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You’ve therefore chosen that you want to learn how to create Android apps. Great! Sadly, good intentions can only go you so far. It can be challenging to learn how to code. Sometimes even where to begin is a mystery! So, before you even begin, you undoubtedly have a ton of questions to address.
- What programming language should you learn?
- Where can you learn about your chosen language?
- Once you’ve grasped the basics, where do you even start typing the code?
Lot of options
Selecting a language is the first step in developing Android apps. The distinctions among the various programming languages for Android can be somewhat subtle and complex.
But the primary characteristics and objectives of the tool to which the language is tied matter more than the language itself.
The languages you might consider learning for Android development include:
- Java – Java is an official language of Android development and is supported by Android Studio. It has been an official language longer than Kotlin, and it is also popular outside of Kotlin development for many other purposes. Java and Android Studio have a steep learning curve, however.
- Kotlin – Kotlin is another official Android language. It is similar to Java in many ways but is a little easier to get your head around. It is also now Google’s preferred language of choice, though it is not as widely used outside of Android Studio. This may make it slightly less appealing for those hoping to work as developers across numerous projects.
- C++ — Android Studio also supports C++ with the use of the Java NDK. This allows for native coding applications, which can be handy for things like games. C++ is more complicated though, and this option is mostly only going to appeal to large, professional teams. C++ is also supported by Unreal Engine.
- C# — C# is a more beginner-friendly alternative to C or C++ that obfuscates more code. It is also a little less difficult than Java, though the two languages are extremely similar. It’s supported by some very handy tools like Unity and Xamarin, which are great for game development and cross-platform development. C# with Unity is the best option for many mobile game developers.
- LUA (Corona) – Another cross-platform tool built on LUA. It massively simplifies the app-building process while stilling allowing you to call native libraries.
Java is still one of the two authorized platforms for creating Android apps. This indicates that Google is quite supportive of it. Kotlin or Java were probably used to create the majority of non-game apps.
Downloading Android Studio is the best approach to start creating Android apps. Integrated Development Environment, or IDE, is the name of the piece of software in question. You will have everything you need in one location to get started thanks to the Android SDK that is supplied with it (a collection of tools designed expressly to make Android development easier).
Official documentation from Google will refer to Android Studio and Java (or Kotlin), and you’ll be able to find a lot of support online.
Sun Microsystems first introduced Java in 1995, and it is now utilized for a variety of programming applications. Even though Google has made it clear that it prefers Kotlin, many development teams have decided to continue with Java since it is so well-established and well-known.
Java is really difficult as well and not a fantastic “first language.” Once the Android SDK is included, things become much more challenging; a novice programmer may find it difficult to distinguish between Java and Android! Constructors, null pointer exceptions, checked exceptions, and other baffling concepts are all part of the object-oriented programming language known as Java.
You’ll use a lot of “boilerplate” code to do simple tasks, and it’s not very understandable. A rudimentary familiarity of ideas like Gradle, the Android Manifest, and the markup language XML is also necessary for development using this approach.
This is not meant to imply that Java is a terrible language; just the contrary. It is incorrect to label any language as “evil,” since the majority of Java’s drawbacks exist to promote clean code and serve our own interests.
Java is one of the most popular and versatile programming languages because of this, and many people adore it. Java is the programming language that employers are most interested in using, according to the PYPL (Popularity of Programming Languages) table.
Android Studio, has also been going from strength to strength over the last few years. Features like a visual designer and suggestions make the process a fair bit smoother, while advanced, powerful features are being added all the time to give developers access to things like cloud storage with easy implementation.
It’s worth getting aboard, even if this rapid progress does make it hard to keep up sometimes (especially if you’re some poor guy who writes about this stuff for a living!).
Kotlin has been an official language for Android development for a while now, and Google has even gone so far as to make it the preferred option for Android development. That said, with many development teams already deeply invested in Java, there are many who have chosen not to make the switch.
Kotlin utilizes the Java Virtual Machine much like Java does. Additionally, it fully integrates with Java and doesn’t result in any file size or performance issues. The distinction is that Kotlin is a more streamlined and simple-to-read system since it doesn’t require as much “boilerplate” code.
Additionally, it eliminates mistakes like null point exceptions and exempts you from using semicolons at the end of each line. In summary, it’s ideal if you’re just starting to learn how to design Android apps.
So, Kotlin is definitely an easier starting point for beginners, and the fact that you can still use Android Studio is a big plus. That said, it’s still a complex language in its own right, and you’ll still need to figure out an awful lot of extra “stuff” to build an Android app this way. There’s also the slight drawback of Kotlin being less widely used outside of Android development.
It’s safe to assume that the majority of readers shouldn’t choose this method of Android app development. The Android NDK’s C/C++ code can be supported by Android Studio (Native Development Kit). As a result, you’ll be creating code that runs natively on the device rather than on the Java Virtual Machine, giving you more control over processes like memory allocation. This can help you get more performance out of your Android device for demanding applications like 3D games. Also, it means you’ll be able to use C or C++ libraries.
However, it also tends to be much harder to set up, it introduces more bugs and it is less flexible. And if you did want to create a computer game, you’d probably be better off using a ready-made game engine such as Unity.
Microsoft created C# with the intention of fusing the strength of C++ with the simplicity of Visual Basic. If you are familiar with one of these languages, such as Java, switching to the other should be rather easy. C# is garbage collected, just like Java, so you don’t have to worry about problems like memory leaks and manually freeing up memory. If this might simply be my own bias showing through, C# has a better syntax and is more current than Java. The best language for creating Android apps is frequently a matter of personal preference!
If you want a particularly easy and welcoming introduction to Android app development, I recommend the combination of C# and Unity. Unity is a game engine (meaning it provides things like physics calculations and 3D graphics rendering) and an IDE (like Android Studio). This is a free tool that makes it incredibly easy to create your own games – with just a few lines of code you can have a basic platform game set up in less than an hour. No exaggeration! And it’s perfectly powerful too, being the tool used by most game studios on the Google Play Store.
As a cross-platform solution, Unity will also let you port your games to other operating systems such as iOS and Windows. You can even make console games! On top of all that, developing in this way provides a very practical way to learn Object-Oriented coding (because the objects in this case actually are objects most of the time!). For those hoping to start a career in game development, learning Unity is an excellent first step.
The limitation? Unity is useful for creating games but sub-par for creating standard Android Apps, especially if you want to conform to Google’s Material Design language.
C# can also be used with Xamarin through Visual Studio. This is more akin to traditional Android development with the advantage of being cross-platform (one codebase for Android and iOS). For a complete beginner, this route is again a slightly obtuse entry point to Android development. But for a small company wanting to create an app for iOS and Android, it makes sense, and there’s plenty of support and information out there to help you out.
Corona provides a different, far easier alternative for creating Android apps while still offering you a good deal of authority and control. It will be lot easier for you to code in LUA than in Java. Moreover, the Software Development Kit for Corona will make things much simpler. You can publish to several platforms and it supports all native libraries. It is mostly used for making games but can be used in a variety of other ways too. To enter your code, use a text editor like Notepad++; you don’t even need to build it before running it on an emulator. When the time comes, you’ll be able to use an online tool to develop and distribute an APK.
This does require basic coding skills, but it offers a nice and gentle introduction to the world of code. At the same time though, it is definitely limited in what it can accomplish and is only a few steps removed from getting into “app builder” territory. This is more useful for someone who wants to create something relatively simple and isn’t as concerned about developing their coding skills or becoming a pro. If you want to use features such as in-app purchasing, then you’ll need to pay a fee. The same goes for using native Android APIs.
Whatever you chose, you’ll find that learning to code is a tremendously satisfying experience and one that opens up a lot of options for you. The best choice will rely on your sensibility and your goals. And the best way to get started is by learning to code for Android. We hope that you now at least have a basic understanding of how to create Android apps, but if you still have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments below and our team and readers will try our best to respond.