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Android developers go up a level

Are Google crowdsourcing content? • Android Studio opens coding to enthusiasts • New book teaches app development

This year’s Google I/O was an incredibly exciting event, despite the lack of device launches, carrying with it one of the largest updates to Google services that has ever been seen and also introducing a swathe of new tools for Android developers. While for many the focus was on frontmen like Play Games and Play Music’s All Access, the back-end is where the true innovations can be found.

Google are well known for thoroughly supporting developers. The Developer Console has been providing them with a comprehensively supported gateway to the Play Store for years, as well as one of the most thoroughly documented support websites for developers working on anything from the integration of the Maps API into their website to multi-screen apps for Google TV. Moreover, this information is freely available and developers need only pay $25 to be able to upload and manage their Play Store apps.

Looking at this alongside, for example, the Artist Hub – which allows anyone with a collection of home-grown tracks to upload them to Play Music, again for a low $25 registration fee – we start to see that Google really does love Indies. Andy Betts, Editor of Android Magazine, said that ‘we may even start to think we’re seeing a very subtle, clever kind of crowd-sourcing for Play content, where Google is not only embracing independently developed apps and albums but actively encouraging it, and tooling up everyone who walks through the open (source) door’.

So for the discerning developers at I/O, the truly game-changing moment came with the announcement of Android Studio. Featuring automatic colour coding, sidebar notes and signposts, simultaneous testing on multiple virtual devices, built-in debugging modes and much, much more, the new IDE for Android makes it even easier to start developing. In fact, it’s the kind of move that has every possibility of encouraging enthusiasts to have a go at coding their own apps – with such a low barrier to entry, we may well see a rise in niche apps over the next 12-18 months that will inevitably result in some of these being picked up by bigger devs, improved, and some may even go supernova themselves.

In the spirit of this wide-ranging encouragement of the home developer, Imagine Publishing have launched a brand new publication that provides readers with all the tools and guides they need to start developing. Expert Android, available now from all good retailers and for £9.99, is fully loaded with non-root innovations, rooting fundamentals, guides to advanced theming and modification, and a full developer section containing series of tutorials that explain – from start to finish – how to cook ROMs and how to create, test and publish an Android app.