How to Become a Professional Android Developer in 6 Simple Steps

Android devices account for 50% of the global smart phone market today, making it the world’s most popular mobile platform. Therefore learning how to become a professional Android developer is a huge step in establishing your career as a software developer.

When Android was introduced in 2007 it was a distant 5th in mobile OS platforms – trailing Apple’s  iOS, Blackberry (RIM), Windows Mobile and Symbian.

With millions of Android devices in use today, and an incredible 500,000+ new Android devices activated daily, the popularity of Android applications is increasing exponentially – and with it is the demand for professional Android developers.

IT recruiters are reporting unprecedented demand for talented programmers with Android development training.

As with all great IT job opportunities, learning Android application development isn’t easy. For the non-programmer there are several steps in the process, and even experienced programmers have quite a bit to learn when adopting Android programming in this fast paced technology era.

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If you’re interested in developing new and innovative mobile applications for the world’s #1 mobile platform – here are the six steps to becoming a professional Android application developer.

1: Gather the Tools: Java, Android SDK, Eclipse + ADT Plugin

Android development can be done on a PC, Mac or even a Linux machine.

More good news is that all the tools you need to develop Android applications are free. First, download and install the latest version of Java SE from the Oracle website. Next, grab the Android SDK (Software Development Kit) from the Android Developers site.

The SDK includes the Android code libraries, Android’s emulator, and some useful command line tools for Android development.

Eclipse is the mobile development environment of choice for Android developers, because it integrates best with the Android SDK, and it’s free. Download the Eclipse IDE for Java Developers from the Eclipse website (choose the version that matches your OS).

Eclipse is a powerful text editor that offers a range of features mobile application developers depend on, including syntax highlighting, API documentation and package organization.

Finally, go back to the Android Developers site for the ADT (Android Development Tools) plugin. Using ADT with Eclipse makes creating Android applications much easier with features like the UI (user interface) editor and the Android-specific debugger.

2: Learn the Java Programming Language

Most Android applications are written in Java (some are written in C++).

Therefore a strong command of the Java programming language is essential for professional Android application development. Android utilizes Java’s object oriented programming model.

In object-oriented programming, elements of the program are broken into pieces that mimic “real-world” objects. For example, in an Android video game, the player character and enemy combatant would each be objects.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive online training program to go from beginner to a fully skilled professional Android app developer, check out the Android N: From Beginner to Paid Professional Course by Mark Price.

It covers the business, marketing and programming aspects of professional mobile app development and you can break it down to take just the modules you need.

3: Understand the Android Application Lifecycle

Even if you’ve written desktop or web applications before, it’s critical to understand that writing apps for mobile devices is a completely different experience.

With a desktop application, the operating system manages other applications and their priorities. In Android, it’s up to you to code your application to handle external events.

For example, what does your application do if the phone rings in the middle of a resource-consuming animation? How does your application react to the receipt of a text message?

As a professional Android developer, understanding the Android application lifecycle will enable you to create applications that “play nice with others,” thus providing users with the best possible experience.

4: Learn the Android API

While Android applications are written in the Java programming language, the Android API (application programming interface) adds entirely new packages to the command-set.

The Android packages (groups of classes) allow you to write code that controls everything from the on-board camera and the audio recording feature, to Bluetooth functionality and Wi-Fi access, and much more.

Once one has a strong command of these packages, any professional Android developer will be able to implement the hardware and features of Android devices in the mobile applications they develop.

5: Write your first Android Application!

Writing your first complete Android App can seem daunting, but the process will be easier and more pleasurable if you choose a topic that you enjoy. It is these applications that you develop that you’ll later include in your portfolio of software projects to count for your experience.

Write your application in multiple iterations, starting with the basic features and expanding its capabilities with each pass.

Debug and test carefully along the way to ensure that your application works in all situations. Testing should be conducted on an actual Android device as well as in the emulator for an effective software testing and debugging experience.

6: Distribute Your Android App

Complete Android Applications can be distributed through the official Android Market, your own website, or through a 3rd party site, such as the Appstore for Android.

To distribute your application through the official Android Market you must register as an official Android developer, which at the time of this writing is a one-time fee of $25. Unlike Apple’s App Store, Google’s standards for application acceptance are fairly lax.

Learning how to become a professional Android Developer, especially all by yourself, is a challenging form of programming.

Related: 7 Silly Mistakes Developers Make That Will Ruin Your Career

However, the personal and financial rewards can be great once you nail even a junior developer job. Keep in mind that the career of a computer programmer involves a lifetime of learning, and that learning Android application development is just part of that lifelong journey.

Have you tried to learn Android application development before? What has your experience been so far?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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