Daily Illuminator

August 7, 2010: Apps For Android

A couple of years ago, we decided it would be interesting to do apps. At the time we started, that really meant “do iPhone apps.” Apple ruled the app market.

That has changed. By the time we released the Munchkin Level Counter for iPhone, we were getting requests for other versions, and we’re still getting them. Android is by far the most-requested OS (Blackberry is a distant second, and nothing in particular is third). So we contracted for a port to Android, and it’s now in beta.

When we announced the Zombie Dice app, the “Do it for Android!” notes became more frequent than ever.

Reasons why we’d like to do Android versions: (1) To make you happy. (2) Money. (3) World domination, of course, Pinky!

Reasons why we don’t do Android versions automatically and instantly: It’s not trivial.

Android and iPhone use very different operating systems. Our first apps were designed on the iPhone and took advantage of its strengths. For instance, the Level Counter is about 25 megs, because it’s got 150+ Boons, and every one is a full-screen image. With the iPhone we could do that. But some Androids, especially older ones, won’t even download a file that big. That’s the biggest reason we can’t estimate a release date for the Android level counter. (We need some authoritative info on “lowest common denominator” file size for Android touch-screen devices; anyone got a pointer to something we can rely on?)

Likewise, Android devices have a hardware “Back” button. To port an app to Android, you have to define what that button does on every single screen, and you have to test its interactions with, well, everything. And Android devices come in a number of screen sizes. You can imagine what that does to code that was written for One Official Screen Size.

Android devices have some strengths that iPhones lack. Unfortunately, if an app was first written within an iPhone’s limitations, the only way to take advantage of Android’s strengths is to redesign the whole app. Which adds to the time that it takes to get it to you!

Having said all that: Tomorrow’s Illuminator will be a Request for Proposal to port the Zombie Dice app to Android. This is the first RFP we’ve ever done. It won’t be the last.

-- Steve Jackson


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