How and why did I start developing Android apps?
I’ve been developing Android apps since the beginning of 2011. Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread was the latest release, it looked something like this:
And it was pretty crap if I’m honest. Unresponsive touch screen, slow apps, lots of crashes, ugly UI. Yep, things have improved a lot since then.
But I was intrigued by the technology and the potential of Android devices, so I bought a Samsung Galaxy Fit running 2.2.1 Froyo to see what it was all about. I installed a few apps from the Android App Market, they weren’t great apps but even then it was amazing the variety of apps you could get.
Back then I was a C# developer primarily developing client/server systems. And like now, I worked on personal projects in my spare time. During my regular reading of technical articles I found a post on Android development, which gave me the great idea of developing an app of my own.
A quiz app seemed like a good start for an app, and being a cricket fan why not write a cricket quiz app I thought. I so wish I still had that app so I could see how basic it was and what the code was like, it makes me laugh just thinking about it now. I remember it was one screen, black background and default grey text. The quiz questions and answers were pre-loaded into the SQLite database, there were 40 questions I think, and the player had to answer 10 randomly selected multi-choice questions. It would then display their score at the end of the 10 questions. And that was it, no internet connection needed, no scoreboards, just that very basic app. Play it a couple of times and the questions would start repeating.
it was a fun exercise, and I enjoyed learning something new. The article that gave me the idea of writing an app also described how to publish the app on the Android Market (the forerunner to Google Play Store). So I published my basic, one screen app. And then just left it.
Three days later I decided to take a look at my Android Market stats, and incredibly I found that my app had been downloaded over 70 times. I was absolutely amazed by this – more than 70 people had thought my little app was interesting enough to download and try.
This was a breakthrough moment for me. I suddenly realised how I could write an app, publish it to one place, and instantly have millions of potential customers.
There was another side to Android development that instantly had me hooked – the fact that you had this little device with very limited resources: small screen, very little memory, low processing power, and narrow and unstable connectivity. I was used to developing for systems that had virtually unlimited resources, but on a mobile device I had to manage the resources carefully and write very efficient code with lots of careful error handling. It was almost like going back to the good ol’ days of programming.
So that was it, from then on I devoted all my spare time to learning as much as I could about Android development. I developed several apps during this time, some not great and others that were reasonable successful.
I kept on improving that original cricket quiz app by adding online scoreboards, multi-player mode, a server-based question database with over 2000 questions in it, and of course lots of UI/UX improvements. It was getting over 200 downloads a day at its peak, and totalled over 150,000 downloads before I eventually binned it.
After a few months I moved on to professional Android development, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.