If you want to learn how Android apps are developed, you have come to the right place. Native Android apps need to utilize specific development tools and programming languages in order to maximize the capabilities of the native features present on Android devices. Native mobile app development requires specialization, so while there are equivalencies when comparing Android development to iOS development, Android app development is completely different and unique.
Android developers will utilize tools like Android Studio and Android SDK. The primary programming languages used to develop Android apps are Kotlin and Java. Although, C++ can also be used in part to develop Android apps. Let’s take a closer look at the programming languages and the development tools used to create Android apps.
Native Android Programming Languages
Before Android development can begin in earnest, a programming language must be chosen. The language used to program the Android app will be an essential part of the app development process. This choice needs to be made with the longevity of the app and the skills of your developers in mind. Native Android development uses one of two programming languages:
Up until just recently, Java was the official programming language of Android app development. Despite the fact that Java is no longer the official language promoted by Google for Android development, Java is still widely used and heavily supported by Google and the Play Store. Java has been around for a long time. There is a huge online support community surrounding Java that helps developers find answers to troubleshoot problems and share tips, tricks, and best practices when it comes to using the programming language to develop mobile apps.
The one downside to Java is that for beginners, this language may be too complex to adequately utilize. Java uses a number of different topics that beginners may find difficult to master, including:
- Null pointer exceptions
- Checked exceptions
Additionally, Android SDK adds another layer of complexity when used with Java. All things considered, Java is a great programming language to use for Android app development, even if it is a little difficult to grasp. While Java is no longer the official language of Android development, it is still heavily supported by Google and online communities. Developers can use Java to build beautiful, native Android apps.
Kotlin is the official programming language of Android development since Google decided this in 2019. The cool thing about Kotlin is that it is interoperable with Java. This means you can add Kotlin code to your Java app and vice versa. If you want to migrate your Java app to Kotlin, you can do it in stages instead of all at once, thanks to Kotlin’s interoperability. Kotlin also runs on the Java Virtual Machine. Plus, while Kotlin is a native Android programming language, it is also cross-platform, which means it can be used in other development projects and shared with iOS developers.
Kotlin is much simpler than Java. This gives it a leg up in Android development. When compared to Java, Kotlin code is:
- Easier to read
- Safer/more secure
Kotlin’s advantages are due in large part to its simplicity. Since Kotlin requires fewer lines of code, it is easier to read, maintain, and secure. In short, Kotlin is a modern programming language that is designed to be simple and powerful.
Today, Google estimates that about 60 percent of the top 1000 Android apps on the Play Store are made with Kotlin. Clearly, Kotlin is the future of Android development, but Java is still an important part of the conversation.
Of course, you don’t necessarily have to use Kotlin or Java to create an Android app. However, you will need to utilize additional frameworks and development tools in order to use other programming languages in Android app development. Android apps are also built with:
While you may be more comfortable or familiar with the programming languages on the list above, if you want to create a great Android app, you should consider using Java or Kotlin.
What Development Tools are Used to Create Android Apps?
Now that you know more about the programming languages used by Android developers, you need to learn more about the key development tools used in order to get a complete picture of how Android apps are developed. The two most important tools in Android app development are:
- Android Studio
- Android SDK
Android apps can be created without using either of these tools, but both of them, especially when they are used together, make developing Android apps easy. Plus, these tools give you access to a lot of powerful design and programming features that make Android apps more powerful and aesthetically pleasing.
Android Studio is the official development environment for building Android apps. This development environment gives developers the tools to create apps for all types of Android devices. Some of the key features of Android Studio include:
- Visual layout editor
- APK analyzer
- Fast emulator
- Intelligent code editor
- Real-time profilers
- Flexible build system
Visual Layout Editor
The visual layout editor in Android Studio gives developers the ability to drag, drop, and visually manipulate their User Interface (UI). The source code of the app is automatically updated to reflect the visual changes that you make to your UI. Constraints allow Android developers to create stunning, beautiful User Interfaces and ensure that they retain their spacing, sizing, and more, even when the size of the screen or the device changes. The visual layout editor in Android Studio also gives developers the ability to preview their designs on any device or screen size.
Most apps have a lot of content. If you can find a way to reduce unnecessary content, you can improve the performance of your app. The Android Studio APK Analyzer gives developers the ability to inspect the various content of their app’s APK file even if their app was not built using Android Studio. Developers can even use this tool to compare APK files between different versions of their app.
Google Studio’s emulator gives developers the ability to install and run their apps on a variety of devices without having to actually have a physical device. This gives them the ability to test different app configurations and features before they deploy.
Intelligent Code Editor
The intelligent code editor feature present in Android Studio helps developers work quickly, more efficiently, and write better code. Think of this feature like autofill or autocorrect. The intelligent code editor supports Kotlin, Java, and C++. This feature recognizes the code being used and then autocompletes commands by giving developers a list of possibilities to choose from after they begin typing.
The Android Studio comes loaded with tools that provide real-time statistics on your app’s CPU, network activity, and memory. This gives Android developers the ability to analyze incoming and outgoing network payloads, identify performance bottlenecks, and much more. Real-time data insights are a crucial tool that can be used to optimize performance and User Experience.
Flexible Build System
The build system in Android Studio is powered by Gradle. Android developers can customize their build and create multiple build variants from a single development project. This ability allows developers to keep all of their projects organized and focused without having to account for variant builds for each device.
Android SDK is a software development kit that was developed for the Android Studio. It comes fully integrated with Android Studio and is constantly updated as new Android updates are rolled out. However, you could also use Android SDK independently of Android Studio. This kit includes a collection of software development tools and libraries that contain everything necessary to code and test Android apps.
Most Android developers use Android SDK and Android Studio together. Why? Android SDK was optimized for use in Android Studio. These two development tools were built to work great together. Furthermore, Android SDK in Android Studio gets automatically updated with the latest Android OS releases, and thanks to Android Studio’s intelligent code editor feature support for Java, Kotlin, and C++ is handled automatically too.
If you are already using Android Studio, it is very easy to install Android SDK directly from your development environment.
Final Thoughts on Android Development
Android app development makes up a major portion of all mobile app development projects. Every app goes through its own development process depending on the team building it, how it functions, etc. However, the best Android apps are developed using native programming languages, Java or Kotlin, and take advantage of the impressive suite of development tools given to developers in Android Studio and Android SDK. If you want to learn more about specifically developing your app idea with Android Studio and Kotlin, speak with an app development partner that can walk you through the technical ins and outs of your mobile app development project and offer you guidance rooted in years of industry experience.