My summary of the Android Open Conference 2011

After arriving back in Germany from the O’Reilly Android Open Conference in San Francisco, I want to summarize my conclusions and general impressions.

Being in San Francisco and attending the conference was very inspiring. The keynotes have given a great overview what is possibly coming in the future and having Tim O’Reilly speaking about leveraging the openness of the Android platform was very motivating. As well as seeing what people are doing with standard hardware, like the NASA with Nexus S based mini satellites is crazy.

What was also great, was to „feel“ what makes the bay area so special in terms of innovations: ways are short, it is easy to connect with people from great companies ( be it startups or established ones), you get first class information from first hand, and people are very open to try out new things.

Regarding devices: I had the impression that tablets are not really in focus of the Android developers. One is aware that you should support them, but most focus lies on the phone. This is also backed by the numbers that have been presented by Flurry: Android tablets are not very wide spread.

The Flurry talk was very interesting BTW. Seing which categories are having the most usage time and and how and when people are using the apps have been enlightening. Also that a typical lifecycle of an app is independent of the category and that in average 50% of the users will not use your app anymore after one week.

Cross Platform

A topic that was very present was how to effectively develop apps that should run on multiple mobile platforms, mainly iOS and Android, and what to care about in designing the interface. As expected there was no silver bullet for this problem. However, a very interesting way to approach this is to mix native and HTML5 content. But not in the way e.g. Phonegap is doing it. Instead, the app itself is developed natively but wherever possible a webview with reusable HTML5 code is integrated. Especially, this seem to working well with views containing only a certain amount of information, like a detailed view or similiar. This approach was mentioned several times to be used successfully, e.g. by LinkedIn’s Director of Engineering Mobile Kiran Prasad and Nick Farina, CTO from Meridian.

In designing apps the general concensus was to keep the apps similiar but adapt to platforms where the concept is different. E.g. an Android app should normally not need to have a back button in the UI but should rather leverage the hardware back button instead. Also an interesting point mentioned by Kiran Prasad is that especially the navigation behavior is different on the platforms. On Android users are used to getting back also to a different context where on iOS they are e.g. not expecting that and instead back is working on the current context only.

Regarding designing the workflow of an mobile app, Kiran Prasad provided a great overview how LinkedIn does it. He provided the analogy to speak of room planning when designing the app and concentrate on how the rooms are connected and what the rooms do and have instead of room decor. Especially interesting was they they found out that if you have more than 4 rooms (to stay in this analogy) people will make it hard for people to navigate in your app. In addition, each room should not have more than 3 levels of depth to not confuse the user.

Recommended Talks

The slides and videos of most talks are publicly available, so don’t hesitate to go there and check it out.

Some talks I can recommend for viewing (not for all of them videos and slides are already present. Hopefully, these will be posted later):