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Tue, 31 May 2011

Bouncer, my first Android application

So, I have published my first Android app (the concept for which someone else described to me). What have I learned about Android development and such since then?

My first (unpublished) Android app was heavy on ListView. It was a tree of ListView's really - the top ListView went into sub-trees of ListView's, until a leaf/node on the bottom was reached, which might be something else. I filled out the onCreate method, and an onListItemClick method.

The first screen of my new app was initally going to be a GridView. I then gave up on that. I then created two activities which could go back and forth to one another via clicks (listened to with OnClickListener) via Intents. Then I had them pass information to one another in the Bundles. So now I can pass messages to my sub-trees via the Bundles, and they can be separate Activities.

Having dropped the Gridview, I tried out the TableLayout, which I eventually went with. So now I had my grid-like table of letters on the first screen, able to pass which letter was pressed via a bundle in the Intent to another Activity. I used Buttons for these letters.

I then wanted there to be a tab on the front screen, with the table of buttons in the primary tab, but with people able to tab over to the "About" tab. So I made the first activity a TabActivity, and opened the Activity with the table with an Intent.

I then wanted to change the color of the buttons, but found out it was not all that simple, and learned about 9-patch drawables and the like. So I created my own buttons, which needed their corner rounding to be specified and the like.

Google suggests you put an End User License Agreement in the application. There is a standard class to do this, so I put it on the application.

Ultimately, I want my app to cover all 50 of the US states, as well as the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) Currently, it covers 46 of the 50. I had the current ID for 46 of the states, at this point in development I started putting up older licenses that may still be valid.

Most of this time I was designing for a high density, normal size screen in a vertical position. About 17% of people using Android's use medium density however. Also, some people flip from vertical to horizontal mode, I even encourage this flipping in the application when the full image is about to come on the screen. So I did some work on making it at least function with medium density setups, and for high density setups when viewed horizontally. I get the display metrics, and then call different layouts depending on what the metrics are.

When to release is always an open question. "Release early, release often", agile development and so forth is the popular credo, and I agree with it for most applications. On the other hand, you can't release too early, especially since Android Market has a rating system and so forth. But at this point, I felt I had enough, and the last four holdout states it didn't look like I would get anything from them in the next few days, so I decided 46 was enough to be useful, that layout looked decent for most phones, and was at least usable for almost all phones. So I released.

One thing I did not do when releasing was release the initial version with ads. Why? Because Admob wants to know where it is on Google Market to give you an ad code, and I had nothing up there yet. I later realized I had misunderstood due to my unfamiliarilty with all of this, I could have put an ad in the initial version. Within a few hours of publishing version 1.0.0, I released 1.0.1, which contained Admob ads.

It's been 28 hours since I released the initial version, and 15 hours since I released the version with ads. Thusfar I have had 78 downloads of the app from Android Market, and have had 55 ad impressions served.

In subsequent versions I plan to improve the application. I will work to get the four missing states, and the District of Columbia. I will put more information about identification. I might put a bubble up announcing updates, but I wouldn't want it to be too annoying. I also have some kludgey stuff in the layout files which hopefully I can clean up, as I learn the Android API better these things can be more smooth.

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