10 features to include during Android app development

11 min read
August 18, 2023

With more than 2.87 million apps as of 2023, the Google Play Store is more crowded than ever.

And with mobile app downloads projected to hit 143 billion by 2026, it will only get more competitive from here.

Gone are the days when you could just come up with a mediocre app idea, put it together haphazardly, and expect to earn money on it.

To succeed in the 2020s app market, you need to stand out.

And the best way is to include some or all of the features we will discuss in this article.

Responsive design

When the user interface is able to adjust its layout to fit any device a user might use an app on, such as a tablet, a smartphone, or even a laptop or desktop computer, we call that responsive design.

An example of this is a desktop app that automatically switches to a mobile version when viewed from a smartphone.

Notice how the text size, layout, and navigation change between formats.

responsive design

Source: Mastertej

Responsive design is especially critical with Android apps because of fragmentation.

Fragmentation refers to the sheer variety of devices in the Android ecosystem, each with its own resolutions, screen size, and hardware specs.

The last thing you want is for your app to crash when loading at a different dimension than you intended.

The introduction of foldable devices on Android complicates things further. Now, you need the UI to adapt to three different layouts (folded, flexed, and unfolded) on the same device.

folded flexed and unfolded

Source: Droid Con

The core characteristic of a responsive design is that it doesn’t lock the UI to a specific orientation or aspect ratio.

Rather, it must be fluid—using any available space and re-arranging the layout in terms of proportions rather than absolute values (like pixels).

In fact, a true responsive UI doesn’t even need to know whether the device is a smartphone or tablet. It will automatically optimize whatever screen it’s in.

Needless to say, designing a responsive mobile UI is much more complicated and requires plenty of testing. Fortunately, Android provides some useful guidelines that can help you.

Simple registration and login

Most apps today have some form of a login screen. But despite its ubiquity, login screens can actually impact UX negatively.

No one wants to spend time registering an account or filling out forms. That’s because it’s a cognitive barrier—an added step that gets in the way of them using your app immediately.

And good UX is about reducing these obstacles as much as possible.

cognitive barriers

Source: UXMag

Now, if you must require users to register and log in, you should make it as effortless as possible.

One popular way is to allow them to sign up using their existing accounts, such as Facebook or Google. At most, it’s just a two or three-step process, and they’re good to go.

You should also consider using biometrics like face recognition or fingerprint scanning to log into the app.

This is a faster option as they don’t need to enter anything at all. Plus, biometrics are considered much more secure than entering passwords (which can be stolen).

Indeed, a study by AYTM Market Research confirms this:

biometrics vs. passwords bar chart

Source: Ondato

Simplifying the login screen might seem daunting, but it’s worth the added user engagement and trust you’ll get from users.

Payment gateway integration

For apps that have more direct monetization methods like in-app purchases, payment gateway integration is essential.

Instead of having to make a deposit or load a separate app for payments, the user should be able to complete the transaction from within the app itself.

Payment gateways are must have parts of many mobile apps

Source: Stormotion

This is a critical capability to have because of the prevalence of mobile e-commerce. Studies have shown that over 56% of all online purchases were made with a mobile device.

And the number of such purchases will only increase in time.

The biggest advantage of payment gateway integration is that it removes most of the friction of online payments.

This makes users much more likely to complete the transaction, indirectly increasing your revenue.

Plus, the convenience contributes to a positive user experience. Thus, people are inclined to buy from you again as repeat customers.

Customization options

If there’s one thing that can improve UX dramatically, it’s customization and personalization.

Think about it—when you feel like an app was made for you, you’ll be much more inclined to use it because you feel special.

Here are some proven benefits of customization and personalization:

Benefits of personalization

Source: Aplyca

Now, there are multiple ways to allow the user to customize their experience, depending on the nature of your app.

Sometimes, it doesn’t even need to be mind-blowing or advanced.

Take something as simple as language. If your target market is multilingual, providing that support in your app is a good idea.

You can also allow your users to customize the app UI, such as the color, text size, and layout.

Beyond aesthetics, these can be great for people with disabilities (for instance, switching to a theme made for color-blind users).

All of these are very simple additions. Yet their effect on your user base can be profound, so it’s always worth doing them.

Push notifications

Push notifications are a ubiquitous aspect of apps and for a good reason.

They’re vital for reminding users of something important in the app. For instance, an intermittent fasting app can tell the user if it’s time to eat.

A banking app can notify users of due payments or other critical information.

Push notifications can improve your app’s UX when done right and with restraint. Indeed, a study showed that it can increase app retention rates by up to 10 times.

But push notifications are also double-edged swords. Overdo them, and they can cause your users to uninstall your app entirely.

Take a look:

What makes push notifications classify as spam chart

Source: Business of Apps

Thus, you need to find your push notification sweet spot.

Now, this will depend on your industry or niche. For example, a fintech app user won’t mind getting several daily notifications if they’re relevant to their finances.

But for a mobile game? Not so much.

To be safe, limiting push notifications to a maximum of 5 per week is best. But more than the frequency, it’s important to make your notifications relevant, timely, and (if appropriate) fun.

A search function

A search bar isn’t just for websites anymore. They’re now increasingly seen as a vital navigation tool for mobile apps.

This is especially true for mobile apps that deal with a huge volume of content, such as social media apps, reference tools, and news aggregators.

For some apps, it’s even downright essential. Can you imagine if Uber, Waze, or DoorDash didn’t have search functions? You’d probably spend hours just trying to find your destination!

The new Uber Eats pick up search bar

Source: Neowin

A search function ensures that users won’t get lost in your app. If they ever do, they simply need to search for their destination or page, which will direct them to it.

It will become even more powerful if you pair it with voice capabilities. Now, users don’t even need to type in their query.

They can just use voice commands. This is exceptionally convenient as it allows the hands-free operation of your app.

Location-based services

Location-based services allow your app to deliver customized content or experiences based on the user’s location.

For instance, the GasBuddy app uses your location to scan nearby gas stations and find the cheapest among them.

Location based services

Source: Car And Driver

Location-based services are one of the most common technologies that most people aren’t even aware of, even though in the US alone, 94% of smartphone users have relied on that technology at some point.

Indeed, many apps like Uber and Waze would be impossible without it.

But location-based services go beyond just navigation and ride-hailing. They have other creative applications.

For instance, you can use location-based services for geo-conquesting. This is a tactic where you send targeted messages to users when they are near your competitors’ shops.

A Dunkin’ Donuts branch used this strategy to lure 3.6% of Starbucks’s customers successfully.

No doubt that there are other unusually effective ways to provide location-based services. You just need to explore!

Social media integration

Social media is everywhere these days—and that includes mobile apps. You’ll often see Facebook links and share buttons in everything from mobile games to photo editing apps.

Why is this useful?

Well, it’s free marketing for your app. Social media integration allows users to share screenshots on their Facebook or Instagram pages easily.

This generates interest and could attract more users to your app.

The Santa Tracker app showing a share button

Source: Web.dev

It’s also a good form of social proof. Once people see that their friends and family are using the app, they’re much more likely to use it themselves.

Best of all, integrating social media into your app takes little to no effort. Most social media developers provide APIs that enable integration with minimal code.

The only challenge is to know when and how to integrate social media functions into your app. After all, you wouldn’t want people to share their bank account details on their Facebook page.

Some social media platforms are also more appropriate than others.

For example, an arts and crafts-based app would do well with Pinterest because that’s what users predominantly share on that platform.

The key is to figure out where your ideal users hang out online and integrate those platforms into your app.

In-app user feedback options

In-app feedback is a crucial feature that every app must have. It facilitates the collection of feedback from users, thus giving you valuable insights to improve your app in the future.

What happens when you don’t have in-app feedback?

This could happen:

In app feedback solution flow chart

Source: Alchemer

The easiest form of in-app feedback is the rating prompt. At opportune times, a pop-up asks the user to rate the app on the app store. One step ahead would be asking them to write a review.

You can also integrate third-party widgets, allowing users to answer surveys or questionnaires. This can give you much better insights than ratings alone.

However, we believe the best in-app feedback should be silent and effortless to the user. The Shake tool checks all these boxes.

Crash reports module

Source: Shake

Shake is a tool that allows users to send a crash report with a simple shake of their mobile phone.

Apart from the user’s feedback, Shake also attaches other relevant metrics automatically in the background to give developers a better picture of the error.

An offline mode

Even if an app requires online connectivity to work, it should still fail gracefully even when it goes offline.

The truth is you can’t rely on the user having a stable internet connection 100% of the time. Just look at the outages that happened in a few months in 2023 alone.

Network Outage Events Global vs US

Source: Thousand Eyes

Different apps handle a lack of connection in various ways. It depends on the nature of your app.

One common strategy is offline sync.

Here, the app continues to function normally offline by utilizing local data.

Then, once the internet connection is restored, changes in the data are synced with its copy on the database. This is done seamlessly in the background.

Mind Bowser screenshot

Source: Mind Bowser

Offline modes aren’t just nice-to-haves but represent an essential feature. They mask any issues in the background, so the user will still have a good experience.

Need to implement these features?

We hope you’ll get to include most of these features in your next Android project. Because the fact is that they can make your app much more engaging, efficient, and safe.

But more important than what to include is who will do it. Because to reap their benefits, you need a competent team to implement them properly.

And that’s where DECODE comes in.

With our expertise and track record, we believe we have what it takes to make your Android app shine.

Interested? Get in touch with us today, 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.

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