16 September 2014

Android One: Bringing Your Apps to the Next Five Billion

Posted by Rich Hyndman, Developer Advocate

With the launch of Android One, more people across the world will have access to high-quality and affordable smartphones, packed with plenty of processing power and running the latest version of Android. These devices are available now in India and soon in Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Asia, so now is a good time to make sure your apps are ready for these new markets. This post highlights a few areas to consider.

These days, we often talk about smooth, 60fps transitions and keeping apps jank-free, and rightly so — performance is a critical metric for app quality. But in the user experience hierarchy of needs, an app should first and foremost do its job reliably and consistently.

If your app has search functionality, will user requests time out entirely? Do you think it is more important that a result is returned in a timely manner, or that the result is returned at all? If you're trying to build a robust app to reach the next five billion, it might be less about returning a result immediately, and more about returning a result at all. To address this challenge, why not include an option to users to “notify me with the results” when a search query is running on a slow network? Your app can then take as long as it needs to successfully retrieve the data in the background and show a notification when complete. The difference in user experience between an app that times out on a slower network and one that caters to user-specific needs will be very impactful for driving mobile app adoption.

There are also ways to test app performance without flying around the globe. The Android Emulator has network speed and network delay emulation settings, which can become an integral part of your testing strategy. If you’re testing on physical hardware, try turning off WiFi and switching the network to 2G only; how well does your app perform? Do search pages load? Does data refresh? These issues can often be fixed with relatively minor changes to your app logic or by leveraging a SyncAdapter. Check out our blog post on sync in the Google I/O app for more ideas.

Another key area for you to be aware of is app memory utilization. As part of the KitKat launch, we added new tools to the SDK for analyzing memory use and new APIs like isLowRamDevice(). We also just added a Memory Monitor to Android Studio 0.8.10 (currently in Canary). Much of this is documented in our Best Practices for Performance guide.

Moving forward, the Android L release has a strong focus on battery usage and analysis. Project Volta introduces new tools, such as Battery Historian and new APIs like JobScheduler, that can really help optimize battery use of your app.

By ensuring your app works well on slower networks, uses minimal memory, minimizes battery usage and doesn’t have a larger-than-necessary APK, you will help the next five billion discover, use and love your app.