The Android operating system has become wildly popular since its initial release in 2008. While originally geared towards smartphones and tablets, Android has evolved to be a suitable option for a variety of other devices. But the vast majority of Android devices are phones, and this can make it very difficult to find answers to even basic questions about using Android on other types of products. In this article, we help answer the most common of those questions: Should I use Android on my new product?
Google Play Store
If your product needs access to the Google Play Store, then the answer to “Should I use Android?” is a definitive “yes”. Not only are you required to use the Android operating system for access to the Play Store, but you must also pass Google’s Play Protect certification process. Passing certification is not a trivial process, but Indesign’s experienced software development team can help with that.
Modifying the Android source code is a common practice when creating an embedded product running Android. In some cases, the required modifications break Google’s Android compatibility requirements, which means that Play Protect certification and access to the Play Store will not be possible. In these cases, an alternative app store (like Amazon) can fill the gap. Yet another alternative is to load and install Android PacKages (APKs) manually and independently of any app store.
The intuitive touchscreen graphical user interface is one of the most motivating reasons to use Android. But if your device is headless (i.e. doesn’t have a screen), this is useless and it is unlikely that Android is the best fit for your product. Oftentimes, a headless device will be accessed wirelessly via a locally hosted web page. You’ll still want this graphical interface to look and feel nice, and there are a variety of excellent options to meet that need. Which brings us to our next point…
Graphical and Touch User Interfaces
Android’s graphical and touch user interface is top-notch and can be enough of a reason all by itself to use Android in your product. But there are a host of alternatives to also consider. As it’s become simpler and less expensive to pack a lot of processing power and memory into embedded products, it has become quite common to use a browser (like Chromium) and HTML/CSS web pages as the user interface. This combination essentially opens up unlimited possibilities for the look and feel of your product. But if your system is resource-limited and can’t handle a full-featured browser, then deploying a lighter-weight (yet feature-rich) GUI using a toolkit like Qt could be a good solution.
Android offers a massive catalog of features that are executed beautifully and robustly. Most of the time, the “Android way” to do something is more than sufficient and can get your product to market quickly. But if you ever need to veer from the standard way of doing something in Android, you’re likely to encounter many hurdles. Though it can increase your upfront development, a build system like Yocto can create a much more flexible and custom Linux distribution that better meets the specific needs of your product.
In some cases, the answer to “Should I use Android?” is simple. There are some situations where Android is the perfect solution, and other cases where using Android would cause unnecessary complexity, cost, and heartache. But the answer isn’t always obvious. If you’re in need of help deciding if your product should use Android, please reach out to us here at Indesign – we’re here to help! Contact us at (317) 377-5450 today!