Getting started with Android development could be daunting at first because there’s just so much to choose from. That’s why we compiled a list that runs you through every tool you need to get started with developing Android apps that make some noise!
With a global market share of 87% in the smartphone market (according to Statista), Android is the most dominant and widely used Mobile OS in the world right now.
Android is a powerhouse for mobile app development—but its best features are something most developers entering the industry today miss out on. I experienced this when I was a novice Android developer.
But then I realized what I was doing wrong: Thinking of Android as an island.
Because it is an open-source OS, Android's true power gets unleashed when you integrate it with the right tools. Not only does this help you build better apps and boosts your confidence and productivity as a developer!
So here's a look at my top 16 favorite tools for Android app development.
#1. Android SDK
The Android SDK is a software development kit that includes a set of essential development tools like a debugger, libraries, emulator, sample app, documentation, and tutorials—which teach you all you need to know about developing Android apps.
A corresponding SDK accompanies every update to the Android API. It brings newer features and tools that simplify the development experience even more—right from developing to debugging.
The Android SDK can run on all major operating systems like macOS, Linux, Windows, etc.
Components of Android SDK
- Android SDK build tools
- Android SDK platform tools
- Android SDK tools
- Android Emulator
#2. Android Studio
Android Studio provides the fastest tools for building apps on every type of Android device. Android Studio is the official Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Android app development, based on IntelliJ IDEA.
On top of IntelliJ's powerful code editor and developer tools, Android Studio offers even more features that improve productivity while building Android apps, like
- A flexible Gradle-based build system.
- Fast and feature-rich Android emulator.
- A unified environment for development on all android devices like mobile, tablet, tv, wearables, auto.
- Push code and resource changes on the running app without restart.
- Built-in support for Google Cloud Platform allows easy implementation of Google Cloud Messaging and App Engine.
- Code templates and GitHub integration.
- C++ and NDK support.
- Extensive testing tools and frameworks.
- Visual layout editor.
- APK analyzer helps reduce app size.
- Intelligent code editor.
- Real-time profilers tools provide real-time statistics of the app's CPU, memory, and network activity.
#3. Unity 3D
Unity 3D is a mighty cross-platform game engine and IDE. It can be used for 3D and 2D game development or even creating non-game apps. Unity 3D is the most popular platform among professional game developers on the Google Play Store—offering businesses the scope to create exciting user apps (Like Royal Caribbean’s AR ship experience) that leave a lasting impression.
#4. GameMaker Studio 2
GameMaker Studio 2 is a complete development environment for making cool games. It comes with a broad set of tools and lets you create games for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, HTML5, Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch. It's the easiest and fastest way to make and export a game to any platform. It even packs limited functionality for 3D game development, too!
Firebase is a suite of Android developer tools, more specifically Google's suite of cloud services for mobile and web developers. Its vast range of services includes:
- Cloud Firestore
- In-app Messaging
- Cloud messaging
- Cloud storage
- Realtime database
- Remote config
- Machine learning
- Dynamic links
- Google Analytics
- App distribution
- Test lab
- A/B testing
- Performance monitoring
Retrofit is a type-safe REST client for Android, Java, and Kotlin developed by Square Inc. This library furnishes a robust framework for authentication and interaction with APIs and sending network requests with OkHttp.
Retrofit turns REST APIs into Java interfaces, making them easy to understand and use. It also has a valuable and convenient builder for required objects, where all one has to add is a base URL for every network call and converter factory. Then, Retrofit manages the rest by leveraging the interceptor capabilities of OkHttp.
#7. Dagger Hilt
Dependency injection is one the most important and widely discussed topics in developer communities. Dagger-Hilt is a part of Jetpack libraries, and it's the recommended way for dependency injection in Android apps by Google. In addition, Dagger-Hilt, claims to solve developer efforts by:
- Simplifying Dagger (dependency injection) infrastructure for Android applications.
- Providing a separate set of bindings for distinct build types. (e.g., debug, staging, testing, or release)
- Dagger uses annotations to manage dependency injections and generate internal code, avoiding boilerplate code.
- Hilt generates Dagger components and automatically injects Android classes (activities and fragments).
#8. Android Debug Bridge (ADB)
Android Debug Bridge (ADB) is a versatile command-line tool that allows communication with a device. The ADB command allows many device actions, like installing and debugging apps, and facilitates access to a Unix shell. It works on a client-server program that includes three components:
- A client to send commands. The client executes on the development machine. The client is invoked from a terminal by using an ADB command.
- A daemon (ADBD) to execute commands on a device. The daemon runs as a background process.
- A server manages communication between the client and the ADBD. The server runs as a background process on the development machine.
#9. Android Asset Studio
Android Asset Studio is a collection of tools to quickly generate assets such as launcher icons and animated vector drawables for your Android app. It's the easiest way to create your own asset resources for tools like:
- Launcher icon generator
- App shortcut icon generator
- Notification icon generator
- Nine-patch generator
- Generic icon generator
- Actionbar icon generator
Memory leaks lead to a poor user experience due to app crashes caused by annoying errors like OutOfMemory (OOM). That's where LeakCanary enters the picture.
This handy tool can detect and reduce memory leaks in apps by marking the site of the leak and alerting the developer.
Facebook's Stetho project lets developers use Chrome's debugging tools to inspect database files, troubleshoot network traffic, and view layouts. All it needs is an active emulator, a running device, and the Chrome browser for you to connect to the device with chrome://inspect
Stetho's tools include:
- Network Inspector for network traffic
- Database Inspector for inspecting SQLite databases
But now, Android Studio comes with in-built support for Network and Database inspection using two profilers, which are:
- Network profiler
- Database profiler
Chuck is an HTTP inspector that intercepts all HTTP requests inside your app and provides a UI element to display them. Apps using Chuck push out notifications with summaries of ongoing network activity. Developers can use Chuck to track all outgoing web traffic from the app and avoid more tedious methods.
Chuck is not actively maintained. That's why developers today prefer the more current Chucker—which forks out of Chuck and has the same functionality.
#13. App Center
Like Google Analytics for Android apps, App Center lets developers track metrics like session counts, device models, and OS versions. Custom events help you understand in-app user behavior and engagement better. A comprehensive dashboard within the SDK captures all relevant user data for you to analyze.
Its modular architecture supports services like App Center Crashes (generates crash logs every time an app crashes), App Center Distribute (alerts users about their app's latest version via the App Center, and App Center Build (allows developers to build apps using secure cloud infrastructure)
A name-it-and-you-will-find-it Android emulator, Genymotion offers developers an array of virtual machines and device images to test apps. For example, one can test how the battery, camera, sound injection, rotation, and other sensors work with your app.
Genymotion stands out for its simple UI that opens developers to complex and far-reaching functionalities. Although the built-in Android Studio IDE is a close competitor, Genymotion still holds its own by providing access to unlimited virtual machines and endless scaling.
Similar to Genymotion, but for browsers, BrowserStack is a cloud tool for testing websites across browsers, OSes, and mobile devices. Developers don't need to install virtual machines, device images, or emulators to do this.
Vysor is like any other screen mirroring tool, but with added spice. For starters, it mirrors an Android device's onscreen activities to a computer without the internet using a USB connection.
Vysor helps developers test real devices effectively without relying on emulators alone for feedback. And its elegant simplicity puts it a cut above the rest.
These 16 tools make Android developers' lives a cakewalk because you can pass the grunt work to them and focus on upping your output quality. As a result, you also begin to deliver work faster, with higher consistency and quality. So if you're looking to make a start in this line of work, make sure you're well versed in these incredible tools.
Today, having an Android app opens your business up to a potential reach of 2 billion global users—and counting. This makes custom developed apps more important than ever, since they let you control how every element of the brand interacts with your users.
So if you’re looking to explore having an Android app for your business, we could set you up with a free one-on-one consultation with one of our experienced team members.
Perhaps that’s the one conversation that could change your business forever?