Mobility

Hacks in Android, A Development Opportunity?

Darryl K. Taft covers IBM, big data and a number of other topics for TechWeekEurope and eWeek

Application developers for Google Android are preparing themselves for an increase in demand. At the same time, developers are also discussing hacks to provide better access to Android phones.

Even as some developers continue to create apps for the iPhone, others are gearing up an increase in customer demand for Google’s Android applications.

At a meeting of the New York Linux Users Group (NYLUG) here, Nathan Freitas, a partner with Oliver Coady, a New York-based consulting and application development firm specialising in mobile development, said he expects the advent of paid-for applications for the Google Android to boost both quality and quantity of Android applications.

“I think that ‘for-pay’ applications will certainly help to increase Android development,” Freitas said. “Right now I’m throwing in Android ports for applications I write for the iPhone, because I do iPhone development, too,” Freitas told a crowded room of current and prospective Android developers at the 18th Feb NYLUG meeting. “I think the market is becoming more forward-looking and there is a good amount of interest in Android apps. The iPhone is wildly successful, but Android is catching on.”

Meanwhile, Freitas, who has worked at Palm as a program manager building Java code, said he appreciates Android as “the first open mobile platform. There’s really a lot to hack on. It’s really the first open platform developer-tools-wise. No one’s ever put the effort into delivering a fully cross-platform development environment.”

Moreover, Android features a “great SDK [Software Development Kit]” in Android 1.1 SDK Release 1, with or without the Eclipse IDE support, he said. Freitas said he likes having the ability to either hack code by hand or to use the Eclipse IDE, particularly for debugging code written in different languages. Freitas then discussed various favoured features, including the Android Emulator, which is a virtual mobile device that runs on a developer’s PC.

Making a comparison to the iPhone development environment, Freitas said, “There’s a big difference between APIs and a thoughtful platform…The iPhone is a beautiful device and a great user experience.”

However, the iPhone world does not focus as much on providing an ecosystem of services for developers like Android does, Freitas said, noting the OpenIntents.org site, which is a place to collect, design and implement open intents and interfaces to make Android mobile applications work more closely together. In addition, Freitas mentioned the PhoneGap project, which is a development tool that allows Web developers to take advantage of the core features in the iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry SDK using JavaScript.