Of all the new platforms and opportunities available to Android developers, the exploding wearable technology market has given them confidence to begin experimenting with Android Wear and smartwatch-optimized apps. Progress’ Crump explained that as more and more users flock to wearables, developers will see an untapped market strong enough to sustain their investment, but still new enough to allow an app to stand out in the marketplace.
As the Apple Watch infuses a new level of public interest in wearable devices and applications, developers have already started experimenting with coding iOS notification functionality on Android Wear devices. Crump mentioned rumors that Google is already considering adding support for cross-platform integrations of that kind, building off Android’s simplicity in coding apps for new platforms while still baking in enough native functionality to make a user experience unique in an Android Wear app.
“The great thing about wearables is that you’re still using the same skill set you already have—it’s just a different-sized screen,” said Crump. “Inside of Android Wear, there’s a feature called Creative Vision. So while most users are used to launching apps by clicking on an icon, the latest version of Android Wear automatically picks up things like your current location and physical activity, and inserts this information into cards that will pop up on the watch.”
So if a smartwatch user is about to board a flight, a card will pop up with their boarding pass without needing to take out their smartphone. From a developer perspective, within an environment like Android Studio, they are already set up to leverage their existing skill set on a platform with a different-sized screen and where content is delivered in an entirely different way.
“When you’re starting to develop for the smaller screen of an Android Wear device, in Android Studio it gives you a preview of that screen,” said Crump. “Obviously not everything available on the phone is available on the watch at the moment, but you can still do a drag-and-drop layout for your UI, and by default Android helps steer you in the right direction to build for the watch. On a higher level, there are various types of layouts you can implement as well as entire design guidelines for building that watch app quickly, and where it can integrate features like location or heart-rate monitoring and pop-up alerts. Developers have to learn some of the new APIs featured in the watch, but they’re using all the skills they already have.”
With as much developer interest as Android Wear has generated, there’s still a general trepidation around most of the other platforms in the Android ecosystem. Android Auto has a large number of car manufacturers signed on as partners, but with consumer releases not expected until the end of 2015, developers are cautious to make that leap. The same is true for Android TV, for which supported TVs and set-top boxes are only beginning to make it to market, not to mention the cheap in-house streaming competition of Chromecast and many similar services providing the same type of entertainment content delivery.
For Progress and Telerik’s part, they’re still seeing the most developer interest around smartphones, tablets and wearables, where markets for devices such as the Nexus line of phones and LG G watches are hot. Busy with existing device types and wary of another Google Glass situation, developers are just keeping an eye on the rest of the “Android Everywhere” strategy for now.
“When the market is there—and it will be eventually—developers will see various challenges with it,” Crump said. “Going from a tiny watch to a big 42-inch TV screen is a big jump, but Android automatically has ways to set layouts to adapt to those types of screens.”
Xamarin’s Hill sees Android’s expansion as a great thing for developers and users, and a sign of the mobile operating system’s continued dominance on everything from phones and wearables to the Internet of Things.
“Android seems to be going everywhere and tackling every new form factor, which means it is for sure on the leading edge when it comes to the Internet of Things,” he said. “This is great for developers, since writing an application for a new form factor doesn’t mean you have to learn a new platform or language. Your code and Android application just runs on anything that is running Android, and that is a huge deal for developers.”