Things I wanted from Android

A year ago today (March 24th 2012) I published a post on my old blog about things that I wanted from Android. I thought I would do a follow up post now, a year later, to see whether or not those things did ever happen:

  • SVG support everywhere: the key advantage of using SVG for UI graphics is that you don’t have problems with pixel density on the screen. Unfortunately Android still doesn’t support the use of SVG like this, so we are stuck with PNGs for UI graphics. The ADT does now make it easier to import one high-resolution graphic and produce lower resolution versions, and 9-patch PNGs are always an option
  • Better font support: Roboto was introduced with Android 4, but Android still lags behind big time on the number of fonts
  • Higher PPI displays: At the time nothing really competed with the iPhone 4/4S, however now there are a good number of Android phones that do.
  • One Android: I had envisioned that all devices would come with one standard Android. This hasn’t happened, but the growing popularity of Nexus devices has lead to more devices using stock/Google Android
  • Google Play gift cards: these have been introduced, and sales have increased as a result 🙂
  • Better integration between Eclipse and Google Play: when you finish producing an iOS app, it only takes a couple of clicks in Xcode to send it off to Apple. With Android, you still have to produce an APK and upload it via the web interface. Obviously this isn’t much of a pain, but I like Apple’s simple system.
  • OTA updates: obviously automatic updating of the Android system is something that vendors do rather than Google (aside from Nexus devices, and their increasing dominance is a very good thing for developers) however the difference between users on the latest version of iOS and Android is still huge. Interestingly, long before the original post was written Google had announced in 2011 the ‘Android Update Alliance’ which promised timely updates by manufactures every 18 months after a device release. This never happened, and I should imagine that the reasoning is that the devices of early 2011 would have been running Android 2.x, whereas the devices released last summer would have been running Android 4.x which required much higher performance
  • A better emulator: today the emulator is much faster, especially thanks to the introduction of GPU/hardware acceleration and a new Intel (rather than ARM) image that makes the execution of apps a hell of a lot faster

Obviously Android still hasn’t met all of these requirements and I didn’t think it will meet some of these for quite some time, if ever. I’m pleased, however, to see that changes have happened and that they have worked. Here is what I would still like from Android, from a developing perspective:

  • Faster development time: This is most likely due to my lack of experience with Android development compared to iOS development, however I’ve found that I can write an iOS app much faster than I can write an Android app. Setting up the UI takes longer, linking the UI to code takes longer, the IDE is slower, the emulator* is slower, deploying the app takes longer and the export process takes longer
  • A better IDE: Eclipse has been a great IDE and it is still very usable, however IntelliJ seems to have a lot more useful features
  • Java?: I’m not sure that we need to stick with Java for Android development at all. Xaramin have done an awesome job at bringing C# to Android, and they claim that performance is just as good (if not better) than Dalvik. That’s impressive, and with a better IDE, nicer language and full API support (but high cost) it certainly is a viable option

*The iOS ’emulator’ is actually a simulator. When you test iOS apps on desktop it compiles an x86 version instead of an ARM version.

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