Google I/O 2013: How to make magical Android apps

In the final part of a three-leg series about Android development pro tips, Reto Meier, Android developer relations tech lead at Google, presented some tips for Android developers to make their apps “magical.” Meier wanted to answer the question “How do we build apps significantly enough to feel like magic?”

For his first tip, Meier says the easiest way for a developer to make an app magical is by looking at competitors.

“You can use your competitors as an eye for where you should be,” he says. But there’s a downfall when analyzing what competitors are doing. “Aiming for the past or where your competitors have been isn’t magic,” he adds.

Meier also says developers shouldn’t focus on the current breakdown of the Android operating system, which Google provides publicly at its developer dashboard.

“If you wait for Jelly Bean to hit 50 percent, you’re going to be behind,” he says. Meier adds that developers should build apps for users with the latest Android OS, especially.

An example of a magical moment is when two users hold their handsets together, tap the devices together, and initiate a multiplayer session in a game, similarly to the sharing capability in Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and newer handsets. “For regular people, this is the sort of stuff that creates magical experiences,” Meier says.

Meier provided some additional tips including not transmitting or storing contact details or location of users, supplying a privacy policy on Google Play and allowing users to delete stored data as well as not storing data that’s more than a few months old.

Meier continually drove the point home on designing a personalized app for everyone. To do that, a developer has to create context through tracking. A developer can implement tracking abilities in their apps such as location tracking, activity recognition (which can tell if a user is running, walking, cycling, etc.) and social tracking of a user’s Google+ profile. Utilizing a mobile device’s sensory abilities such as sight, sound, and touch, can create a rich sensory experience for the user that will feel magical.