Common Android app development mistakes to avoid

10 min read
July 10, 2023

Which is harder to develop – iOS or Android apps?

This is a question we get a lot. And there’s no easy way to answer it.

Apple might have easy-to-use tools, but its closed ecosystem can be limiting.

Android might be more flexible, but it requires effort to keep your app stable.

The truth is that every platform has its unique challenges. What’s important is that you employ best practices and avoid key mistakes during development.

That’s why, in this article, we present some of the common blunders that every Android developer should avoid.

Being unfamiliar with Android Studio’s capabilities

Android Studio is the official integrated development environment (IDE) and perhaps the most powerful tool in a developer’s arsenal.

That’s because it includes several features that can help you develop apps faster and more efficiently.

Thus, not knowing and harnessing Android Studio’s full capabilities can hinder your productivity.

One feature you should master is the Gradle build system. It’s a tool that automates many tasks needed to turn your code into an executable file, ready to be deployed to a user’s device.

For example, you can create several versions of your Android app, each with custom configurations.

This allows you to optimize the APK package to fit specific devices or Android OS versions.

The build process of a typical Android app module

Source: PSPDFKit

Another great feature is the Emulator, where you can virtually run different Android versions and devices on your computer.

This allows you to test your app in different screen resolutions, specifications, and OS versions to maximize compatibility.

Perhaps one of the most important Android Studio features to master is its excellent debugging tools.

For instance, the breakpoint feature lets you tag lines in your code that will automatically pause the execution.

This allows you to examine variables and expressions to see if your code runs as expected.

Android screenshot

Source: Android

And this is just scratching the surface.

Android Studio has dozens more critical capabilities like Instant Run, a visual layout editor, GitHub integration, and performance analytics tools.

So, getting familiar with all of its capabilities can be very beneficial and help with the faster development of Android applications.

Using iOS design practices

One common mistake of developers, especially if they are used to working on iOS projects, is using iOS design principles in Android apps.

This might sound applicable and harmless, but it can negatively impact the user experience (UX).

The fact is, Android and iOS apps have a distinct look and feel that any regular user would recognize instantly.

This is partly how you can make your apps intuitive – because the interface is already familiar, it reduces the mental effort of learning your app.

If you mix this up, you risk jarring your users.

To give you a quick comparison, here are the differences between Android and iOS design:

Visual Design Differences

Source: Design Flyover

Apart from aesthetics, iOS and Android also have distinct layouts and behaviors that we recommend you follow.

For instance, most iOS apps have a navigation bar at the bottom of the screen, which shows the major sections the user can visit.

On the other hand, Android tends to place them in different places, such as a hamburger menu or a tabbed pane.

iOS vs Android primary nav differences

Source: Learn UI

Fortunately, Android provides the Material Design guidelines, which specify how an Android app UI should look.

Sticking to these principles can help you design Android interfaces without much guesswork.

Neglecting to use intents

Intents are objects used to facilitate communication between different components or applications.

Think of them as messages that announce an intent to do something, such as starting an activity, broadcasting a message, or initiating a service.

Android system

Source: Android

Intents are one of the most powerful mechanisms in Android programming.

They provide a flexible way for different parts of your app to communicate with each other without being explicitly connected. This allows you to swap and reuse components rather easily.

However, it’s important that you use them properly since a wrong intent can jeopardize your app’s safety.

For example, you should always use an explicit intent when starting a Service.

This is because, in an explicit intent, you also specify the target component, thus ensuring that the service will only come from a known source.

In contrast, an implicit intent doesn’t specify the application or service that will fulfill the request. This means malicious programs could respond to it, potentially starting a cyberattack.

a Explicit Intent b Implicit Intent

Source: Research Gate

The bottom line: intents are an effective way to promote modularity in your Android app. Without them, you risk developing a monolithic app that’s harder to maintain.

Not using fragments

A fragment is a modular component representing a portion of your app’s UI.

It’s like a “mini activity” within your app’s main activity. It has its own lifecycle, layouts, UI elements, and logic.

Fragments can also communicate with each other, giving rich interaction options.

For instance, when a user taps a button on Fragment A, it can request Fragment B to load a web page.

Fragments are vital for creating self-contained UI elements that can be freely reused and rearranged as the situation demands.

This is especially vital for achieving adaptable, responsive UIs.

You can have a fragment for your app’s navigation bar and another for the main window. This allows your UI to adapt to a phone or tablet configuration without re-coding them.

Tablet vs. Handset

Source: Geeks for Geeks

Without fragments, building modular and scalable Android apps will be much harder. If you need a list component in multiple activities, you must code and update them separately.

This is time-consuming and error-prone. Fragments can simplify that process.

Blocking the main thread

The main thread is the master thread that initiates and handles every other component in your app, like a main program that executes all the other mini-programs.

By nature, the main thread is responsible for many things.

But one mistake many developers make is to have the main thread handle everything in your app – even operations that take a long time to execute.

This will block the main thread and freeze your app while it waits for the operation to finish. As a result, your app becomes unresponsive.

blocking operation

Source: Helder Vasconcelos

To avoid this, offload some of the app logic to multiple worker (or background) threads.

This allows demanding operations to run in the background, thus freeing up your main thread for other tasks like rendering the UI or receiving user input.

Using background threads is especially critical for operations that involve external calls, such as retrieving data from a database.

That’s because factors beyond your control  (latency and congestion) can prolong these operations.

App default process

Source: Abhishek Srivastava

However, it’s important to keep your background threads self-contained. They shouldn’t try to update anything in the main thread – including UI elements.

Attempting that is dangerous because worker threads aren’t aware of the state of your main thread.

For example, if a background thread tries to update a UI element that doesn’t exist, your app could crash.

Failing to utilize data binding

Data binding allows a direct connection between data sources and UI elements via a single XML declaration.

So, for example, if you need to change the image file that the UI component should load, you can change the XML in the layout file instead of editing it in the code itself.

With data binding

Source: Innominds

If you don’t use data binding, you’ll need to update UI elements explicitly in the code. This means more manual view lookups and more boilerplate code.

In other words, you risk creating an app that’s clunky, hard to read, and difficult to maintain.

Your app could also become slower with multiple unnecessary UI updates and manual lookup operations.

Without data binding, your app is less stable. That’s because data binding expressions are validated during compile time, thus helping you catch errors and reducing critical app crashes.

Not taking advantage of Android libraries

Building everything from scratch – instead of using Android libraries – is one of the mistakes new Android developers make.

Because why waste time, effort, and money coding something when someone has already done that work for you?

Android libraries provide developers with hundreds of pre-built functions, from loading images to initiating network connections.

It can simplify coding work because you don’t need to build certain functionalities from scratch. This also reduces the amount of code, thus making your app run faster and easier to maintain.

For example, Glide is a library that loads and optimizes images by automatically applying down-sampling and caching.

It can help you create image-heavy apps that run efficiently – all with just a single line of code:


Source: Auth0

Managing the app’s network is another necessary but tedious task that nearly every Android developer needs to do.

Fortunately, you can use a variety of libraries to facilitate the process for you.

One example is Volley, a library that includes functions for managing network requests.

This can include request cache management, prioritization, and automatic scheduling of network requests. This helps eliminate boilerplate code used for making network calls.

Volley In Android

Source: Abhi Android

Android libraries can also help with different testing and debugging tasks.

One example is Mockito, a library that helps you create fake objects for the purpose of testing.

This eliminates the need to configure certain classes to conform to a test method, which could get tedious quickly.

These examples are just a fraction of what Android libraries can do.

We suggest exploring them the next time you encounter a tedious task during Android development – chances are good there’s a quicker solution out there!

Poorly handling bitmaps

Handling bitmaps is one of the trickiest tasks for developers to get right because of how memory intensive it is.

Improper handling of this segment can lead to poor performance or even app crashes caused by insufficient memory.

Let’s say a user takes a photo using a 10-megapixel camera, roughly translating into 10 million individual pixels.

Assuming the app uses the default of 4 bytes per pixel, that image alone could use roughly 40 MB – a huge chunk of memory for a mobile app.

Fortunately, image libraries like Glide can help avoid this problem by optimizing images for you.

Aside from optimizing images, they also ensure you don’t have unused bitmaps hogging memory space.

Using deep view hierarchy

Android uses a view hierarchy when rendering the layout. That means you can nest UI objects under other UI objects, which is useful for complex layouts.

However, overdoing this can impact your app performance negatively.

Hierarchy of views in android

Source: Geeks for Geeks

That’s because every time the app updates a layout, it also does the same for all nested elements in that layout – even if there’s no real need to.

As a result, it takes more time to load your app UI. In some cases, it can even freeze entirely.

Thus, your goal should be to keep your layout hierarchy as horizontal as possible. That way, updating a UI element eliminates the loading time for other unaffected components.

You can do this easily with Android Studio’s Layout Inspector.

View options drop down menu

Source: Android

You can also use lint, a powerful tool that scans your code for possible errors and optimization opportunities without running it.

This can help you uncover hierarchy issues to fix them immediately.

How to ensure you avoid these mistakes in your app

We hope understanding these common mistakes will help you perform better on your next project.

While they seem relatively minor, even one or two could hinder your app’s performance or introduce a security vulnerability.

So, what’s the best and easiest approach to avoid these mistakes entirely?

Partner with an experienced development team like DECODE with a track record of creating successful Android apps.

Interested? Schedule a free consultation with us today (backed by an NDA), and let’s talk about your next project!

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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