Best Practices in Developing Apps for Large Android Devices

By Emma Caunter
30 Aug '16

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Android is everywhere. It has over 85% of the market for mobile devices. It's customizable, easy to work with and open source. But most Android developers are used to working with small devices ranging in size from smartphones to tablets. So as Android starts to enter the market of advertising in the form of interactive digital signage on large screens, coders will have to learn some new skills. At Webilize (Portfolio and Testimonials), we design and develop Apps.


The move is a natural one: the market for digital signage is significant and will keep on growing. In 2014 it was valued at $14.63 billion and was forecast to grow to $23.76 billion by 2020. Android is a simple solution for designing interactive applications - it's flexible and reusable while providing powerful tools for companies to display their content.


On the face of it, designing for a large device seems easier than standard Android programming. A large TV screen will not get up and walk off, changing orientation and losing/regaining internet connection every two minutes. And while this is true, a large device can also offer some problems of its own. So here are some things to remember when working with large Android displays:


1.  Image Resolution

An image that looked great on a smartphone (or even a tablet) might not translate that well to a large device. If stretched too much, images will look grainy and pixelated, especially if they contain text. Try to keep image resolution appropriate to devices' size.


2.  Testing

Testing applications can be severe without having the device handy. Tablets and smartphones don't resize everything accurately (especially if some of the layouts have to be fixed size, as often happens), and Android's emulators are slow. They don't support features like the camera and custom libraries very well. It's good to be able to test on the target device, and essential to do so before deploying.


3.  Debugging

If the application displayed on a converted tv screen or monitor, it probably doesn't have any available ports to debug. And unless it runs the latest Android version, wireless debugging is out of the question. It's often best to do most debugging on a tablet and have a background service to monitor any errors on the large device, sending updates to an email account or similar.


4.  Android Version

What version of Android will the device run? It could be quite low and probably isn't higher than KitKat, in which case it's best to know before starting the application. There's little worse than getting halfway through and realizing certain integral features aren't available.


5.  User Interaction

How much are users expected to interact with the device? If the intended usage is for a digital display, users shouldn't be able to stop the application and access other parts of the gadget. Consider creating a background application to prevent the computer savvy from causing havoc and leaving the main app.


6.  Landscape or Portrait?

Check if the device can rotate its view. Since there is no need to carry it around, it won't have any motion detection like a smartphone or tablet, and therefore won't rotate depending on which way up it happens. If it can't manually turn the screen and depending on which way up the screen will be, you are supposed to design custom layouts for the application.


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