Google to Developers: You Have the Con
The new console will help developers navigate the Android app ecosystem with a bit more clarity, said Al Hilwa, program director, applications development software at IDC. "The Android platform is known for being chaotic and not intimately supported by Google," he said. "Clearly Google's a believer in self-service for developers, and they're improving workflows, expanding language and enhancing the analytics."
Google on Monday made its new Android developer console available to devs everywhere on Google Play.
The console was announced at Google I/O in July, and devs were invited to test out a beta version.
"The developer tools and portal are key areas of enablement for any application platform," Al Hilwa, program director for applications development software at IDC, told LinuxInsider. "With the coming launch of Windows Phone 8, which ups the ante in this area, it is not surprising that Google has been investing here."
"Both Android and iOS have been very lacking in providing developers with a proper back channel to know how users are seeing, choosing and ultimately using their apps," Sam Abadir, chief technology officer at appMobi, said. The new console provides Android devs with "some insight" into reviews over time.
The Console's Features
Google has overhauled the interface so users will easily find their way around using navigation and search, and so that it loads quickly even if users have a lot of apps.
The console lets devs track the success of their app over time. It provides a graph showing changes over time for both the all-time average user rating and new user ratings that come in on a certain day.
Devs will be able to break down the data by device, country, language, carrier, Android version and app version.
Google has also revamped and streamlined the app publishing process. Devs can either begin with an Android application package file (APK) or an app name, and can save their work before they have all the information. Devs can also now see the differences between the new and old versions of an app. This lets them catch unintentional changes before publishing a new version of an app.
Once a dev has saved changes to an app in the console, users will be able to see it in any of 49 languages on the Web. Translation is automatic. Google plans to offer this multilanguage capability on mobile devices.
The console does not yet support advanced features such as multiple APK support, APK expansion files, and announcements. Devs will have to switch back to the old version to use these.
Order From Chaos
"The Android platform is known for being chaotic and not intimately supported by Google," IDC's Hilwa said. "Clearly Google's a believer in self-service for developers, and they're improving workflows, expanding language and enhancing the analytics, [which] are all essential for the continued success of the platform in the face of a well-capitalized and serious Microsoft that is hoping to gain more market share in mobile device with Windows Phone 8."
The overall processes for "navigating the tension between freedom and chaos" tops Hilwa's list of the benefits of the new console.
"Since Android supports so many concurrent OS versions running on so many devices, it would be very useful for developers to see what OS versions and devices their apps are being installed and used on," appMobi's Abadir told LinuxInsider. However, he did not see that functionality in the description of the console.
Further, the additional insight into reviews provided by the new console "is really a small step," Abadir continued. "The data developers really need to intelligently improve their apps in the field [include] analytics that track usage patterns, and clickstreams." These features are included in appMobi's HTML 5 mobile app cloud services.
Taking On iOS
The new Android dev console "is an iterative enhancement of the Android developer experience," Abadir stated. "It's not a crucial advance."
Still, "it's well known that Apple's developer dashboards and analytics are extremely lacking, so Google could have seen this area as a place to quietly show developers a better experience," Abadir suggested.
Quieting Restless Devs
Last year, a spate of complaints from Android devs about their not getting fully paid erupted on the Android Market forum.
Several devs pointed out that Google was dogged by payment processing problems. At least three said they weren't getting paid for about half the orders, and another, "davemorrisseyLevel 5," said he wasn't getting paid for Web-based orders.
That led Google to close the Android Market forum to devsand require them to contact it directly with problems.
"Separating forums allows different groups and workflows, and different service level agreements to be applied to the different groups," IDC's Hilwa remarked.