Native Android Development: 21 Tips Before Hiring an Agency

If you’re looking to build a Native Android application, there are a number of things you should know before you hire an agency to build your app.

Native Android development is a niche skills set in an ever-evolving industry which is changing by the day due to the wide-spread uptake of mobile use across the globe. With this in mind we’ve provided a list of ’21 things you should know before hiring an agency to develop your next Android mobile app’.

This list will help you understand what you should be getting for your money, how to measure the success of your app, and how you can improve the overall performance of your Android app online.

1. Android releases a new version of their software regularly

If you’re building a Native Android application it's important to note that Google, the makers of Android, release a new version of their mobile operating system roughly every 6-12 months. Since releasing the first version of Android back in 2008, the Android operating system has steadily evolved with an enhanced feature set developers can take advantage of in line with current technologies. What this means for you as a customer is that new features and capabilities are being made available that you can utilise in your apps, so it pays to stay informed about each major release of the Android operating system.

2. Each version of Android is named after ‘confectionary’

Since Android released ‘Cupcake’ the third release of the operating system and also the third letter in the Alphabet, Android has continued to name each major release of their operating after a confectionary starting with the next character of the alphabet. Examples of this fun trend include; Lollipop, Marshmallow and Nougat.

3. Native Android apps can run on stores other than Google Play

These days there are a number of reputable app stores you can submit your Android application to in addition to Google Play. Major app markets such as the Amazon Appstore, Samsung’s Galaxy Apps, the Opera Mobile Store and Mobile9 are just a few that receive millions of visitors each month which you may want to consider uploading to.

Google Play Store Apps for download

4. App marketing is a ‘thing’ and it really matters

Because there are so many Android apps online in each of the major app stores, it’s important when hiring an agency to develop your app that they take the time to work with you to optimise your app listing. This includes adding a clear and concise title and description, metadata, a number of engaging screenshots, and most importantly categorising your app appropriately. The last thing you want to do is build a fantastic app that nobody can find.

5. Java is ‘the programming language’ recommended for Native Android development

The primary language for developing Native Android mobile applications is Java. There are other languages that agencies may use to create certain elements of your app, but Java is recommended by the makers of Android as the core development language for building Native Android applications. As Android continues to develop as a platform, it’s a safe bet that future updates will be based on this language, so it’s wise to stick with Java for your Android apps.

6. What about Phonegap, Xamarin and HTML5 apps?

When you meet with a digital agency you may hear the terms Phonegap, Xamarin and HTML5 apps mentioned. This is not Native Android app development; this is what’s called Hybrid application development. Basically this allows a developer to build two versions of an app using a single code-base, wrap it in a wrapper, and upload it to both Android app stores and Apple’s app store. The benefits of this are that it’s cheaper, but you may find yourself limited in terms of the build quality you’re able to achieve and functionality you can deliver long-term as part of your app.

7. Does all my information live on Google Play?

No. Many apps are built to interface with servers all around the world with information commonly sitting in the cloud. For example, an e-commerce store will store all their product information and images on a server with a database. This information is then referenced as needed by the app, otherwise the app download size would become too large and take too long for users to download. So when developing an app with dynamic functionality, account for the fact you’ll likely need to manage more than one service (i.e. An app and a server with product information).

8. Are Push Notifications and SMS messages the same?

No again. The big difference between Push Notifications and SMS messages are that SMS messages cost a whole lot more to deliver. Services such as Amazon’s SNS which is widely used in apps to deliver both message types offer 1 million free Push Notifications when you create an account and charge $0.50 per million thereafter. SMS message pricing on the other hand is heavily dependent upon the telecommunications provider you choose and can vary up to 40%, so be careful when selecting how to notify your users when developing your Android app, as this can cost you big time!

9. Ensure your agency follows the Android Design Guidelines

If you’re building a Native Android app you’re going to want to make sure your digital agency is designing your app in accordance with the Android Design Guidelines. These guidelines are straight-forward and are a handy tool you can use to ensure your app isn’t missing anything and is adhering to the most up-to-date standards for Android development.

10. Will my app work on a tablet as well as a smart phone?

The overall answer to this question is ‘No’, at least not by default. Due to the vastly different screen sizes of tablets and smart phones you will need to build your app for both tablets and smart phone devices. Your app development agency will be able to advise you on how this works and the costs involved in ensuring your app sizes appropriately. Generally, you’ll want to make sure your app works on Android smart phones first, tablets are not always a requirement and is something you can add later if desired.

11. Understand your app memory

It’s important to ensure your app does not take too much data to download otherwise your users will begin to remove your app from their devices. We recommend 200mb as an upper limit for your app download unless there is a very good reason. In the case of Android app memory, less is more, so try and utilise resources on demand rather than embedding them into your app.

12. Don’t be satisfied with an ‘emulator’ for testing

Native Android development testing can be completed using Emulator software in Android Studio. Although this is a quality service there are a number of subtle real-world differences which you need to properly test for prior to the release of your app. When you hire an app development agency to complete your Android app make sure you ask them which testing platform they’re using for sign off of your app.

Android Studio

13. Determine what security protocols will be used to transfer data

Like any online application, data transferred between Android apps and servers can occur over secure or “semi-secure” channels. Our recommendation to you is the former; that all data transfer which occurs on your app be done so over SSL channels. Apps, just like websites are vulnerable to hackers and even though App store moderators and developers will endeavour to ensure your app is as secure as possible there is always a chance that important data can be leaked online. By using the SSL data transfer layer for your Native Android app you’re definitely making a wise decision.

14. Ensure your app development agency understands ‘default keyboards’

You’ve probably noticed when using well-built apps that you are automatically prompted with the right type of keyboard for entering data. This may be the numeric keyboard for numbers, a keyboard containing the ‘@’ symbol for email addresses and the like. This is a feature often overlooked by developers and really makes apps a lot easier to use, so make sure before sign off on your Android app this is a feature that’s included.

Android numeric keyboard

15. The effect of your app on battery life

One of the pet hates of Android app users is apps that consume battery life like it’s going out of fashion. Your app developers should be aware of how much battery life your app is consuming and should be able to report this to you during testing. If your app is consuming more battery life than you would expect, you have the right to ask why? This is a performance characteristic common to all apps which has a strong correlation with app deletions and is important to get right. You can check out this post from Gadget Hack which explains what might be draining your Android battery for some helpful hints.

16. Ask about Android app analytics

It’s really important that once your app is upload the the Play store you’re able to generate reports on the performance of your app. This can be done by visiting the Google Play Developer Console and navigating to the Applications > Statistics menu. This will provide you with a number of in-app statistics such as installs/un-installs, revenue, crashes and ratings. These statistics can be invaluable as you look to grow the popularity of your app and should be something you, ‘the app owner’, take an active role in monitoring. The other option you may want to consider is implementing Google Firebase Analytics within your Android app to track events, and make data-driven decisions about your apps performance at the design level.

Google Firebase Analytics console

17. Understand your options when it comes to mobile payments

When you go to build your next app, there are a number of options when it comes to integrating a payment gateway for in-app purchases into your app. From Stripe, to PayPal, to Braintree, to your local financial institution, each of these payment gateways charge different fees and have different requirements around ongoing support, implementation, and compliance with their service. Don’t simply take the advice of your app development agency, double check that the solution they’re offering is right for you and provides the best possible rates and user experience.

18. How long you should expect for your Native Android app to be approved

You should expect that your app and app updates are available to your users between 2 to 6 hours on the Google Play store. There is no fixed time period for approval, however apps that have undergone significant upgrades may take longer to be approved naturally. That being said there have been reports of apps being approved in as little as 30 minutes. It should be noted that this is vastly less than the Apple app store which can take days to get an approval through with no guarantee of success. So if your app does take a few hours to get approved and start appearing to your user base…don’t sweat it!

19. You can report negative reviews to Google if warranted

If you receive a negative review of your app the good news is you can report it to Google for processing. If someone posts an unfair review, advertisement, or irrelevant content this is within scope, however if the review reflects the quality of your app the review will stand. The Google Play store unlike Apple’s store does not reset reviews updates to your apps, so the best way to avoid poor reviews is to keep the quality of your app up.

Google Play store Review example

20. Is there a limit to the number of updates you can release?

Absolutely not! There’s currently no limit on the number of app updates you can release on the Google Play Store, however remember if your users have to update your app too regularly they’ll be likely to delete it. Try to release app updates when you have more than just a single update unless it’s a bug fix that’s super urgent. This is a strategy used by many of the world’s most successful app developers which gives them a nice balance between regular updates and offering a stable Android app.

21. Android app development is not iOS app development

Lastly it’s important to understand that Java development for Native Android apps is a completely different skills set to that of Swift development for iOS (the primary language for iOS development). Yes, both languages are used to create apps, but that’s where the similarities end. You should be hiring an agency which has expertise specifically in Android app development using Java when looking to develop your Native Android apps.

Conclusion

App development for Android devices is fun and can be a highly rewarding activity provided you understand a few crucial factors before you engage a digital agency. If you’re looking for the best possible result, Native Android app development is by far the leading option at present when it comes to Android app development. Native Android development is recommended by the makers of Android, which should be a factor heavily when deciding how you should be your next app. Good luck and we hope you find the above tips helpful.