Android is a good platform – not a great platform, but a good one. I’ve been doing a lot of Android development recently and it certainly has many good features and it is easy (and cheap) to make an app for the system. There are, however, a great number of problems with Android from a developer’s point of view. This is a rough list of things I would like to see from the Android project. I don’t think that it necessarily needs them, but I think it would be a good thing for the platform if it had a few of them:
- SVG support everywhere: A major problem with Android at the moment is that you have to create at least three different copies of the same icon for use in app because Android apps can run on many different devices at different resolutions. If all icons were changed to SVG it would be possible to just include one copy of the icon and know that it would be shown at maximum quality on all screens. This would also be useful when Android displays eventually get to a higher pixel density (as in the iPhone and iPad) as icons would never appear pixelated. SVG font support would also be handy but not a requirement.
- Better font support: Android currently comes with three fonts whereas Windows Phone and iOS come with over fifty. You can include fonts in your app however if you wish to do this you have to change the font of each View pragmatically rather than via styling or XML which can increase the size of the app and also make it slower. Again, SVG font support would be useful.
- Higher PPI displays: When the iPhone got a Retina Display the only way that Android devices could get a similar resolution was to get bigger screens because Android wouldn’t run as well on higher density displays. There should be some big system changes to get this support.
- One Android: It amazes me how phone manufacturers have fragmented Android by adding new UIs and alternative apps. Whilst some of these are really great it often means that some devices won’t receive a major update for months after it has been released because the UI is being developed. If Android could go back to being pure Android it would make it a lot easier for developers and require less testing of apps.
- Google Play gift cards: This seems like a painfully simple thing to do but it is one of many reasons why iOS developers make a lot more than Android developers. It is a well known fact Android users ‘don’t like buying apps’ however the problem is that most of them can’t. When you set up an iTunes account you either have to type in your bank details or set it so that you will use gift cards however this is not required for Google Play registration. As most Android users have not created a Google Wallet account they can’t buy Android apps. By selling gift cards everywhere (as iTunes does) more people are likely to start buying apps.
- Better integration between Eclipse and Google Play: Currently you can create an app in Eclipse, export it and then upload it to Google Play. It makes a lot more sense, however, to integrate the two so that developers sign into Eclipse and then press one button to upload an app to Google Play. This would also simplify the process of creating in-app purchases.
- OTA updates: Most iOS devices are now running iOS 5.x and many are already running iOS 5.1, which came out in the last month. On Android most devices are still stuck with a two year old version of Android because phone manufacturers (who are responsible for updates) have not chosen to update to Ice Cream Sandwich. If Google were to take over the updating of Android devices it would probably mean that more people were using the latest version of the software.
- Better emulator: The Android emulator is very good however it can be incredibly slow when trying to emulate Android 3.x and Android 4.x devices.