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How To Make An Android App / Game

With 850,000 new Android devices being activated daily, many keen gamers grow up wanting to develop their own games. Many of them are put off by the coding aspect of software development. With the advent of smartphones and Android Market, the smartphone/tablet software market has started booming, not that the software market has ever been weak. A good enough Android app priced at approximately £2 could easily generate 10,000 downloads or more. That's £20,000+

It costs $25 to sign up with Android Market as a developer. However, technology companies are hoping that tablet PC's will eventually completely replace laptops and netbooks and become the main way of computing.

What many young potential developers don't realize is that it's not an absolute necessity to be able to code in order to get into the software industry. You do not need to be a computer programmer. In fact, there are many software tools available that take the 'coding' aspect completely out of development leaving you with just a set of commands and customizable settings that allow you to build a game or app from scratch, similar to WYSIWIG (What You See Is What You Get) web design tools such as Microsoft Frontpage or Web Expression.

The Coding Method

As most programmers will already know, Android apps and games are based on Java therefore many developers will use the Eclipse IDE (integrated Development Environment) along with the Android SDK (Software Development Kit) plus the ADT plug-in in order to create Android software - sounds stupidly complicated already eh?! To create software programs this way requires a knowledge of coding in Java. Learning this method is advised if you plan to take your software development to a serious level, although it does require a strong understanding of the basic fundamentals of computer programming: variables, integers, functions, methods, loops, etc - this is not as difficult as it first appears to be and is much easier than learning to speak a language like French or Spanish. However, for the beginner there are much easier ways to get started developing your own Android apps which will familiarize you with the way they work and to be honest, trying to use Eclipse even just for the basics can be ridiculously difficult to do and that's if you can even get Eclipse working in the first place which requires about three days of downloading and installing other software to get your development computer set up. Personally, I find Eclipse a complete and utter waste of time.

Google Labs App Inventor

Update: App Inventor has now shut down and is moving to MIT Center for Mobile Learning.

App Inventor is a new online creation facility by Google Labs, that allows users to create Android apps by using a drag and drop interface. You simply load in all the graphics and sound that your app is going to use, arrange it on the screen and select what happens when certain items are clicked. The system is relatively easy to use and compiles your app or game into a downloadable .apk file. The app or game can then be installed on compatible Android devices. People who don't have an understanding of how software programs operate should read the online manual first. It's easy once you know how. The only current disadvantage to App Inventor at the moment is that you are not able to upload your apps or games to Android Market although Google are working on a solution to this. However, you can host the downloads on your own site or elsewhere as most people set their Android devices to allow installation of third party non-market apps to avoid compatibility issues.

Appsgeyser

Appsgeyser is another useful app creation tool that lets you build Android apps or game from already existing content. Appsgeyser is extremely easy to use in that you can simply type in the web address (url) of your own website and Appsgeyser will automatically convert it into an Android app for you. However, you should ensure that the pages of your site are set to the correct size for a standard Android app or the pages will be too big to fit the screen. Appsgeyser also allows you to monetize your apps either by placing ads in your app or selling them ad-free via the Appsgeyser network. They also have free educational resources that they claim can help lead your app towards success. Rather interestingly, Appsgeyser also supports HTML 5 to add advanced features, the ability to send pop-up notifications to your apps and advanced statistics so you can see how many times your app has been installed.

Once you have finished building your Android app Appsgeyser then allows you to download the .apk file which is the installation file that will be downloaded to Android devices. If you so wish you can then upload this file to sites such as Google Play (Android Market) and SlideMe Market. Any apps made with Appsgeyser are automatically hosted on their own network.

Andromo

Note: Andromo have now started charging a subscription fee for their service. For anyone who already has apps made at Andromo, this now means that you can no longer even update your apps unless you pay for a subscription. Whilst discount rates have been offered to already existing members I can't help feeling a bit ripped off by Andromo's secret plans. I would therefore now recommend one of the other services.

Thirdly and finally, Andromo is yet another online tool that lets users create their own Android app for free with no programming or coding skills required. Andromo lets you mix and match a variety of features and components that allow you to build your own professional Android app plus more features are continuously being added. Andromo supports interactive maps, photo galleries, blogs and feeds, video playlists, custom pages, websites, HTML & CSS, MP3 music, soundboards and much more making it a full-on WYSIWIG Android app creation tool. Andromo claim that their users have, so far, created 9,398 apps which have been built 12,719 times (at the time of writing). Andromo had over 11,000 users sign up within a few weeks of going into beta.

As with Appsgeyser, Andromo lets you download the .apk file of your app which you can then upload to your choice of Android Market. There are also options to include your own advertising in your apps so that you can earn money from them.

Uploading To Android Markets

Once you've got your .apk file which is ready for installation on Android devices, the next step is to get them hosted online. Although both Appsgeyser and Andromo have their own networks where your app can be downloaded by users, you can reach an even wider audience by uploading it to the Android Markets, of which there are several:

Google Play (previously Android Market) - Google charge a $25 for anyone who wishes to sign up as a developer. There are also restrictions and requirements for your app which you need to check before uploading your app.

SlideMe Market (Original Android Market) - SlideMe claim to be the original Android Market and claim that they were in existence before Google Play/Android Market. SlideMe Market is a simple solution for those just getting started in Android development, as you can sign up for free and upload your apps straight away. Each app must have at least two images associated with it - an icon and a screenshot. As long as these requirements are met then you should have no problem publishing your app.

TechNewport Market (New) - If you experience any problems uploading to Google Play or SlideMe then your third option is to upload to TechNewport Android Market. There are currently only a small collection of apps available as the site is independent and relatively new. However, the only restriction imposed by this service is a 5MB file upload size. Your app should also have an icon and a screenshot.

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