June 4, 2010

The 10 Best Android Resources On The Web

You and I both know that Google’s App Market doesn’t boast the numbers of Apple’s industry-leading App Store, but with slick new devices, updated software releases, and a high carrier and manufacturer adoption rate, the Android platform is riding high on a wave of popularity that is attracting new developers, app creators, entrepreneurs, and most importantly, consumers.

And with Android making a 10-position jump in the most recent edition of the Online Talent Report, it clearly indicates a spark of heavy interest in development on the open-source platform. Regardless of if you’re an amateur developer, a veteran coder, or an entrepreneur looking to learn more, we’ve got you covered with our 10 best Android development resources on the web.

Android Developers Site:  In order to begin development for the Android platform, you’ll need to start here at square one. From this site, you can download the software development kit (SDK) and the tools required for Android development and testing. This is also the very same site that you will be coming back to when it is time to publish your app onto the Android market. The site also features extensive documentation on the APIs associated with the platform. 

While the Android Developers site does in fact feature a forum for help with the Android Market, it doesn’t have a general purpose discussion area for new coders who may have development related questions. Instead, Google refers users to the second resource in this list, Stack Overflow. 

Stack Overflow: Stack Overflow is an online discussion forum suited for a variety of programming questions across a variety of platforms. It’s chock full of stuff for Android developers because it’s the primary site recommended by Google for those looking for help with Android related problems. Rather than being broken down into sub-forums like many other online discussion forums, Stack Overflow is organized according to tags. It also allows visitors to vote on the best answer, similar to other question and answer sites like Yahoo! Answers.

The site gets a good amount of activity and questions get answered fairly quickly. It should be one of your first stops online if you find yourself stuck without a clue, after searching the Android Developers site, of course.

Eclipse: Eclipse is the most commonly used integrated development environment (IDE) used for developing Android apps. Not only is Eclipse a powerful IDE in its own right, but Android support is deeply engrained in the application. This means that launching the Android emulator and installing software onto it no longer requires command line utilities and multiple steps. Another example of the implementation between Android and Eclipse is the fact that Eclipse offers a special wizard to properly sign code for release into the Android Market. The deep level of integration makes this tool a must-have (or at least a must-check-out) for all Android developers. Run out of officially supported Google resources? This online Android development community should be everyone's first stop after your options run dry. Unlike Stack Overflow, this discussion forum operates in a much more traditional fashion. It also has many subtopics and an active community of users. For new and still learning developers, there is an entire section dedicated for tutorials on a variety of subjects.

The site is also home to the user-contributed Android learners book “AndBook”. Unlike many wiki-style documents, AndBook is available in PDF format for you to download. It’s informative and well organized and would make an excellent read for any aspiring Android developer.

Shiva3D: If mobile gaming or three-dimensional environments are a part of your roadmap, Shiva3D is definitely worth a test drive. This 3D graphics engine and development environment is designed for independent developers and is one of the first to provide support for Android development. The engine includes all of the features you would expect from a commercial 3D engine, including physics and a simple-to-use editor. (That editor, however, requires Windows to run. Mac users, don’t fret – it performs well under Parallels as well.) 

One of the great things about the software is that the free trial is fully functional and not time limited, meaning you can try it for as long as you desire or even fully flesh out your game before dropping any cash on a license to build and publish your game.

AdWhirl: Monetizing – one of the key words on the minds of entrepreneurs seeking a piece of the mobile app pie. If you are thinking about releasing a free app and monetizing it using advertising revenue, this is one of the first options that you should look in to. AdWhirl has long been one of the go-to choices for iPhone developers, and they’ve recently released an SDK and officially set up shop on the Android platform. 

AdWhirl isn't a broker firm itself – instead it serves as a mediation layer that allows you to use the services of many different ad companies. You can sort the companies in order of presence in order to give impressions to the ad company that is most successful for you. When the fill rate for your first choice drops below 100% and they don't have an ad for you to display, the software will automatically start making its way down your list until it finds a company that does have an ad for your app to show, allowing you to get as close to a 100%% fill rate on your app and ensuring maximum monetization. 

Cocos2d-Android:  While this project isn't quite as complete as the projects that have inspired it (such as the iPhone and Desktop/Python versions), it’s very much in a useful state for Android developers. Cocos2d is a fairly robust and easy to use 2d graphics framework and includes built-in support for the box2d physics engine. 

The engine utilizes OpenGL for the fastest rendering possible which also allows for easy implementation of features, such as rotating and scaling sprites. The Android version already includes many of the features that are available in the more mature versions of the API and is actively being developed, meaning further improvements upon the framework. 

The Cocos2d framework has been used in many successful apps on the iPhone store and will no doubt become a major player in the Android market as well. If you intend on writing 2d based games, this is certainly worth taking a look at. 

Geocade: Geocade is a social gaming network that is one of the few that has already implemented support for Android devices. The code offers several features that will add value to your app for the customer, such as location-aware high scores and discussion boards. Wouldn’t you be interested in finding out where you rank among “space blasters” in the entire Bay Area? 

However, the customer isn't the only one that will benefit from usage of this network in your app. In addition to the increased downloads that social gaming networks such as these create, Geocade publishers can easily implement feedback surveys to get direct feedback from their customers to add and prioritize improvements that your community really wants. The company also has a revenue sharing agreement to give you a cut of the profits from ads that display while the user is navigating the network from within your app.

Android Stats: Once you've finished up your app and it’s ready for download on the Market, you’re eventually going to become curious about how it is performing in relation to other apps. Sure, the Android Market tells you how many downloads your app has, and the Market console even tells you what percentage of those downloaders still have the app installed on their phone, but it doesn’t provide any insight on one key element – your competition. This is where Android Stats comes in.

Android Stats is a site that keeps track of your app rankings so you can compare your app to the apps that you are directly competing with. This can be useful for marketing purposes or for getting ideas on where your app needs to improve in order to increase sales. 

Cyrket: Unlike the iPhone App Store, the Android Market lacks a web-based or desktop software-based method of shopping and browsing. For developers who are running older versions of Android on their phones, this means not even being able to see the screenshots of potential competition. When deciding upon a new product to release, it is important to make sure that the market isn't already oversaturated with apps of its type or to evaluate the quality of your would be competitors. Google doesn't make this easy, but thankfully Cyrket allows you to browse the Android Market (as well as Palm and Windows Phone marketplaces) to perform this type of market research.


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