Ever wanted to become an Android developer? Maybe you just have an idea for an app you’d like to develop? Either way, this Android development guide for beginners will get you started!
Also read: What is Python and how do you get started?
This post explains the basics of Android development for beginners: the files you need, how to set them up, and how to start your first project.
We have written tons of tutorials and guides for potential developers here Android authority, so in this post I’ll also provide links you can follow to expand your knowledge. This is the first step on a great journey with limitless possibilities.
Why learn Android development?
Learning to build Android apps is an extremely valuable activity. Android is a hugely popular operating system, with a massive installation base. At the 2019 I / O developers conference, Google announced that it had 2.5 billion active users! This creates a huge potential audience for the apps you may be developing, and ensures that there will always be work for Android developers!
The nature of Android also makes it a very attractive option. As a mobile operating system, Android apps can access the myriad of data collected by phone sensors. Android apps are always in our pocket, and they can make our lives easier in countless ways.
Plus, learning Android development for beginners is easier than you may think. Google has made every effort to make this process as smooth as possible, downloading all the tools you need in one package. Developers can also release apps to Google very easily for a one-time fee of just $ 25! Most apps are automatically accepted in the store.
Android development for beginners: setting up your development environment
Hence, you should learn Android development for beginners. Convinced? Very well! Let’s move on.
To get started with Android development, you need to install an “Integrated Development Environment” or “IDE”. An IDE is the interface you use when programming. This gives you an area where you can edit the code.
You also need a copy of the Android “Software Development Kit” or “SDK”. The SDK is a selection of tools critical to Android development: libraries, a compiler (to turn your code into working apps), a debug bridge, an emulator, and more.
Also read: The best Android developer tools to get started.
You don’t need to interact with the SDK itself, but you need to tell the IDE you’re using where to find it.
You can read more about the Android SDK here:
And you can download it from Google here. Make sure to download the latest version.
There are actually a number of different IDEs you can use for Android development. Options include Xamarin, Unity and B4A. However, Android Studio is Google’s “official” IDE for Android development. Android Studio comes with the Android SDK in a single download, and the installation process will provide you with a turnkey programming environment.
If you are learning Android development for beginners, I highly recommend choosing Android Studio as your IDE. As the most ‘official’ Android IDE, it is also the most versatile, the first to receive updates and the tool of choice for employers.
If you want some help installing Android Studio, you can find all the instructions you need here:
Start your first Android project
Once you install Android Studio, you are ready to start programming!
To begin, run the program and select New project. You will then need to give your app a name and add a company domain. The combination of these two elements gives you your “package name”, a unique identifier for your app within the Android ecosystem.
So your app can be called com.androidauthority.mycoolapp.
You will also be asked to target a specific version of Android. The “Minimum SDK” refers to the oldest version of Android with which you want to make your app compatible. The lower the number you enter here, the more people can enjoy your hard work. The downside is that newer versions support the more recent functions; so if you want to access this you may need to provide a higher number.
Also read: Android 11 Developer Preview: What Developers Need to Know
Since we’re talking about Android development for beginners, you can probably just leave this option at the default setting.
Of course, you should choose to develop for “phone and tablet” instead of TV or any of the other options; unless you are interested in that.
Android Development for Beginners: Should You Start With Java or Kotlin?
You also need to decide whether to write your code in Java or Kotlin. These two programming languages have some minor differences.
Java has been supported since the early days of Android development, but Google is learning away from this option because it belongs to a different company (Oracle / Sun Microsystems). Kotlin is also slightly easier to develop, requires less “standard code” (this term refers to repetitive code that is exactly the same in every project), and has a built-in defense against some of the common bugs found in Java.
Choosing Kotlin might seem like a good idea. That is, until you consider that Java is more widely adopted outside of Android development. In fact, Java is right up there with Python, Java and C ++ being one of the most popular and in-demand programming languages.
Also read: I want to develop Android apps – What languages should I learn?
If you’re learning beginner Android development as a way to learn broader programming skills and improve your career, then learning Java may serve you better.
The deep-rooted nature of Java also means that many larger development companies have yet to make the switch to Kotlin. As with most things, the right answer depends a lot on your personal preferences and what you hope to achieve.
Read more about the differences here:
After you have made your selection, you can choose a template for your first “Activity”. An activity is essentially a “screen” in Android. The option you choose here determines the UI elements that are included by default.
Once you have made this selection you will be greeted by a code – you are ready to start programming!
Your first Android app and where to go from here
What you are looking at now is the Java or Kotlin code needed to print “Hello World” on the screen. It’s in the large window on the right.
On the left is a file explorer that shows you all the different programs that make up your app. You don’t need to worry about most of these as many of them are used by Android Studio and the SDK to build your apps.
What’s important is that the MainActivity file is the Java or Kotlin file you are currently viewing. This file is associated with another file called activity_main.xml. While MainActivity defines your app’s behavior, activity_main.xml is responsible for the user interface.
This uses different types of code called XML. XML is a markup language that describes the position of visual elements on the screen and is very similar to the HTML code used to design websites. One downside to learning how to develop Android apps for beginners is that it contains a lot of fragmented elements. It gets worse: Google has a habit of introducing new concepts and tools all the time.
If you want to see how all this works, connect an Android device to your PC and make sure you have enabled USB debugging first from the developer options:
Now hit the little play button at the top of the screen. You will see that the app is empty, except that the words “Hello world” are displayed on the screen. (Writing “Hello world” is a developmental tradition in learning a new language, for your information.)
To accomplish this, your code needs a text label to display the text. This is recorded in your XML file.
This uses different types of code called XML.
However, if we want that text to do something when clicked, we need to add code to the MainActivity file that references that “view” (the Android word for widget) and then define the logic for what would happen next. This is how these two files work together to deliver the Android experience we know and love!
The code already in your MainActivity program only tells Android which layout file to display. As a rule, MainActivity is usually the first activity displayed when starting an app.
Continue your education
Since you may be using one of two different programming languages, I won’t dive deeper into programming itself.
Instead, I recommend that you continue your education in Android development for beginners by checking out one of our programming tutorials:
You can also try one of our easy beginner projects:
Finally, you should definitely check out Google’s official developer guides:
Good luck and have fun coding!