released. The most comprehensive Android apps are those that integrate with third party APIs and Google services but these apps are also most likely to encounter problems associated with updates. Supporting existing applications also becomes more difficult as updates change the nature of the game as a good number of them are not backwards compatible.
Devices change and handset fragmentation has been a longstanding issue with all mobile platforms and Android is not exempt from this issue. Apple and iPhone have a limited number of devices and the platform for development has been more consistent but because Android apps are supposed to be compatible across a wider range of applications. Moreover, the number of devices supporting Android apps is likely to skyrocket in the next year or so and developers will need to be more careful about developing applications that will work effectively on a wider range of devices.
iPhone applications are sold in the App Store but where are Android applications sold? Many developers believe that their only option is the Google Android Market but there are many more options for distributing applications. Unfortunately, many developers are discovering that finding markets for their applications can be tricky, but neglecting the possible distribution sites limits your ability to sell your application. And whats worse is that some Android compatible devices dont have access to the Android Market so these end-users might not have access to your application if you dont seek alternative distribution methods. As you can see, the lack of clear distribution rules can make it much more difficult to successfully market your application.
Inappropriate Business Model
It shouldnt come as too much of a surprise to learn that many web developers have limited business acumen. Unfortunately, to successfully market an Android app you need to have a sound business plan. Your app must be priced appropriately and it should be available in an appropriate market. Who is your target audience? What function or service is being provided by your app? Where are you going to sell it? These are all valid questions that left unanswered can be a major pitfall of Android development (although arguably for iPhone or Flex development as well).
Unlike success stories about iPhone apps, Android developers are very rarely spotlighted. We often hear of stories of 14 year old boys developing fart applications for iPhones and making millions but similar stories do not seem to be emerging about Android development. This not only deters developers but consumers as well. The mobile development community would benefit greatly from some examples of Android success because without them it is difficult to build consumer and developer confidence in the platform. As a result, fewer developers trust Android and fewer consumers are buying these apps. As you can see, a vicious cycle emerges wherein the apps arent being developed or sold.
When it comes to Android apps, the end user is given very little information about the quality or success of applications. While the App Store allows for more than simple rating and ranking systems, Android customers may be frustrated when trying to decide which apps are best. Indeed, there are entire magazines devoted to iPhone development but there is little in the market for consumers to become more educated about Android and the kinds of applications being released.
Poor Android Management
Many developers and consumers alike think that Android is a Google platform. Indeed the relationship between Google and Android has been a critical element of the development of the platform but the truth is that the Open Handset Alliance is behind the Android platform (in partnership with Google). The problem is that the motivations, values, and business plan in the Open Handset Alliance is not consistent meaning that the management of the Android platform may encounter future problems.
The Google/Android Relationship
Moreover, there is no guarantee that Google will continue to be involved with Android in the future. While Google has been the leader in getting Android to the developers and customers there is some doubt about future involvement. Google is currently developing the Chrome OS which suggests that Android and Google may well part ways in the near future. Where does this leave developers? The answers are not clear.
More and more operators and manufacturers are adopting Android as their platform but there isnt a reciprocal relationship between them and developers. iPhone developers have a lot more say in the future of iPhone development because there is a one-to-one relationship but as there are a wide range of operators and manufacturers supporting the Android platform it is more difficult for developers to influence the evolution of Android.
Finally, the Android platform is as of yet a very young and unproven platform. The technology is new and updates tend to be substantial. Because the technology is not set, developers are constantly having to adapt their knowledge.