What went on at AnDevCon 2014?

AnDevCon

The Android Developer Conference, also known as AnDevCon, is a four-day development and training event that recently took place in San Francisco from November 18-21. Our team interacted with Android developers from all over the world who came together in the foggy city to gain a clearer picture of the future of Android. Throughout the course of the conference we participated in numerous classes and got to hear from key members of the Android development community about breakthrough products and technical skills needed in the age of Material design. Here’s a concise list of some of the hotest topics at this year’s AnDevCon.

Lollipop / Material Design

  • The framework improved to make it easier for developers to deliver rich experiences, while introducing a higher bar for design detail. Developers will need to learn new details to take advantage of it.
  • We didn’t see many designers at the conference, and still see a gap getting designers on board with Android design. Changing this will be important.
  • We see Material as a way to mitigate this issue, by providing a means for developers to create visually compelling apps which comply to Android’s guidelines–even if they don’t have access to a designer.

Android Studio

  • New IDE and build system.
  • Most of the attendees have experimented with Android Studio and Gradle. Folks are excited, but still experiencing lots of problems and confusion. Its a difficult transition, but people are motivated due to the poor quality of the previously supported developer tools. (At MM, we are still mostly using the old tools for client work – but our developers can’t wait to switch over).
  • There were problems during tutorial presentations with different versions of the new tools.

What we learned about Gradle

  • The basics of Groovy syntax in context of a gradle build file.
  • The changes to gradle over the past year, and why they were made. Many developers had suffered through these changes without fully grasping them.
  • How to package libraries so they can be included as gradle dependencies.

Android Auto

  • SDK was released during the conference. One speaker gave a talk on it two days later after cramming.
  • Very locked down, lots of business opportunity.
  • Honda was demoing it in on the expo floor in one of their new vehicles.

Custom Views/Animations

  • Very popular topic for technical purposes–the skill is still needed in the age of Material design and it’s still hard to do.

Intel

  • Big presence, front and center.
  • Processor is already on some devices, but they’re looking to expand. Competing with ARM in terms of battery/performance.
  • Demonstrated a powerful suite of proprietary Android development tools, including monitoring device cores using Intel INDE.

Fireside Chat / User Group

  • There were several Q&A sessions with key members of Android dev community: Erik Hellman, Jake Wharton, Daniel Lew, Xavier Decrohet.
  • As valuable as many of the panels (or more so).
  • It was valuable to see what types of problems other professional developers are facing, and how some of the platform leaders are solving them.
  • Jake Wharton fielded questions on Square’s stance on fragments during the SF Java user group at the convention.
  • There was a lot of discussion around the “right way” to do something (background threading, data storage, inter-process communication). Google has not defined a clear path in many important areas and so there are many competing patterns and libraries in the community.

Wearables

  • Less glass, more smartwatches. Applies both to attendees’ personal devices and the speaker topics.
  • There were lots of talks, but we saw few useful demos. Most were just proof-of-concept experiments (i.e. browser in the smartwatch).

Other

  • Popular Open source projects being discussed: Retrofit, Realm.
  • Bluetooth LE

In addition to Lollipop and Material Design, which snagged most of the limelight, it was refreshing and exciting to see releases and demos of Android Auto and Android Wear. If you have an interest in building your Android app development skills, or just want a glimpse into the future of Android, I recommend attending the next AnDevCon, coming to Boston in the summer of 2015.

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