How To Develop Android Apps: Getting Started

In this article, I will give an introduction on how to develop Android apps. I will not get into many technical details but rather give an overview of the approaches you should consider before you get started.

Smartphones are taking the World by storm. In may 2012 a news item appeared which stated that in Europe, more than 50% of all new mobile phones sold were smartphones. In 2011 the worldwide sales figures of Android phones exceeded those of the iPhone, the phone that started the “smartphone revolution”.

With the growing number of Android phones, the number of available apps (small programs designed to work on these devices) has also grown explosively. In addition to mobile phones, other devices such as tablet computers that run on the Android operating system are also gaining popularity. The consequence of all this is that there is a growing need for Android apps.

The Google Play Store (formerly Android Market) is growing at an enormous rate: there are now over 500,000 apps available. These are very diverse: utility apps such as text messengers, task managers and email clients but also a host of games. The most popular apps are being downloaded millions of times. Other interesting categories are apps that enhance businesses. Examples of these are apps that enable customers to purchase products right from their mobile phone or apps that provide the location of a company branch in the vicinity of the user.

The increasing popularity of mobile apps gives rise to many interesting business opportunities. This trend is unlikely to change any time soon and established business around the world are acknowledging this fact. Not only have many businesses produced mobile apps to grow their revenue or enhance their image. The rise of mobile apps appears to be changing the way businesses and consumers think about software. A telling example comes from Microsoft: the new Windows 8 operating system has a “mobile look and feel” and the software programs in the system are now referred to as “apps”.

So, if you want to learn how to develop Android apps where should you start? It depends on your previous experience (if any) and the amount of time and money you are willing to spend.

The most obvious route is doing all the programming yourself. To do this you need knowledge of the Java programming language and the Android Software Development Kit. If you have never programmed before, you will have to learn a lot about subjects such as object oriented programming and working with the necessary developer tools. This is the long, hard road to becoming an app developer… however, if you succeed at making your first few apps, it can be extremely satisfying and you will have gained a lot of useful knowledge!

If you do not know how to program and don’t want to learn how to write Android apps then, fortunately, there are other options. Several software products exist which make the app for you. Most of these are online applications that use “wizards” and templates. A limitation of this approach is that you will not have as much control over the result as you would when doing all the programming yourself. Some of these app makers are free, others offer a subscription service or a one time payment.

If app creation software doesn’t suit your needs, a third way is to hire a freelancer or a company to do the developing. If you are an individual hobbyist or running a small business, this may seem intimidating and expensive. However, using a resource such as oDesk we now have access to many cheap freelancers living outside of North America and Europe. Many are very capable at their job, so developing your app this way does not have to cost much at all.

Personally, I started out trying to do all the programming myself. I couldn’t find an online app maker that suited my needs and I did not want to spend a lot of money. However, although I had a little coding experience, I am not a software developer by profession. So when a relatively simple programming problem reared its head, I got stuck.

After some hesitation, I decided to let a freelancer solve the problem and this sped up the development of my app enormously! It did not cost me a lot of money (around $100) and I was able to get the app to the market much faster than if I had done everything myself. This allowed me to start testing the responses of customers sooner to see if it was a viable business idea.

This “hybrid” approach worked for me but you will have to find out for yourself what works best for you. Which method you choose doesn’t matter as long as you reach your goal: making the idea you have right now for your app a reality. Something that people can use and enjoy, and perhaps will make you some money or help your existing business!

In conclusion, there are several ways to get started developing Android apps. With so much information and services at your disposal, you have the opportunity to make your “dream app” a reality!

10 Free Android Apps That Will Actually Make You Money While Shopping!

Shopping is either pure bliss or torture depending on who you ask. Regardless of which end of the spectrum you are on, Android apps will help you save money and allow you to become a more efficient shopper (which I’m sure appeals to most of you). So what does that entail? It’ll give the shopaholics more bang for their buck, which is never a bad thing. Perhaps even more importantly, these Android apps will provide shopaphobes what they really crave- less time in the stores!

The pure power and functionality of these Android apps can really make shopping virtually an all new experience. No matter if these apps function as a shopping list, database, storefront or a supplemental knowledge source, they’re all squarely aimed at one thing: if you use them, they will save you money!

You’re getting a feeling like Android shopping apps, in general, might just help you, right? Well here are 10 Android apps that will save you money while they help you fulfill all your shopping needs and desires. Oh and did I mention that all these ten are completely FREE to download?

SnapTell

Want to know more about an item you saw on the rack? Just use SnapTell to scan the barcode of any CD, DVD, book or video game and you will be able to get all the information you could possibly need. What type of information? Well, if you just want some more cursory information, that’ll work. Most notably, if you want to see how the price stacks up to other distributors, it can do that for you in seconds. This app could be a big time money-saver for you if you take the time to use it before you make that next media purchase!

Key Ring Reward Cards

This is a very handy app to consolidate all your clutter in your purse/wallet while ensuring that you don’t lose valuable reward/loyalty cards. How does it work? All you do is take a snapshot of the barcode of your reward card (just about any decent sized company with a rewards program is in the database- over 650 programs) and enter some basic information about the store. That’s it; you’re now ready to use your phone as your reward card at that store in the future by pulling up your reward information from that store on this Android app. It’s probably not for non-techies or those who crave extreme simplicity. It is, however, a great idea and technology that will no doubt get crisper in the future.

If you don’t mind carrying all your reward cards and potentially losing one or two along the way (and having to suffer through the wait to replace the card), this free Android app sounds like a waste of time. But, if the extra inch of not-so-soft plastic padding for your rump (or the misuse of perfectly good purse space- not to mention the potential inability to use your chic tiny purse out shopping) isn’t idyllic, this app is worth the few minutes to download and get everything set up properly.

OurGroceries

This is the perfect app for the happy, busy family of Android phone users. It allows the kids to endlessly add all their necessary foods. When the items are purchased, they can be removed from the list (on all the Android phones it’s registered to) and then, 4 hours later, they can easily be added back onto the list! Joking aside, this is a great app to have for the new-age hyper busy, hyper tech families that want to become more efficient.

Hey, it costs a lot of money to keep purchasing that extra loaf of bread that your husband/wife (or even you- thanks to that undecided hmmm, don’t we need bread moment even though you just bought two loaves yesterday- yes you’re not alone!) just picked up and will end up turning green before anyone has a chance to make a sandwich with it.

OI Shopping list

To me, this app, fully named the OpenIntents Shopping list, is like the OurGroceries for the single folks out there. Not to say a family wouldn’t benefit from this app, it just has more features and it’s not a perfect fit like the other app is for families that need a simple solution to keep up on their latest shopping needs. That being said, this app is a powerful workhorse and can really end up saving you countless hours and some decent cash at year’s end.

US Yellow Pages Search

This is one of the more useful free Android apps available and I’ll be honest, it doesn’t 100% fit with the theme of helping you save money while shopping. I could argue that it does, but for simplicity, I’ll just use an old clich: Time is Money! Saving some time is just as good as saving cash on those busy days out and about. Having this app on your Android phone is like having 300 super-thick Yellowbooks from all over the US crammed into your back pocket. Not a bad thing if you travel a decent amount or enjoy living outside of your house. It’s just a great resource to have on hand for those times when you need to find a business’s number fast.

eBay

This official app brings eBay to your Android phone. It’s kind of crazy, but I think I like this UI better than the actual website on my computer. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad. Nonetheless, it gives you an idea that this Android app was developed correctly and really hits the mark. That is, if you’re an eBay fan; if you’re not, sorry!

Amazon.com

Similar to eBay’s Android app, this beauty from Amazon brings all the functionality from the full-sized website to your Android phone. It’s amazing how seamless this transition appears for these giant resellers. This is a great thing for us though!

Craigslist

The last of the GIANT resellers’ Android apps on this list, I promise. Well, kind of: if you don’t include Groupon in your list of “resellers”, I haven’t lied to you. So, if you’ve ever used Craigslist, you know how utterly important it is to check out a potential “killer item” within 5 minutes of it being posted and subsequently be the first handful of people to contact the seller to have any hopes of actually ending up with it in your possession.

That being said, if you use Craigslist and you have an Android phone, YOU NEED THIS APP NOW! Haha, sorry to scream, but if you’re going to use this portal of goodness with the hopes of eventually buying something you want/need, you have to have instant access to newly posted items. The only way to do that (I’m taking liberties assuming you aren’t a recluse and on your home computer 24/7) is to have access “on-the-go” to instant notifications for your set of items that interest you and also a way to view them. This app performs both of these necessary actions and does them well.

*Please, for your sake, if you want to be the guy (gal) bragging about the awesome deal you got on the “coolest thing in the world” instead of the not-so-happy version of you regrettably telling the story about “the one that got away” to anyone who will listen, download this app!*

Groupon

This is the official app from the immensely popular and rapidly growing Groupon website. This site has a “cult-like” following (not in a bad way!) which actually benefits its users. Essentially, the more people that use their services, the more offers are presented to the users and that helps all of us save a good amount of money! This free Android app ensures that you’re never out of the “Groupon loop” and you’ll have the opportunity to take advantage of the appealing offers wherever you may be.

The Coupons App

Another money-saving coupon app? Yes! That’s all I can say- the prospects of saving a buck in this economy is a powerful force it seems. I’m almost a bit surprised at myself that I didn’t completely inundate this “shopping list” with coupon apps (patting myself on the shoulder for spreading out the love). If only I could go back in time to 1989 and use this app instead of clipping 500-plus coupons from the Sunday paper (for my mom). Well those were good times- minus the paper cuts.

What’s this Android app going to do for you? Anything and everything coupon related; it brings the coupons with you on your phone and allows you to find new ones even while you’re at the store! That’s pretty awesome for those of us not commanding “Top CEO” salaries…

Honorable Mention:

There’s only one free Android app that I would consider putting on this list. The reason is because it’s probably the most important app for everyone to download today. I consider it more of a “mandatory app” than an Android shopping app and that’s why it’s here.

The app I’m speaking of is the Barcode Scanner. Among other things, it allows you to browse the web on your computer and take a photo of the QR Code of an app you’re interested in downloading. Once the code is processed (which takes very little time- talking seconds), the corresponding Android app’s download page appears in the Google Marketplace! It’s that simple and works like a charm once you get past the short “operator error” stage that plagues most of us.

Top 10 Free Android Apps for the Year 2010

Although the Apple iPhone and its much-loaded iOS platform have changed the face of mobile phones and its uses, Google Android’s open-source platform is quickly catching up and gaining its own loyal followers. With the huge number of applications (or apps) available for download in the android app store, a lot of android phone users can now make the most out of their mobile devices-be it for business, fun, recreation or games. But, while there are hundreds and hundreds of free android apps available, keep in mind that there can be a lot of apps that aren’t so great. We’ll help you find the best ones from the android app store by giving you ten of the top free android apps this year.

1. Free Android Advanced Task Killer Application. This free android app can help you maximize the speed and efficiency of your android phone. Remember, although android phones can multitask (something that pre-iPhone 4 users can’t enjoy), this can hog up valuable memory and drain your battery. Use the Advanced Task Killer to quit tasks and apps that can slow down your phone.

2. Astrid. Science and research states that we can only store about 4 to 7 things in our short-term memory. It’s a good thing you’ve got Astrid and your android phone to the rescue! This nifty free android app can lets you track reminders, tasks and errands and even group them according to priority or due date. A tiny and cute cartoon octopus (“Astrid”) even acts as your own personal assistant and reminds you of upcoming events.

3. Dolphin Browser. iPhones may have the proprietary Safari but androids have Dolphin Browser. This free android app makes mobile browsing easier and much more fun, with pinch-zoom, gesture commands, tabbed browsing, bookmarks sorting and more.

4. Foursquare. Instead of just letting your friends know where you went for dinner, show them exactly where you’ve been with Foursquare. Using Google Maps, friends can check where you are and you can also see where they’ve been. You can even explore restaurants, cafes and stores nearby through your phone. Remember to include Foursquare when you download android apps!

5. Google Sky Map. Have the heavens in your hands-literally by downloading this from android app stores. Google Sky Map lets you to see the constellations and the planets and even helps you put names on stars. GPS navigation also allows you to see the exact position of stars and planets according to your location.

6. Mint. This app, which is available in android app stores, can help you keep track of your personal finances on the go. Input your daily expenses and transactions so that you know where your money’s going. You can even keep a monthly budget and inspect your overall cash flow with this free android application.

7. Replica Island. Relive the fun days of Mari Brothers and MegaMan on your android phone with this exciting and cute game. Replica Island lets you navigate a cute, green robot through 40 different levels, each with varying degrees of difficulty.

8. Talk to Me. Communicate with people from all over the world, no matter what race or nationality with this handy and free android app. Simply type in any text and Talk to Me will translate it into any of the 40 different languages available. You can also talk to it, and the app will talk back to you in Chinese, German, Spanish, French… the list goes on and on!

9. Bubble Beats. Have you ever wondered how it would be like to see music? Well, Bubble Beats provides the answer to that question with its unique and innovative interface. Free from android app stores, Bubble Beat is a jukebox of sorts that lets you assign colored bubbles or dots to certain tracks. You can then create playlists by grouping bubbles together. Never has listening to music been this fun!

10. Ringdroid. Are you tired of the same old boring ringtones and message alerts? Then download this free android app. Ringdroid allows you to record and edit sounds, as well as create ringtones. It’s like your own little music studio inside your mobile phone!

Make the most out of Google’s open-source platform and your nifty android phone! The handy, fun and innovative free android apps listed above prove that often, the best things in life are the ones that you don’t have to pay for. So, head on to your favorite android app store and start downloading these apps now!