Category Archives: Android

Tokyo Android Meetup Talk

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I’m a mem­ber of the Tokyo Android Meet­up group — we meet about once a month and dis­cuss var­i­ous Android devel­op­ment top­ics. It is a fair­ly casu­al and friend­ly affair, and I rec­om­mend it to any­one in Tokyo even vague­ly inter­est­ed in Android devel­op­ment. We most­ly speak in Eng­lish, but Japan­ese speak­ers are also very wel­come!

Last week I gave a pre­sen­ta­tion on the Android Sup­port Library. When research­ing for this talk, I was sur­prised at how use­ful the sup­port libraries are even for projects tar­get­ing Android 4.0 and above. It was also inter­est­ing to see how some of the fea­tures have their roots in open-source, com­mu­ni­ty projects which have exist­ed for a long time before appear­ing in the sup­port library.

I have made the slides avail­able on Slid­eDeck:

I also made some small code sam­ples for each of the top­ics I talked about, avail­able on GitHub.

The expe­ri­ence was very reward­ing — I had to first orga­nize the con­tent in a coher­ent way in my own mind before being able to explain it to oth­ers. Teach­ing, it seems, is a very good way to learn! I hope to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to present anoth­er top­ic in the future.

Photo Hack Day Japan

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I took part in a hackathon last week­end — the very first Pho­to Hack Day Japan! I heard about it via the Tokyo Android Meet­up group and thought it would be fun to try and build some­thing new and meet some more devel­op­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly Japan­ese-speak­ing ones.

The event was spread over Sat­ur­day and Sun­day (with a pre-par­ty on Fri­day), cul­mi­nat­ing in presentations/demos and a prize cer­e­mo­ny. It was held at the Mixi HQ in Shibuya. The gen­er­al idea was to make some­thing inter­est­ing using the APIs of the com­pa­nies spon­sor­ing the event. We had about 24 hours.

Photo Hack Day Japan!

Pho­to Hack Day Japan!

I teamed up with Ben Watan­abe, a design­er and entre­pre­neur who I had met once before via the meet­up group. He had recent­ly found­ed his own com­pa­ny, Ten­Ten, and was some­what expe­ri­enced with hackathons. We cre­at­ed an app called ‘Before The Fil­ter’ — an app to teach users about the fun­da­men­tals of pho­tog­ra­phy. It explained sev­er­al prin­ci­ples in pho­tog­ra­phy (includ­ing Rule of Thirds, Van­ish­ing Point) using text and images, as well as an over­lay over the cam­era view to help users line up their tar­get cor­rect­ly with respect to the par­tic­u­lar prin­ci­ple.

It was great to work with such a tal­ent­ed design­er. As a devel­op­er, I find the pro­gram­ming-side of build­ing a mobile app straight­for­ward. If you have solved a sim­i­lar prob­lem before (which nat­u­ral­ly becomes increas­ing­ly com­mon), you are large­ly con­strained only by how fast you can type. It is often easy to come up with a mea­sur­able way of eval­u­at­ing your sys­tem, and you can con­tin­ue to ham­mer away until those con­di­tions are met. On the oth­er hand, decid­ing what to build, what kind of user expe­ri­ence the app should have, those are the kinds of things that are, to me, much more chal­leng­ing to deal with.

The hackathon was pretty much this. For a whole weekend.

The hackathon was pret­ty much this. For a whole week­end.

With the demos sched­uled for 1.30pm on Sun­day, we sub­mit­ted the app to Google Play at 11.30am and hoped it would go live on time (it did!). Ben gave a very strong pre­sen­ta­tion and we received many com­ments after­wards from peo­ple who were sur­prised at how ‘com­plete’ the app was. We took the prize for the best use of the Aviary API (the only API we inte­grat­ed with!), as well as the prize for the sec­ond best over­all hack. This totalled ¥300,000 in prize mon­ey! Our sto­ry made it onto The Bridge.

Picture of us taking a Frontback picture.

Pic­ture of us tak­ing a Front­back pic­ture.

Before The Fil­ter can be down­loaded from Google Play here. Ben and I are plan­ning on con­tin­u­ing devel­op­ment of the app in the future — watch this space for more to come!

Origami Android gets featured!

So I have been work­ing at Origa­mi since mid-July 2013. Origa­mi is a mobile com­merce plat­form that allows users to effec­tive­ly cre­ate their own per­son­al­ized shop by fol­low­ing only the brands/merchants that they are inter­est­ed in. Every brand/merchant on Origa­mi also have phys­i­cal shops, and so online-to-offline con­ver­sions (encour­ag­ing users of the app to go into the phys­i­cal shops) are also a big theme. The com­pa­ny was found­ed last year and is cur­rent­ly focused on the Japan­ese mar­ket. [This is not an offi­cial post by Origa­mi, so any­thing men­tioned here only reflects my own opin­ion and under­stand­ing.]

I was tasked with build­ing an Android app coun­ter­part (from scratch) to their exist­ing iOS app, which was released ear­li­er this year. I had com­plete free­dom to decide the tech­ni­cal archi­tec­ture of the Android app, which has made for a very inter­est­ing and edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence. The app start­ed out as Ant/E­clipse-based, with a short tran­si­tion to a Maven/Intellij base, before final­ly set­tling on Gradle/Android Stu­dio. The var­i­ous libraries used also evolved in a sim­i­lar fash­ion.

The iOS app has been rel­a­tive­ly well received (also becom­ing fea­tured on the App Store), and so the Android app had a lot to live up to. After three months of hard work, the Origa­mi Android app was final­ly released on 21st Octo­ber 2013.

The app soon caught the atten­tion of var­i­ous peo­ple at Google, and much to my delight, it was decid­ed that the app would be fea­tured on Google Play!

Google Play Apps Home.

Google Play Apps Home.

Detail page.

Detail page.

From 2013/11/08 until 2013/11/15, if you opened the ‘Apps’ home page on the Google Play app (while in Japan), you would be greet­ed with a rather large Origa­mi ban­ner. Click­ing on the ban­ner led to a small detail page with a descrip­tion of Origa­mi, which then sub­se­quent­ly led to the app download/info page. In terms of app pro­mo­tion on Google Play, this is about as good as it gets!

Although the ban­ner is no longer shown, Origa­mi can also cur­rent­ly be found in the ‘今週のおすすめ’ (‘This week’s rec­om­mend­ed apps’) and the ‘まずはこれから始めよう’ (‘First­ly, let’s start from here’ / ‘Essen­tials’) sec­tions. It also holds a strong rank­ing in the ‘Shop­ping’ cat­e­go­ry (cur­rent­ly #10 Top Free). This pub­lic­i­ty is pro­vid­ing a great boost to our down­loads and hope­ful­ly the ini­tial suc­cess will only con­tin­ue. I am very excit­ed at the buzz cur­rent­ly sur­round­ing Origa­mi, and feel inspired to deliv­er an even bet­ter Android expe­ri­ence from here!

Category: Android