The Android software development kit (SDK) includes a comprehensive set of development tools. The Android SDK Platform Tools are a separately downloadable subset of the full SDK, consisting of command-line tools such as
fastboot. The Android Debug Bridge (ADB) is a tool to run commands on a connected Android device. Fastboot is a protocol used for flashing filesystems. Code written in C/C++ can be compiled to ARM, or x86 native code (or their 64-bit variants) using the Android Native Development Kit (NDK).
The Android 3.1 platform (also backported to Android 2.3.4) introduces Android Open Accessory support, which allows external USB hardware (an Android USB accessory) to interact with an Android-powered device in a special "accessory" mode. When an Android-powered device is in accessory mode, the connected accessory acts as the USB host (powers the bus and enumerates devices) and the Android-powered device acts as the USB device. Android USB accessories are specifically designed to attach to Android-powered devices and adhere to a simple protocol (Android accessory protocol) that allows them to detect Android-powered devices that support accessory mode.
Development tools intended to help an Android device interact with external electronics include IOIO, Android Open Accessory Development Kit, Microbridge, Triggertrap, etc.
Main article: Android Developer Challenge
The Android Developer Challenge was a competition to find the most innovative application for Android. Google offered prizes totaling 10 million US dollars, distributed between ADC I and ADC II. ADC I accepted submissions from January 2 to April 14, 2008. The 50 most promising entries, announced on May 12, 2008, each received a $25,000 award to further development. It ended in early September with the announcement of ten teams that received $275,000 each, and ten teams that received $100,000 each.
ADC II was announced on May 27, 2009. The first round of the ADC II closed on October 6, 2009. The first-round winners of ADC II comprising the top 200 applications were announced on November 5, 2009. Voting for the second round also opened on the same day and ended on November 25. Google announced the top winners of ADC II on November 30, with SweetDreams, What the Doodle!? and WaveSecure being nominated the overall winners of the challenge.
See also: List of custom Android distributions
There is a community of open source enthusiasts that build and share Android-based distributions (i.e. firmware) with a number of customizations and additional features, such as FLAC lossless audio support and the ability to store downloaded applications on the microSD card. This usually involves rooting the device. Rooting allows users root access to the operating system, enabling full control of the phone. Rooting has several disadvantages as well, including increased risk of hacking, high chances of bricking, losing warranty, increased virus attack risks, etc. It is also possible to install custom firmware, although the device's boot loader must also be unlocked. Custom firmware allows users of older phones to use applications available only on newer releases.
Those firmware packages are updated frequently, incorporate elements of Android functionality that haven't yet been officially released within a carrier-sanctioned firmware, and tend to have fewer limitations. CyanogenMod and OMFGB are examples of such firmware.
On September 24, 2009, Google issued a cease and desist letter to the modder Cyanogen, citing issues with the re-distribution of Google's closed-source applications within the custom firmware. Even though most of Android OS is open source, phones come packaged with closed-source Google applications for functionality such as the Google Play and GPS navigation. Google has asserted that these applications can only be provided through approved distribution channels by licensed distributors. Cyanogen complied with Google's license and continued to distribute its mod without the proprietary software. It provided a method to backup licensed Google applications during the mod's install process and restore them when the process is complete.
Main article: Comparison of Java and Android API
Obstacles to development include the fact that Android does not use established Java standards, that is, Java SE and ME. This prevents compatibility between Java applications written for those platforms and those written for the Android platform. Android reuses the Java language syntax and semantics, but it does not provide the full class libraries and APIs bundled with Java SE or ME. However, there are multiple tools in the market from companies such as Myriad Group and UpOnTek that provide Java ME to Android conversion services.
Android provides its own GUI classes, and does not provide Java AWT, Swing or JavaFX. It does not support the full Java Beans API.
Frankly, I don't understand why Google intends to ignore the vast amount of existing implementation out there. It seems like a bad case of "not invented here" to me. Ultimately, this will slow adoption. There are already too many Java platforms for the mobile world and this is yet another one
On the other hand, you might think this is kind of a scam aimed at developers who don't really understand the nature of the platform they're targeting. My biggest complaint is that you'd think that Mikael Ricknäs, the IDG News Service reporter who wrote the first story linked to above (who toils for the same company that publishes JavaWorld), would have at least mentioned the relationship between Java and Android to make the oddness of this announcement clear.
We will have to wait and see exactly how much pickup J2Android actually sees. The tool isn't actually available on the open market just yet; while Schillings spoke optimistically about "converting 1,000 MIDlets in an afternoon," at the moment they're working with a few providers to transform their back catalogs. So those of you out there hoping to avoid learning how to write Android code may have to wait a while.