View Full Version : Jumping into Android App Design and Java. Anyone have any experience with it?

Harold Mansfield
05-19-2012, 01:51 PM
Well, I've decided that I need to learn how to build apps. It's always something that I've been interested in, but thought it would be too difficult to get into. However, Google has a really good resources to get you started, as well as tutorials to get you going. Much more than was available when I learned WordPress...and back then I didn't know any HTML, PHP or anything.

At the moment it looks like the hieroglyphics from the inside of the underground Alien vs. Predator cave, but looks totally doable.

Why? Basically I noticed that there just aren't a lot of functional apps for small businesses to engage their customers. And to have something built is extremely expensive for the average small business AND for most businesses, it just seems out of reach.

I have a few ideas that I think can change that and give businesses a more affordable option to get into the market and make it easy for their customers to do business with them on the go.
So, the only way to pull it off and be able to run it, is to learn how to build and manage them. Which means learning Java so that I can begin to have a clue what's going on.

Was wondering if anyone else here is into it, or has ever had an app built for their business?

05-20-2012, 01:12 AM
I think learning how to build apps is a great idea. I'd like to do the same myself, though I'd go the iOS route instead of Android. The one thing you have to be careful about is to see if people will really download an app to communicate with a business. I don't think that's why people download apps. They download an app, because the app helps them accomplish some task or because the business is the app. But as another way to communicate with a business…? Think about it from the perspective of the person. What benefit will they get from the app and how much more benefit is it over visiting a website.

I'm not saying a small business can't have a good app that people will download, but I think it has to be more than just an app to communicate with the business.

Harold Mansfield
05-20-2012, 10:50 AM
Well, on that front I was thinking more about restaurants, bars, nightclubs and other service type companies. I have a few other ideas for some industry specific apps where I think people are missing the boat.

What you said about why people use apps, I agree but, I think that's because that's all people are making.

I completely believe that mobile devices ( tablets specifically) are the personal computers of the future, and the more the price comes down, they will eventually overtake laptops and desktops for the casual user that only surfs, emails, listens to music, and chats.

If this is true ( and it may not be. I'm taking a risk on a hypothesis) , a good app will be more important than social media and gives you more control over content and access to your users, fans customers...whatever.
Social Media requires the user to go to a 3rd party for updates, and it's one of the biggest arguments that I have always made against it. You don't own it. Now you do, and it's always with them.

The only thing missing from tablets right now is a better user interface. Once that becomes more like an interactive desktop and not just a stack of app icons and widgets, I think that's it. Tablets will rule.

After looking around, it's obvious to me that it is in the beginning stages. Lots of opportunity missed, Designs are still struggling to compensate for tablets and phones. I see potential. Games are out doing functional apps and if you remember the days of yore, that's EXACTLY how personal computing started. Games outsold software. Until the software got better and more intuitive...and units got cheaper. I think we are on the next phase of that and, unless we start plugging our brains right into the net, I think this is about as portable, affordable, and easy to use as it will get for a while..and we'll just keep imporving on it.

In other words, it's going to be tough learning, but I think I still have time and can get in there.
If I just learn enough to create the 3 apps that I have an idea for, I'll be pretty happy.

Russ in Vancouver
05-20-2012, 08:27 PM
cool, finally a developer here on SBF

Harold Mansfield
05-20-2012, 08:44 PM
cool, finally a developer here on SBF
Well, it's going to be a while before I can claim that. I've already learned over the past few days that you can't just jump into Java and think you can follow along. So I need to backtrack and learn what I need to, before any of it will start to make any sense.

05-21-2012, 03:29 AM
Take a look at computer science curriculum. From what I'm told they apply too all languages at a macro level. In other words, while I learned php, I would have been better off learning general info related to all programming such as OOP.

05-21-2012, 11:23 AM
I think that's because that's all people are making.

I think it's more than that. People have tried lots of different apps and the market is now better at making the ones people actually want. Apps are great. I often prefer using an app to visiting a websites, but there are only so many apps you can realistically install and use. There has to be more of a reason than I've done business with this company to use their app.

I was thinking more about restaurants, bars, nightclubs and other service type companies.

An app might be fine for those types of businesses. However it really depends on what the app offers. For example if a restaurant app is just the menu on an app I couldn't imagine using it. If it's a restaurant I frequent a lot and the app enables me to reserve a table or place a take out order then it could offer enough convenience for me to use the app. It would really depend on how often I eat at the restaurant. If it's once every 3-6 months I probably don't need an app. If I eat there every week then an app might make sense.

What makes more sense is a single app that can show me the menu for every restaurant in town and let me reserve a table or place a take out order, etc for all of them. That's the app you download and use. Building a separate app for each restaurant though doesn't make sense because it would only fill up my phone or tablet with lots of icons. I agree with you that mobile devices are the future of computing, but a lot of it will still take place in a browser. Most people aren't going to need or want apps for everything. They'll want apps for some things, but not all things. It quickly becomes unmanageable to have an app for every company they do business with.

I don't mean any of this to suggest you shouldn't build apps for business. Just want you to keep in mind your app is competing for a small amount of real estate on someone's device and it has to be more than a means for the business to communicate with the customer of you want the customer to download and use the app.

Harold Mansfield
05-21-2012, 11:42 AM
We're on the same wavelength. Certainly every business doesn't need an app. My ideas are more for overall industry apps, that can be used by more than one business.
And all of my ideas are pretty much centered around service businesses, entertainment, and entertainers.

I think I have a couple of good ideas that will help make things more efficient for a few select industries.
Maybe not for every Mom and pop, but certainly for companies with multiple locations.

And building mobile friendly websites is still an option for those that don't need an app or don't have that kind of clientele. I'm not thinking about trying to sell these to people who don't need them. I'm more on the train of thought of providing specific features and an easy to use format for those that do want it, but don't know where to turn, nor want to spend 10K and up to do it.

I've had too many past clients that have had ideas for apps for their business, and I didn't know where to turn or who to recommend to them. They weren't all trying to be the next Angry Birds. They just wanted something that their customers could download to have access to their company, get alerts of new products, maybe invite friends to join them at a wine tasting. Or one of my most recent, just wanted something where people could see their work, get turn by turn directions, and contact them with a photo of areas that needed work done and schedule a consultation...and on the confirmation they wanted to be able to send an image of the person coming out to the clients house.

They didn't really care if 10,000 people downloaded it. But they wanted it available for the people who want to use it.

I should be able to put together something that simple. And every other busines in that industry could probably use the exact same app.

There are some good apps out there, but when you start getting into apps specific to one business, many of them ( outside of the large players) suck.
My feeling is that an app should be a portal. An experience. Not just a glorified RSS feed that merely shows the same thing that you can find by going to the website.

I can totally see apps being the promotion tool of the near future. Especially when it comes to entertainment.
What's better? Exclusive content for Facebook fans, or exclusive content for app subscribers? You can only do so much with Facebook (and it's not your.

I've downloaded a lot of apps in this area, and there is still opportunity there to do better. And the sharing on many of them is rediculously backwoods.
And hardly anyone is designing for tablets. Most tablet apps are just phone apps blown up. (For Android. I know iPad apps are plentiful).

The first step is to learn how to do it. Once I get in there, I may see other opportunity, or adjust some of my current ideas to meet a specific need.
But it's definitely something I'm going to learn. I don't see it being a wasted skill.

05-22-2012, 10:43 AM
That makes sense. Originally I thought you might be thinking something along the lines of website in an app, which I couldn't see people downloading. If you're thinking something across an industry that's different. Apps definitely need to be more than a single rss feed.

something where people could see their work, get turn by turn directions, and contact them with a photo of areas that needed work done and schedule a consultation...and on the confirmation they wanted to be able to send an image of the person coming out to the clients house.

I'm not sure how well something like this would work. It's possible the most loyal customers of this business might want it, but even then I'm not so sure. Google Maps on Android phones already offers turn by turn directions and it now seems likely Apple will offer the same when it switches to it's own mapping application later this year. The photos are just as easily put on a website or in an email as in an app. It might be more convenient to have them in an app, but would someone use this often enough to justify an app.


They didn't really care if 10,000 people downloaded it. But they wanted it available for the people who want to use it.

They want it, until they find out how much it will cost. Developing an app isn't inexpensive, especially if you want the app available for both iOS and Android, and maybe even Windows too. I think in time you'll find developing the app will cost more than adding a new section to an existing site.

Of course everything I'm saying really depends on the details of the app and so maybe customers of this business would find it very useful and it would be worth the cost. Regardless I think it makes a lot of sense to learn how to build apps. There's no question people are migrating from desktop and laptop to smartphone and tablet and on the latter two many people prefer using an app to a web app. I'm not trying to knock the idea of learning to build apps at all. Just trying to get you to think about what would make an app better.

But it's definitely something I'm going to learn. I don't see it being a wasted skill.

I agree completely. I've been hoping to find more time to learn how to develop iOS apps

05-22-2012, 11:23 AM
Now here's the app you need to create.


Harold Mansfield
05-22-2012, 12:17 PM
That's a good one!

I agree with you on the restaurant thing. Every restaurant having an app is overkill.

But where I live Bars have more than just food. Gaming is the primary source of revenue, and keeping players involved with contests, slot tournaments, progressive jackpots, as well as following their player's points, is a big deal for the larger venues that smaller ones just don't have the resources to do. And many bars out here are chains. 2, 3, 4, 5 locations, with some companies having as many as 35 locations or more. So I'm thinking more about those kinds of places.

As well as really busy places that do reservations, take out and delivery. I have some ideas there as well where if I can pull of some integration with their POS software, would be really cool and functional. I'd probably need help if I got that far, but at least now I know enough to know that it can be done and what I need to learn to get it [at least] started.

The business model I want to implement will keep the cost down and make it possible for businesses who wouldn't normally consider it, to get into the market. That's all I want to post about it publicly, but I think it's solid and I have seen it work well before.

Like I said, it's all speculation right now, and Hospitality is just one of the places I think the model I have in mind will work. I could be totally wrong about the market for it, but the first step is to learn programming and getting a prototype built. I figure that will take me a good portion of the summer if I'm lucky.

By the way, the "every restaurant in your area" functionality already exist in Google Places and other apps like Around Me, Poynt, Zagat, Search and Dine, and many others. They are limited because each restaurant isn't consistent. That's the problem. So the best you can do is menu and location with any consistency.

05-22-2012, 02:27 PM
The video was in my feedreader this morning. I want to know how they pull off the illusion. It looks so real. At first I thought maybe the spigot was filled with enough beer to fill a glass, but it looks like he gets a few more glasses out of it than he should be able to. Of course that might just be good editing.

where I live Bars have more than just food.

Yeah, I sometimes forget you live in Vegas and that different rules apply to many things there. :) Bars and restaurants by you would have a lot more to offer than typical and I can see how people in the area would engage more than usual with them.

They are limited because each restaurant isn't consistent. That's the problem. So the best you can do is menu and location with any consistency.

That's true and one way to be successful is to build a better mousetrap. It usually has to be more than just a little better, but if the one being used has some problems and you can solve them well you can supplant them.

Harold Mansfield
05-22-2012, 02:30 PM
That's true and one way to be successful is to build a better mousetrap. It usually has to be more than just a little better, but if the one being used has some problems and you can solve them well you can supplant them.

And I may want to speak with you privately about that. I know exactly what needs to be done to solve that problem and I think WordPress can help. I may shoot you something about it once I learn a little more about programming and get some test apps up.

05-23-2012, 02:15 AM
Definitely send me an email whenever you want. You know how to reach me and hopefully I can help with WordPress. Let me know too how you find building an app too. I doubt I'll have time anytime soon, but I would like to getting into app development. I have some ideas for things myself. Mostly there are apps I see that don't quite do what I want and I thought it might be a fun project to try developing one that does do what I want.

Harold Mansfield
05-23-2012, 09:41 AM
You'd probably have an easier time out of the gate than me. It's all Java, and I don't know ANY programming.
So right now, I 'm backtracking to stuff that I should have learned, and need to know so that the structure makes a little more sense.

However web apps ( basically a website sized for mobile devices) is something that I can get into right now.

05-23-2012, 10:24 PM
Yeah I do know a little programming, though it's been awhile. Apple has some nice tools for creating OSX and iOS apps too. A fair amount of it is visual and they provide a lot in their APIs to make apps easier to create. You should grab a good book on Java as much so you can get some practical examples of good code as for the Java learning itself. Work through the book and type out all the examples. It's a pain, but you come out of it with a better understanding. The code examples will have some errors and you'll have to figure out what they are to get your programs to run.

Harold Mansfield
05-23-2012, 10:56 PM
The only Apple product I have is an iPod Touch, so that's not going to do me much good in running demos. Also I think you have to have a Mac and register it to have access to the Developers tools. I could be wrong though.

I do however have an Android phone, and got a Tablet as an early B-Day present (Motorola XYBoard 10.1 w/wifi) , and Google's stuff is completely open ( and they just purchased Motorola) so that's where my wheel house is.

If I can get this down I may see what needs to be done to make them cross platform, depending on the numbers. Right now, Android is outnumbering iOS mobile devices and growing exponentially.

At the moment the easy answer is web based apps and seemingly where many businesses are headed.

Device apps are really only necessary if you need to trigger functions of the device or other apps...which my ideas do.

So yeah, I kind of figured that Java is what I need to learn, but I have to backtrack and get an understanding of some easier programming languages.

Right now I found these resources which look pretty thorough and I've already downloaded the SDK and done the obligatory "Hello World" start. It will hopefully make more sense once I study a little more:

Android Developers:
Android Developers (http://developer.android.com/index.html)
Android Cookbook:
Android Cookbook: Home (http://androidcookbook.com/home.seam)

05-24-2012, 04:44 PM
Oh yeah. I figured you would get started on the Android side given what you own. Same as for why I'd get started on the iOS side.

You do need to register to be Apple's developer program. It's free to register and you get access to tools and tutorials. To actually submit something you need to pay $99 a year to be in a different part of the program.

Android does currently outnumber iOS, though I don't know that it's growing as fast you think. There have been numbers showing it's iOS that's growing (at least in the US), ever since the iPhone moved from a single provider to multiple providers. The numbers are always a little silly though since they never really compare the same thing and so many of these companies are secretive. Also I'm not sure if you're looking to charge for apps, but so far that hasn't been going over well on the Android side. There are definitely people willing to pay for apps on Android, but not anywhere near the extent iOS owners are willing to.

And don't forget Microsoft. They're late to the party, but they're coming to it.

Harold Mansfield
05-24-2012, 04:52 PM
MS/Windows is coming on strong. They already have tablet producers like HP lined up. And then with Google buying Motorola...It will be really interesting, and actually kind of exiting, to see this all play out. That's the 3 powerhouses right there and now Google owns a hardware maker with 1000's of mobile and wireless patents.

One thing is for sure at the moment, we all pretty much have the same phones. Just about every smart phone is either an iPhone, or an Android Phone with Windows starting to come up and Blackberry bringing up the rear.

Not the wide open market of choices I thought it would be at this point.

And no, I hadn't planned on even marketing my apps to the general public. My goal is to market to specific businesses or industries. The burden of how they want to distribute, promote or charge for the app once I build it for them, is up to them.

05-25-2012, 12:31 AM
Microsoft still has a lot of work to do. The company has it's loyal supports, but it's entering the race late. From what I've seen of Metro I think they've done some good things. I think the success or lack of success of Windows 8 is going to play a big part in how well their mobile stuff does in the near future.

Google buying Motorola is interesting. On one hand Google can now make their own phones. On the other hand if they do it could result in the other makers of Android phones and tablets upset. It's hard to see how Google could avoid favoring their own product. The other device makers could run an an end around and take Android and go their own way with it. Kind of like what Amazon is doing. They could all take Android and cut Google out of the loop and continue developing the OS on their own. Speaking of that, it's one of the reasons the numbers get skewed. The most popular Android tablet is the Kindle Fire, but is it really an Android tablet? In some sense it certainly is, but in others not so much. Similar for the Nook.

In the end does it really matter. All the competition will only help drive the industry and we've reached the point where all these devices work, especially the phones. They each have differences, but fundamentally they all do the same thing.

Harold Mansfield
05-25-2012, 09:06 AM
Scary thing about Windows 8 is, MS has a habit of making a bad product in between the good releases...NT, ME, and Vista come to mind.
I hope they've gotten out of their system by now.

Google promises that their partnerships with device makers will remain solid. I mean that's the reason they've been able to take the market so fast. By some estimates, Android phones worldwide have over 59% of the market, and iOS at 23%. With Samsung being the #1 device maker.
IDC: Android rules world market with 59% share, Apple second with 23% (http://www.androidauthority.com/idc-android-market-share-apple-statistics-89271/)

I mean just 3 years ago, the market was completely ruled by iPhone. So it's been really fast. But between the two of them, they are really moving some phones. They're shipping millions of units a quarter:

" The dynamic duo secured a combined 82% share of the 152.3 million smartphones shipped in Q1 2012"

This is definitely a Boom and it's happening right now.

05-29-2012, 11:13 AM
True about Microsoft. I think they're doing some interesting things with Metro. I'm not sure how well their approach to getting everyone to move to metro while supporting all the legacy Windows stuff is going to go, but they probably don't have much choice. Regardless I think having them as a competitor in the market will only be good for consumers.

Google promises that their partnerships with device makers will remain solid.

They say that, but that means purposely limiting their own device back in order to not step on the toes of device makers. It just doesn't seem likely they can really continue their partnerships the same way they have if they're going to also be competing with them. For example take something like updating the OS. Google is naturally going to want to upgrade their own devices as quickly as possible. Device makers haven't been doing a good job with that. If only Google devices are running the latest OS or are seen as being the one phone that will get OS upgrades, that's the one that will sell. Google is in the position of wanting to build the flagship Android phone under it's own brand, but in so doing it relegates all the device makers to second class citizens. The way out of device makers is to either switch to Windows or develop their own OS on top of Android and take it in whatever direction they want, just as Amazon is doing.

Google also has a history of saying one thing and then doing something different not long after.

Harold Mansfield
07-14-2012, 11:19 AM
After more thought into it, I've decided that VG's original statement is spot on. Web based apps are far more versitile than native apps, more cost effective and much easier to implement.
I've also found that my original app ideas are being developed, exist already or the tech doesn't exist yet to complete the full functionality.

I'll still learn Java on my free time, but the more I see what can be done with web based apps, the more I see that most businesses don't really need to have a specific native app designed and they are kind of limiting to what you can do to combine offline promotions. Actually, they cancel it out all together.

07-17-2012, 11:25 AM
Definitely keep pursuing the how of making apps. I think there are times where a native app makes sense, but you shouldn't just jump in and develop one simply because it's an app.

07-20-2012, 08:47 AM
Judging by the rate apps are relentlessly being churned out, I guess it wouldn't be long before 'apps overload' becomes a problem on everyone's tablet or smartphone. I also envisage the masses returning to the 'old' trusty web browser.

Harold Mansfield
07-20-2012, 09:21 AM
Just judging from my own use, I'm not that enthusiastic about installing apps anymore.
I'm down to about one app a week now. I'd much rather just go to the content or function, than to have to install an app. Especially if I only need to do one thing like sign up for something or enter a contest.

Chameleon is probably the only app/UI that I've been exited about so far this summer and am waiting for it's launch.

Other than that, I'm starting to see that once you get all of your communication and business apps, the obligatory You Tube, maps and nav, a QR Code Scanner, and some kind of reader it's pretty much about finishing all of the Angry Birds and after that apps get kind of boring.

But I think that's because a lot of people are just putting up apps. Very few are designing a great user experience.

07-22-2012, 06:25 PM

But I do suppport that you go ahead and create an app if only just to gain the experience and insight, though.
After all, there's nothing like 'been there, done that'. More importantly, since you are striving to create a unique experience for users. Who knows, it may turn out to be just the thing users really want.

07-24-2012, 12:55 PM
But I do suppport that you go ahead and create an app if only just to gain the experience and insight, though.

I agree. No reason not to at least learn how to create an app. You may find you have a really good idea for one and the experience will be good to help you develop it.