8 biggest challenges of Android app development

11 min read
July 12, 2023

Despite Android being the most popular mobile platform, Android app development is no walk in the park.

While there are tools and libraries to simplify the process, Android’s flexible, open nature can hinder development as much as it can help it.

For instance, it means that developers need to consider thousands of device configurations when coding and testing.

Fortunately, it’s possible to get through these challenges. And the first step to overcoming them is understanding them.

Choosing the right programming language

The beauty of Android app development lies in having a plethora of programming languages at your disposal. This flexibility allows you to find the best one, depending on your project.

However, the abundance of choice can also quickly lead to overwhelm. Thus, choosing the right programming language can become a big challenge for some developers.

To overcome this, you need to know the capabilities of each language, then pair it with your project’s requirements.

For most cases, Java would be your default pick. After all, it’s the original Android programming language.

Many parts of the Android OS are written in Java, which makes it a particularly stable and reliable language.

Java advantages infographic

Source: Diceus

Java is also well-known for its tight security and stability. In fact, it’s the language of choice for enterprise systems.

Thus, Java is a good pick if you plan to develop an app where security is paramount, such as fintech.

However, Android is slowly making Kotlin its official language. That’s because Kotlin is an improvement over Java in many ways.

For example, Kotlin code is more expressive and concise than Java. This makes your project faster to develop and easier to maintain.

Take a look at the comparison below:

Java code vs. Kotlin code

Source: CodeBerry School

Kotlin also removes null pointers, one of the biggest causes of crashes in Java-based apps. This helps make your app more stable and reliable.

Best of all, Kotlin is 100% compatible and interoperable with Java. You can use the same tools and even mix Java and Kotlin code in the same project.

Another language you can use is C++, which is one of the most classic picks. It’s a generic and powerful language used to develop anything from operating systems to 3D games.

C++ is mostly used for high-performance tasks such as rendering 3D animation or doing complex mathematical calculations.

But because C++ is a complex language with a steep learning curve, it’s impractical to use it to develop the entire app.

Apart from these, you can also use Python through third-party plug-ins and Javascript via cross-platform tools like React Native and Vue.  

Although choosing the right programming language can be a challenge, it’s one that you can overcome by looking into the capabilities of each language and matching it to the requirements of your project.

Handling hardware and software fragmentation

Fragmentation is perhaps the biggest challenge for any Android developer.

It refers to the sheer number of devices and OS versions in the Android ecosystem – a consequence of its open-source nature.

Any manufacturer is free to adopt the Android OS in their device, which explains why Android has a 71.44% global market share in 2023 – dominating iOS and every other operating system.

Android OS

Source: Statista

However, Android also lacks standardization compared to iOS. The result is over 24,000 distinct devices, each with its own screen resolution and hardware specifications.

For a developer, this is a nightmare scenario.

That’s because they must ensure their app works on most of these devices. And that involves testing and modifying the code against hundreds of device configurations.

Then, developers also need to contend with software fragmentation – or having multiple versions of Android on the market.

Most popular OS versions chart

Source: AppBrain

Not all users would have the latest OS version installed. Thus, they must carefully use any functionality or libraries incompatible with an earlier release.

Fortunately, there are solutions available that could help ease developers out of this fragmentation challenge.

The best way is to use the Emulator, a feature in Android Studio that allows you to run different Android device configurations virtually.

Thus, you can quickly test your app against multiple devices without needing to have the real thing.

Creating a user interface that works well

The user interface (UI) can make or break your app.

A well-designed, intuitive interface can elevate a mediocre app. But even the most innovative app idea would fail if the UI was a pain to use.

And while a great UX might look simple, it’s not easy to achieve. It’s not enough for the app to be useful – it also has to be enjoyable to use.

People dont use digital products because they have delightful animations or are visually exciting. They use them because they provide tangible value

Source: Woodside Ventures

One of the many traps designers can fall into is implementing the UX for themselves and not from the users’ perspective.

This could backfire because what you find acceptable might not necessarily be the right fit for your target audience.

Let’s say you’re creating an app aimed at an older demographic. You then decide to use a radical navigation layout that might be intuitive for you but isn’t for someone older.

In this case, your UX still fails.

That’s why market research is critical for the best UX.

It’s the only way to discover your target audience’s behaviors, preferences, and quirks, which allows you to tailor the app experience to these factors.

Fortunately, Android provides developers with tools that can ease UX design. One of the most critical is the Material Design guidelines.

Material design

Source: Material

Material is an open-source resource listing all the guidelines and best practices for creating beautiful, functional interfaces.

That way, you can quickly achieve UX without much trial and error.

Finding ways to optimize app performance

A stable, high-performing app is the bare minimum that users expect. After all, an app that’s slow or always crashes is unreliable and would quickly be uninstalled by anyone.

Creating a stable app is easier said than done, however.

Hundreds of factors could negatively affect app performance, from poor memory management to network connection issues.

Rooting these all out is a tall order – even for big corporations and agencies.

Consider how the Mars Climate Orbiter failed due to a simple error in converting imperial units to metric. Unfortunately, that small mishap cost NASA $320 million.

Fortunately, optimizing your app’s performance is possible with the help of proper metrics.

One of the most important ones is the crash rate, which measures the percentage of sessions that experience total app failure.

crash rate

Source: The Little Engineer That Could

Ideally, the crash rate should be kept at 1% or less – anything higher is already deemed unstable.

After making your app stable, the next consideration is speed and responsiveness. You can measure this with two metrics – load time and latency.

Load time tells you how fast your app opens once the user taps on its icon on their phone.

It’s a fundamental metric because an excessively long load time (anything above three seconds) will cause users to abandon your app.

Conversely, latency measures the delay when an app tries to access data from a server or database. A good benchmark here is 1 second or less.

Monitoring these metrics brings you closer to having a more reliable app. All that’s left is to implement some best practices that will help you improve your app’s stability.

Ensuring compatibility with third-party APIs

Application programming interfaces (API) are one of the many ways to speed up Android development.

They can perform advanced functions (such as user authentication or encryption) that would take weeks to code from scratch.

But thanks to Android’s fragmentation, ensuring compatibility when using third-party APIs could be challenging.

The main issue is using an API incompatible with the target device’s Android version. For example, that API might be using a function from the Android library that’s already deprecated.

Thus, developers should always check their APIs for each Android OS release, then update them as necessary. Of course, this is tedious and time-consuming.

The code should have a section that checks the current Android OS version, then call appropriate APIs based on that.

Managing ever-present security concerns

Security is an ever-present challenge in app development. However, the open-source nature of Android makes it an especially juicy target.

The reason is that, when manufacturers edit and customize the Android OS for their devices, there’s a risk of introducing security vulnerabilities.

Plus, the Android code is freely available, making it easier for hackers to find gaps.

For example, Google recently discovered that some Samsung phones had a vulnerability that allowed hackers to run code remotely by only knowing the victim’s phone number.

Samsung security flaw

Source: Tech Radar

Another problem is that the Google Play Store is generally less stringent than the Apple App Store.

While this leads to having more apps in general (and helps Android gain market share), it also lets a few malicious apps slip through the cracks.

A recent analysis showed several banking trojans disguised as legit apps in the Google Play Store.

These dropper apps may look like innocent productivity or utility apps but will automatically install trojans once opened.

Distribution via Google Play Store

Source: The Hacker News

Due to these ever-present and growing vulnerabilities, Android developers must be more stringent with app security. If you’d like to know how, you can read our article here.

Increasing app visibility in the Google Play Store

Building a great, user-friendly app isn’t enough to succeed. You must also let people know that it exists!

Unfortunately, the main benefit of Android – market share – is also your biggest obstacle. That’s because you have to compete with millions of apps for your users’ time and attention.

And this task is getting more challenging by the day.

There are currently more than 2.5 million apps on the Google Play Store, and this number is expected to grow in the coming years.

Google Play Store chart

Source: Statista

You can improve your chances with app store optimization (ASO). These strategies and best practices can make your app more visible and thus bring you more downloads.

For instance, you can use keyword optimization to find the most used keywords that are relevant to your app.

That way, when people search for those, your app is among the first few results.

ASO is effective but involves much work. You’ll need to optimize your app store page, write a compelling description, use an eye-catching logo, and foster positive reviews.

And you need to do this regularly.

Alternatively, you can use other marketing channels like paid ads, content marketing, and email marketing to promote your app.

Making sure your app gets attention from your target audience is crucial for its success, so don’t forget to put effort into increasing its visibility.

Dealing with intellectual property issues

Intellectual property issues are also something that Android developers need to contend with.

Thanks to a lenient review process, clone apps – blatant rip-offs of existing apps – frequently get published on the Google Play Store.

The more successful your app becomes, the more likely it could be the target of a copycat. And this could sow confusion in your market, potentially ruining your reputation.


Source: Google

However, the reverse could happen just as easily – you might unknowingly use an app feature or look that is too similar to an existing app.

This could become problematic when another app files a lawsuit or a copyright infringement case against you.

The best case scenario is that your app gets pulled from the Google Play Store – the worst is that you must pay exorbitant fines and legal fees.

To prevent this, you must check competitors and other apps in your niche to ensure you’re not copying an existing app.

Double-checking patent laws to determine to what extent you can adopt app features and visuals is also of the utmost importance.

Need help overcoming these challenges?

By understanding these eight Android challenges, we hope you’re better aware of and prepared for them.

Of course, awareness and action are two different things. To tackle them effectively, you’ll need the help of an experienced development team like DECODE.

With our track record, we know what it takes to create successful Android apps.

Interested in our help? Schedule a free consultation with us today (covered with an NDA), and let’s talk!

Written by

Ivan Trogrlic

Android Team Lead

An Applied Sciences graduate and a true connoisseur of tech, Ivan is a software developer with a genuine love for exploring new technologies. QAs love his code, and his fellow developers always value his input. For Ivan, there is no issue too small to talk over, and no problem that can’t be solved together. When he is not coding, Ivan is usually hiking or playing football. His ideal workspace? Probably a cottage in the mountains, with a serious gaming setup and fast internet connection.

Related articles