Android software development is the process by which new applications are created for the Android operating system. Applications are usually developed in the Java programming language using the Android Software Development Kit, but other development tools are available. As of October 2012[update], more than 700,000 applications have been developed for Android, with over 25 billion downloads. A June 2011 research indicated that over 67% of mobile developers used the platform, at the time of publication. In Q2 2012; around 105 million units of Android smartphones were shipped which acquires a total share of 68% in overall smartphones sale till Q2 2012.
The ADT Bundle provides everything you need to start developing apps, including a version of the Eclipse IDE with built-in ADT (Android Developer Tools) to streamline your Android app development. If you haven’t already, go download the Android ADT Bundle. (If you downloaded the SDK Tools only, for use with an existing IDE, you should instead read Setting Up an Existing IDE.)
Install the SDK and Eclipse IDE
- Unpack the ZIP file (named
adt-bundle-<os_platform>.zip) and save it to an appropriate location, such as a “Development” directory in your home directory.
- Open the
adt-bundle-<os_platform>/eclipse/directory and launch eclipse.
That’s it! The IDE is already loaded with the Android Developer Tools plugin and the SDK is ready to go. To start developing, read Building Your First App.
Caution: Do not move any of the files or directories from the
adt-bundle-<os_platform> directory. If you move the
sdk directory, ADT will not be able to locate the SDK and you’ll need to manually update the ADT preferences.
As you continue developing apps, you may need to install additional versions of Android for the emulator and other packages such as the library for Google Play In-app Billing. To install more packages, use the SDK Manager.
Everything you need to develop Android apps is on this web site, including design guidelines, developer training, API reference, and information about how you can distribute your app. For additional resources about developing and distributing your app, see the Developer Support Resources.
There is a community of open-source enthusiasts that build and share Android-based firmware with a number of customizations and additional features, such as FLAC lossless audio support and the ability to store downloaded applications on the microSD card. This usually involves rooting the device. Rooting allows users root access to the operating system, enabling full control of the phone. In order to use custom firmwares the device’s bootloader must be unlocked. Rooting alone does not allow the flashing of custom firmware. Modified firmwares allow users of older phones to use applications available only on newer releases.
Those firmware packages are updated frequently, incorporate elements of Android functionality that haven’t yet been officially released within a carrier-sanctioned firmware, and tend to have fewer limitations. CyanogenMod and OMFGB are examples of such firmware.
On 24 September 2009, Google issued a cease and desist letter to the modder Cyanogen, citing issues with the re-distribution of Google’s closed-source applications within the custom firmware. Even though most of Android OS is open source, phones come packaged with closed-source Google applications for functionality such as the Android Market and GPS navigation. Google has asserted that these applications can only be provided through approved distribution channels by licensed distributors. Cyanogen has complied with Google’s wishes and is continuing to distribute this mod without the proprietary software. He has provided a method to back up licensed Google applications during the mod’s install process and restore them when it is complete.
The NDK is a toolset that allows you to implement parts of your app using native-code languages such as C and C++. For certain types of apps, this can be helpful so you can reuse existing code libraries written in these languages, but most apps do not need the Android NDK.
Before downloading the NDK, you should understand that the NDK will not benefit most apps. As a developer, you need to balance its benefits against its drawbacks. Notably, using native code on Android generally does not result in a noticable performance improvement, but it always increases your app complexity. In general, you should only use the NDK if it is essential to your app—never because you simply prefer to program in C/C++.
Typical good candidates for the NDK are self-contained, CPU-intensive operations that don’t allocate much memory, such as signal processing, physics simulation, and so on. When examining whether or not you should develop in native code, think about your requirements and see if the Android framework APIs provide the functionality that you need.
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- The Android 3.1 platform (also backported to Android 2.3.4) introduces Android Open Accessory support, which allows external USB hardware (an Android USB accessory) to interact with an Android-powered device in a special “accessory” mode. When an Android-powered device is in accessory mode, the connected accessory acts as the USB host (powers the bus and enumerates devices) and the Android-powered device acts as the USB device. Android USB accessories are specifically designed to attach to Android-powered devices and adhere to a simple protocol (Android accessory protocol) that allows them to detect Android-powered devices that support accessory mode.