Android activist Mark Murphy shares app testing best practices

William Francis interviews Android community activist and author Mark Murphy, who offers developers app testing tips that won't empty their wallets.

Go Google, go

Since the unveiling of the Android operating system back in November 2007, the platform has experienced tremendous growth. I've seen reports that there are more than 190 million Android devices in use and counting. If you're an app developer, consider the number 190 million for a few seconds, and then close your eyes. Wait for it.... Did you see them? A sea of potential consumers frothing at the mouth in anticipation of the new app idea you've been tossing around. Go, Google go. The more the merrier. Am I right?

Unfortunately, what the statistic doesn't immediately convey is that those 190 million devices aren't all the same; that is, not all of the devices run the same OS, have the same screen resolutions, use the same keyboard configurations, and so on. A quick look at Google's phone gallery shows us more than 75 physical devices running Android, and the Android Developer Platform Versions page touts six major versions of the OS currently in the field (Figure A). Figure A

Click the image to enlarge. (Image credit: Reproduced from work created and shared by the Android Open Source Project and used according to terms described in the Creative Commons 2.5 Attribution License.)

I'm not overly fond of testing to begin with -- and the idea of testing my app across an army of phones and tablets doesn't exactly have me champing at the bit. Not to mention the fact that even if I loved nothing more than to test, test, and test some more, my budget (or my girlfriend), would never allow me to purchase 75 different phones.

Oh the dilemma! What's an enterprising app developer supposed to do? Fear not brave reader, you've come to the right place. With the help of none other than Mark Murphy, I've compiled some best testing practices that will help ensure your app is ready for the market without bankrupting your billfold.

Mark Murphy

Unless you're brand new on the Android scene, you've likely heard of Mark Murphy (@commonsguy). According to his website, Mark is the founder of CommonsWare, a published author, and an Android community activist. His experience ranges from consulting on open source and collaborative development for Fortune 500 companies to application development on just about anything smaller than a mainframe.

As an Android developer myself, I'd like to add to Mark's resume. I'm not exaggerating when I say that any time I have a question about Android development, I can Google the issue and somewhere in the top 10 results Mark's name will show up providing an answer or sample code (or more likely both). He is on the speaker list at every Android conference worth the price of admission, and his book The Busy Coder's Guide to Android Development, is the most used reference on my bookshelf. I refer to it so often the spine has irrevocable damage.

Read the TechRepublic interview with Mark Murphy.

By William J. Francis

William J Francis began programming computers at age eleven. Specializing in embedded and mobile platforms, he has more than 20 years of professional software engineering under his belt, including a four year stint in the US Army's Military Intellige...