While developing mobile apps, businesses target Android due to its massive worldwide mobile operating system market share. Alphabet has made Android available as an open source mobile platform. Also, it updates the mobile operating system at regular intervals with new features and enhancements. But the penetration rate of individual versions of the mobile operating system differs.
Alphabet does not regulate the Android smartphones, tablets, and phablets manufactured by various companies. Hence, the devices manufactured by different companies come with varying hardware features despite being powered by the same version of Android. That is why; it becomes essential for developers build mobile apps by targeting a wide range of devices powered by different versions of Android.
While planning, developing, and testing the mobile app, they need to focus extensively on its accessibility, functionality, performance, usability, and security of the mobile app to keep the users engaged regardless of their choice of Android device. Also, they need to explore ways to make the app deliver personalized user experience across varying devices and operating system version. They further need to address a number of common challenges to develop a robust Android app.
Understanding 7 Common Challenges Faced by Android App Developers
1) Software Fragmentation
As mentioned earlier, the market share of individual versions of Android differs. According to the latest data released by Google, the most recent version of its mobile operating system – Nougat – has a market share lower than its predecessors – Marshmallow, Lollipop and KitKat. Each new version of Android comes with several new features and enhancements. The developers have to include specific features in the app to make it deliver optimal user experience by taking advantage of these new features. At the same time, they also need to ensure that the app delivers rich and personalized user experience on devices powered by older versions of Android. The developers have to target multiple versions of Android to make the application popular and profitable in the short run.
2) Varying Hardware Features
Unlike other mobile operating systems, Android is open source. Alphabet allows device manufacturers to customize its operating system according to their specific needs. Also, it does not regulate the Android devices launched by various manufacturers. Hence, the devices come with varying hardware features despite being powered by the same version of Android. For instance, two devices powered by Android Nougat may differ from each other in the category of display screen size, resolution, camera and other hardware features. While developing an Android app, the developers need to ensure that it delivers personalized experience to each user by accessing all hardware features of his device.
3) No Uniform User Interface Designing Process or Rules
Google has not released any common user interface (UI) designing process or rules for the mobile app developers. Hence, most developers build Android apps without following any standard UI development process or rules. When the developers create custom UI interfaces in their own way, the apps do not look or function consistently across different devices. The incompatibility and diversity of the UI affects the user experience delivered by the Android app directly. The smart developers opt for responsive layout to keep the UI consistent across many devices. Also, the developers have to test the UI of their mobile app comprehensively by combining both real devices and emulators. But often developers find it daunting to design a UI that make the app look consistent across various Android devices.
4) API Incompatibility
Most developers use third-party APIs to enhance the mobile app’s functionality and interoperability. But the quality of third-party APIs available for Android app developers differs. Some APIs are designed for a particular version of Android. Hence, these APIs do not work on devices powered by different versions of the mobile operating system. The developers have to explore ways to make a single API work on different versions of Android. But they often find it challenging to make the app work smoothly on different Android devices with the same set of APIs.
5) Security Flaws
Its open source nature makes it easier for device manufacturers to customize Android according to their specific needs. But the openness and its massive market share made Android vulnerable to frequent security attacks. There are many instances when security of millions of Android devices has been impacted by security flaws or bugs like Stagefright, ‘Certifi-gate’ mRST, FakeID, Installer Hijacking and TowelRoot. The developers have to include robust security features in the application and use latest encryption mechanism to keep the user information secure despite targeted security attacks and security flaws in Android.
6) Android Search Engine Visibility
The latest data posted on various website depict that Google Play Store has a much higher number of mobile apps than Apple App Store. Also, a large percentage of Android device users prefer free apps to paid apps. Hence, the developers have to promote their mobile apps aggressively to accomplish higher download numbers and implement app monetization options. They also need to implement a comprehensive digital marketing strategy to promote the app by targeting the most relevant users. Many developers have to avail the services of digital marketing professionals to promote their apps aggressively.
7) Patent Issues
The users have option to choose from several Android apps offering identical features and functionalities. But developers often find it daunting to build apps with unique features and functionality. They often include features and functionalities in the app that make it similar to a number of apps available in the same category in the Play store. Unlike Apple, Google does not implement stringent guidelines to evaluate the quality of new apps being submitted to its app store. Lack of standardized quality assessment guidelines often make developers address issues related to patent. Some developers have to design and modify their apps in future to avoid patent issues.
Most Android app developers nowadays work in agile development environment to build Android apps rapidly. They have to coordinate consistently with QA professionals, and participate actively in the mobile app testing process. Hence, the developers also need to address a number of common issues in Android app testing.
Author: Arun Kumar Biswal