Features are what makes a mobile app stand out, and these features instigate the traffic to a web application regardless of the application platform. Speaking of platform and mobile technologies, Android still leads with over 85% global market share, and Android apps are known for introducing unique features in apps. Android’s wide acclaim and demand made it indispensable for mobile application development companies to give more importance to integrating unique features in apps.

With the development centered on building an app with all the right features, the developers shouldn’t neglect up-to-date mobile app development trends. These trends keep changing offering new dimensions for developers to explore and interesting features for the users to experience. However, it should be noted that the features should be added in accordance with the business requirements.

Investing a lot of time, effort, and budget in unnecessary features that actually don’t offer much value to end-users is not a wise idea. They should include only those features that matter, and are vital for the app to serve its purpose.

In this blog, we will explore a few such important features that Android app developers should focus on.
 

User-friendly interface

 
For the app to stand out, it should be easy for end-users to understand and use. Many apps will have complex processes driving its functionalities. But all those complexity shouldn’t be exposed in its interface. The interface should be easy to figure out. The navigation should be simple as well. All features of the app should be easily accessible.

This is important because users form the first impression of a mobile app within the first couple of minutes of using the app. So enhanced user experience right from the get-go is important for the app to succeed.
 

Simple login and registration

 
Let’s be honest. No one likes to fill out a long form with lots of fields to register and avail a service. Most apps, particularly the on-demand ones, require users to create and register a personal profile so that they can collect important data.

If the form is just too long demanding the customers to spend some time typing in all the details, it’d just annoy them and give them second thoughts. It’s important to keep the login and registration process simple for the users.
 

Give room for feedback

 
User feedback, one of the most crucial elements of a mobile application, is a double-edged sword. It is a key factor that influences the fate of the app. The app developers should take measures to encourage users to send feedback on the app. If the feedback is poor, it may deter potential users from checking out the app. However, feedbacks also give developers insights to improve the app. Feedback is important for app performance analysis.
 

Impressive loading speed

 
One major reason why many apps fail to succeed in the market is because of their slow loading speed. The market is highly competitive, and will most likely have faster alternatives to slow apps. Users prefer apps that respond quickly. Developers should take special care to ensure that the app’s performance aspect is impressive with fast loading speeds and processing power.
 

Conclusion

 
Android leading on a global scale also indicates that android apps will have fierce competition. To stand out from the rest, an app should have features that its target audience would want and can easily figure out. This is why research goes into understanding the audience and the hottest mobile technologies. This way developers can determine what features can raise the value of their app while impressing end-users. To conclude, an app without simplified features is highly likely to run out of gas in the market rather quickly.

Written by: Rikhil Mohan

Java has long been a favorite when it comes to mobile application development. But now it seems that there’s a successor to Java, and a very good one at that.
 

Introducing Kotlin

 
Kotlin, a statically-typed object oriented programming language that runs on Java virtual machine is the brainchild of JetBrains, the people behind popular IDEs namely IntelliJ and ReSharper. It can be compiled to JavaScript source code or be used with LLVM infrastructure.

Despite incompatible syntax with Java, Kotlin still relies on Java code from the existing Java Class Library, and is interoperable with the same. Project Kotlin was first brought out in July 2011 by JetBrains as a new language for JVM with a faster compile time as quickly as Java. Unlike most other languages then, Kotlin came with many useful features.

The project was open sourced the following year, and v1.0 (the first official stable release) was released by 2016. Another feather in the cap for Kotlin was from Google itself. At Google I/O 2017, the tech giant announced first class support for the language on Android, thus making it the third language in the list following C++ and Java. Several major developers – Expedia, Pinterest, and Square etc. have now started using Kotlin for their Android production apps.
 

Features & Benefits

 
Less coding, faster development:The open source development platform makes development much faster for developers, with approximately 20% less coding compared to Java. The compile time is also faster and much more efficient.

  • Short learning curve: The language is quite easy to pick up, even for beginners. Its intuitive syntax borrows traits from many languages including Scala and Apache Groovy. In addition to object-oriented programming, Kotlin also supports procedural programming using functions, which makes it quite interesting as well.
  • Java interoperability: One of the biggest highlights of Kotlin is its exceptional interoperability with Java, supporting the use of Java frameworks and libraries. Kotlin v1.2, released quite recently this year, adds a new feature to the language which allows sharing code between JVM and JavaScript platforms. This also facilitates easier migration from Java to Kotlin for organizations.
  • It’s open source: Kotlin is another open source alternative for the android development sector, licensed under Apache 2. For quick conversion from Java to Kotlin, there is a Java-to-Kotlin converter tool available. Its open source nature means the entire open source community will be contributing to making it better and its usage easier. The language is also free for use.
  • Versatile and secure: The NullPointExceptions in Kotlin considerably reduces errors, while Kotlin’s compiler is designed to auto-cast coding errors. In addition to java code compatibility, it features extension functions which allows adding new functionalities to existing classes and more.

 

Conclusion

 
The coding and performance benefits of Kotlin alone can be expected to bring big changes in the development of mobile technologies. With Google’s backing, Kotlin seems to be on its way to becoming a staple for Android app developers. It’s also speculated that there’d be efforts to promote the language further. Kotlin is also expected to drive IntelliJ IDE sales and boost android development further in the coming years.

Written by: Rikhil Mohan

It has always been a challenge to run android applications natively in a Linux system. A lot of research has been going on to figure this out. Many open source experts were trying to come up with a feasible solution that allows Android apps to run on a Linux environment without issues. Fortunately, one of them has finally done it. The open source project termed ‘Anbox’ could be the next big thing not just in the open source software development sector but also in Android development.

Simon Fels, the brain behind the project, has been working on it independently since 2015 and released a pre-alpha version of the new platform a few months ago. According to Fels, the idea was to put Android into a LXC-based container, linking only the relevant parts to the host Linux OS while restricting accessibility to user data and hardware. The Anbox platform is now ready for a wider audience.
 

Anbox in a nutshell

 
Fels said that the platform essentially isolates the Android system from the host by taking Linux namespaces (user, network etc.). Anbox also provides Open GL ES support by taking code parts from Android emulator implementation. Using these code parts, the platform can arrange the command stream serially before sending to the host.

Fels also stated that the source code is wholly open source. Most features are licensed under the GPLv3 terms. However, a few are Apache 2.0 for compatibility. Fels added that the pre-alpha version may still experience crashes and instability issues, and the next phase will rectify and stabilize the release while adding new features that improve integration with the host OS.
 

Anbox and its promise

 
Earlier efforts, like Shashlik, to run Android apps on a Linux environment were not successful. But Anbox shows promise and potential, and may not fall short like its predecessors. The platform can attract more developers to the already large Android developer community, and can make it easier to create innovative apps as well, according to Paul Teich, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

Teich also added that the platform supports network access, input, audio, and display interfaces even in its early phase. However, the developers will still have to rely on current tools if they require access to accelerometers, radios, and cameras. Reportedly, Anbox runs smooth thanks to snaps and LXC containers.

The next version might have more interfaces implemented for the major classes of sensors, making Anbox an easy alternative for mobile application development.

Written by: Rikhil Mohan

When someone says something about mobile technologies, Android is one of the first things that come to mind. That’s how big it has grown. A recent report from StatCounter, an analytical company, stated that Google’s OS has surpassed Microsoft Windows as the most popular operating system when it comes to overall internet usage through desktop, laptop, mobile, and handheld devices collectively.

Android is also dominating the mobile application development sector. Google releasing updates to the OS further accelerates the growth of Android development. It hasn’t been long since the current version of Android, Nougat, was released. It brought many changes to the OS’s functionality, and added interesting features. But apparently Google doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Android O is on its way, and from what we could gather from the developer preview, it would be bringing some noticeable changes in the Android realm.
 

Developer Preview 1

 
Google is reportedly still working on a title with the initial O for the new version of their flagship OS. The first developer preview was made available for Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel XL, Pixel C, and a few other variants of Pixel smartphones.

Notifications shade

You will notice visual changes when you swipe down the notifications shade. The toggles at the top have been reordered, and now takes a little more space on-screen. The font for data and time is now more concise, adding more visibility to status bar icons.

Handling notifications

Long-pressing on a notification gives you the option to disable all notifications from that app. Swiping the notification to the side a little gives you an icon for accessing Notifications toggle, and an icon to snooze the notification.

Quick settings

Google made some changes in the quick settings, now with a line underneath. The Quick Settings now have a double function. Tap the word underneath the toggle to open the mini settings menu. You can turn the setting on or off by tapping the icon.

Settings menu

Most of the visual changes in the new OS version is in the settings menu. The Settings menu is shorter compared to that in Nougat. Umbrella categories like “device”, “personal”, “wireless and networks”, and “system” have been replaced by descriptive sections like “connected devices”, “apps and notifications”, “networks and internet”, and “security and screen lock”.

System UI Tuner

The System UI Tuner lets you tune various things according to your preferences. You can enable the UI tuner by swiping down the notifications shade, and long-pressing the gear icon. The device vibrates when the option is added to the Settings menu.

The UI Tuner has four areas now.

  • Status bar – You can still find the toggles to enable or disable icons that appear in the status bar.
  • Do not disturb – You will find the option to enable ‘Do not disturb’ mode under the volume slider. Another option lets you add a volume button shortcut to toggle ‘Do not disturb’ when you press the volume down button.
  • Navigation bar – Android O now comes with a layout option that lets you choose between normal, compact, left-leaning, and right-leaning. It’s also possible to add more buttons on the left and right side of the on-screen navigation buttons.
  • Lock screen – The lock screen appears the same as in Nougat, but you can use the System UI Tuner to change the shortcuts in the bottom left and bottom right corners to anything you like.

Picture-in-picture support

The update will come with full support for picture-in-picture mode. With this feature, app developers will now be able to keep playing videos with video apps in a small window while navigating other areas or even other apps.

Audio

Sony’s LDAC Codec has now been included in Android O, which means LDAC-equipped Bluetooth headphones will have a much better quality in the OS. Android O also supports:

  • aptX
  • aptX HD
  • SBC
  • AAC

Notification channels

With notification channels, you can split app notifications into various themes you choose to block individually or allow. You can manage this by long-pressing an app notification in the notification shade or by accessing app notification settings.

Background process limits

Google has, as always, optimized Android O as well apparently, as the OS will limit background processes significantly.

Autofill API

Android O introduces Autofill APIs making it easier for apps to manage passwords better than in the previous versions of the OS. The autofill app stores form data such as usernames, passwords, and addresses.

Wide color gamut for apps support

App developers will now be able to use a larger palette of colors in Android O. According to Google, ‘Android developers of imaging apps can now take advantage of new devices that have a wide-gamut color capable display. To display wide gamut images, apps will need to enable a flag in their manifest (per activity) and load bitmaps with an embedded wide color profile (AdobeRGB, Pro Photo RGB, DCI-P3, etc.)’.
 

Developer Preview 2

 
Fluid Experiences

Like the name suggests, Fluid Experiences (announced at Google I/O 2017) makes managing multi-tasking tools fluid and enjoyable. Google’s machine learning tool, TensorFlow, got scaled down for Android O, and is named TensorFlow Lite. The new framework of Android O will provide the required hardware acceleration to neural network features.

Notification dots

Till now, we had to use custom Launchers to have a notification icon on top of the app icon on the homescreen. Android O has this feature now. You can notice a small dot over the app icons now with active notifications. Long-pressing the icon with the notification dot gives you access to a list of actions that include viewing notifications in a small pop-up window. However, the long-press action will supposedly come only in a future beta release.

Smart text selection

Android O will provide more options in addition to cut, copy, and paste once a text is highlighted. Google’s AI will determine exactly what you highlighted – a phone number, an address etc. and give you options accordingly.

Auto-Fill

The new OS version will remember your usernames and passwords letting you access apps quickly.

Vitals

Android O will feature several features collectively termed Vitals. Vitals will include security enhancements, OS optimizations, and developer tools. Google Play Protect that was announced by the tech giant’s Android team at Google I/O 2017 will also be included, visible as an entry in Google Play app update window. Google Play Protect will perform scans on apps, and inform you if it detects any issues.
 

Conclusion

 
Not all new features and enhancements revealed in the previews have been included in this article. The bottom-line is that Android O comes packed with so many cool features, continuing what Nougat started and giving more control to users. The OS will finally deliver many things we’ve been waiting for, like adaptive icons and app badges, not to mention support for next-gen Android peripherals.

Written by: Rikhil Mohan

The final developer preview of Android Wear 2.0 rolled out this year, and it packs features that could positively expand android development. The new OS update came out a month ago along with a surprise from Google. The tech behemoth partnered with LG and introduced two flagship smartwatches out of the box featuring the 2.0.

The developer preview, that came out earlier, is a different story. As always, Google made sure the developers have things to work on….primarily the iOS support.

YES! A massive feature of the operating system is full iOS support. For the mobile application development sector, this is a pretty big deal.
 

What it means

 
Basically, it means that android developers can create iPhone apps that will be supported by wearables running Android Wear 2.0.

Previous Android smartwatches connected to iOS were able to access apps through the Android Wear iOS app, and only use the ones distributed by Google. Now, with the iOS support, Android and iOS developers can team up to enhance user experience even further opening the doors to integrating more innovative tech to the much beloved platform.

iOS support is just one feature. Other noteworthy additions include:

  • Navigation drawer app
  • NFC Host Card Emulation support
  • Bug fixes

The NFC Host Card Emulation support could make it possible to pay for purchases through Android Pay.

It should also be noted that the iOS support doesn’t work both ways i.e. iOS users can use Android powered wearables running the 2.0 Android Wear. They will be able to run iOS apps in the device. But the same cannot be said for Android users. They still won’t be able to connect Apple Watch to their Android smartphones.

Developers will be able to submit applications developed with the Android Wear 2.0 version to the Google Play Store for publication. Once authorized, the apps can be made available to users owning Android Wear 2.0 devices.

That said, the Android Wear 2.0 update still hasn’t rolled out except for a select few devices. Even those with the developer preview haven’t received the update. The delay may not be Google’s fault but rest assured when it does come out for the wearables, it will not be disappointing the users.

Written by: Rikhil Mohan
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