Device Management

How to Accelerate the Development of Your Company’s Android Devices

With over 2.5 billion active users spanning over 190 countries, Android is the most widely used operating system in the world. The preference for manufacturers and developers to choose Android continues, as the Android OS is still open-source while Apple’s iOS is not.

However, as popular as Android is with OEMs and developers, developing Android devices has grown more complicated. According to the Business of Apps, each year Google keeps adding more and more compulsory services and conditions, ensuring advantages for its own suite of apps and challenging OEMs and app developers to keep pace with constant change. 

Let’s have a look at 6 of the most common issues experienced when developing for the Android OS.

1. Software Fragmentation

As cited above, Google continues to release new versions of Android annually. However, just because there is a new version does not mean that OEMs and developers jump in and update their apps to accommodate these changes. In fact, to accommodate several versions of Android currently in use, developers have to write code for multiple versions of Android at the same time. Developers are often challenged to have the app leverage features provided by all versions of the Android OS. 

Below are the most common Android OS versions currently installed on Android phones and tablets and their market share (Source: AppBrain, Nov 18, 2021):

  • 11 (Android 11):  30.90% 
  • 10 (Android 10): 27.20% 
  • 9.0 (Pie): 15.30% 
  • 8.0-8.1 (Oreo): 11.60% 
  • 7.0-7.1 (Nougat): 6.30% 
  • 6.0 (Marshmallow): 3.80% 
  • 5.0-5.1 (Lollipop): 3.20% 
  • 4.4 (KitKat): 1.10% 
  • 4.1-4.3 (Jelly Bean): 0.40% 
  • 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich): 0.00%

How to overcome this: Work with a partner that offers an enterprise version of Android designed to be completely customizable for your fleet. Avoid deciding which version of Android to program for by standardizing the Android version running across all your devices to minimize testing and maximize uptime.

2. Device Fragmentation

The open-source nature of the Android OS enables OEMs to customize and extend the OS without restriction. This leads to surprisingly large variations in the features available in different devices. For example, some Android devices come with a fingerprint sensor, while others do not. As a result, a mobile app development team will need to decide whether to add features for devices with a fingerprint sensor, which can deliver not only a richer but also a more secure user experience. An additional concern might be that the OEM will discontinue the model of the device with the fingerprint sensor the following year, thereby obviating the previous version of the app and requiring the development team to start anew.How to overcome this: Hardware should be strategically designed to maximize the device lifecycle and take your employees’ and customers’ needs in mind. A partner with a portfolio of custom-built devices removes the worry that your fleet’s devices will go end-of-life.

3. Security Issues

Obviously, dedicated devices need connectivity. Unfortunately, a device operating on cellular bands specific to one country such as the United States may not be well suited for another country. Ideally, you wouldn’t have to roll out different devices

The more than 2.5 billion Android users mean vulnerability: cybercriminals develop malware and phishing schemes specifically for the largest group of mobile users. While Google frequently releases security patches and updates to fix the security issues found in the stock Android OS, the variations made to Android by OEMs mean even more vulnerabilities, as Google does not address those specifically for manufacturers. As such, development teams must continue to build security features into their apps with the understanding that unknown security flaws exist on the hardware side.  How to overcome this: Do not sacrifice security for user experience. Secure your fleet with regular security patches, plus low-level OS control to reduce attack vectors.  If you are working with a mobile infrastructure partner, see if they have an OS lifecycle policy where they support security patches. Removing software bloat can also help minimize threats from apps that are not needed.

4. Effect of the App on the Device’s Battery and Operations

While there have been dramatic improvements in battery life and in charging options, device fleets need to perform and oftentimes are required to be in service for long periods of time. Nonetheless, app developers are still challenged when developing Android apps that consume minimal device resources. Apps need features and interactivity but not at the expense of the operation of the device.How to overcome this:  Strip away all the unnecessary bloat to create a clean OS that’s optimized for performance, battery life, and UX. Work with a specialized hardware partner that gives you the ability to configure your base OS with a YML file or leverage that partner’s SDKs to dynamically control the hardware and UX in real-time.

5. Absence of a Standard User Interface for Android

It’s not often mentioned, but translation could be a major issue when shipping devices internationally. Yes, some countries

Because Google does not provide a standard user interface (UI) for the Android OS, the UIs can differ vastly from one Android device to another. These varying UIs make it difficult for mobile app developers to make an Android app compatible with each device. While developers can always implement the UI design guidelines recommended by Google, the UIs can vary drastically from one device to another in a device fleet given different models from manufacturers. The UI must not compromise the app’s functionality and needs to be appealing and intuitive in order for there to be engagement.How to overcome this:  Work with a partner that can help you configure your base Android OS along with OS version control, regardless of the models in your device fleet, while also enabling you to control the user experience in real-time.

6. App Scalability

Scalability is critical when developing a mobile app. An app must be able to handle an increasing number of users and amount of data without failure or compromise. The experience and functionality should be uniform for all users across all devices. Additionally, in some settings, the app cannot be taken offline to perform maintenance, fix bugs, change configurations, or push new features — continuous delivery is often a must. How to overcome this:  Work with a partner that can help you build your app for scalability, along with consistent, reliable infrastructure. Device and OS fragmentation slows your team down and serves as an obstacle to scalability. A company needs to consider a mobile infrastructure partner that integrates with their DevOps pipeline so they can test faster and earlier and deploy as needed, with ease. Your development team should not be spending cycles refactoring and testing every time consumer hardware changes.

Accelerating Android Device Development

While tools and infrastructure for developing software have been modernizing, the enterprise hardware world has stayed stagnant. Mason delivers limitless control of the entire product and lifecycle from software, hardware, and end-of-life to build the whole smart product, rather than just the application. The Mason Smart Device Platform gives you granular access to add, remove, or lockdown capabilities making it possible for highly customized products to be built as envisioned.