Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Developing mobile apps—getting started

During the next couple of weeks I am going to dive into mobile app development. The Android platform will be my starting point for the simple reason that I own an Android phone. My first app will be a simple MP3 player, just like the one that ships with every phone. It is not very ingenious, I admit it, but for the educational purpose it is okay. And actually, there is an itch I need to scratch with the players I have tried so far (and certainly with the default player). But more on this later.

The educational milestones for the immediate future are:

  1. Build working but non-functional user interface for the main view of the music player. This will unveil how difficult it is to build a simple user interface on the platform.
  2. Add basic media player functionality, like starting, stopping, and pausing the playback, skipping tracks, and so on. This will show how to interact with a system service (which media playback hopefully is) and how to perform background tasks.
  3. Add more views for selecting media files by album, artist, and genre. This will introduce some of the more complex user interface controls. Passing to an fro between the different views will be required, and maybe some metadata scavenging also.
  4. Trigger player functionality by gestures, for instance wiping the screen from left to right for skipping to the next title on the play list. This will teach me about gestures, obviously.
  5. Add bells and whistles, meaning: animation. Mobile devices often sport playful user interfaces. Some provide valuable feedback to the user, other are merely showing off. Performing gestures without animation might be awkward, so this milestone might get a promotion.
  6. Turn the player into something useful.

After I made some  progress though this list with the Android app, another OS will join the circus. That should be when I reach milestone 3. The next OS will be either Windows Mobile or Samsung's Bada. The former because phones for that platform are comparatively cheap, the latter because my wife owns a Bada phone. The third OS will be iOS, alas.

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