Pebble engineer explains why its Android app isn’t quite ready

February 12, 2014
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pebble app store first look watch faces

Last week we took our first look at Pebble’s App Store, which is currently sitting in beta form on Android, despite being classed as a full release for iOS users.

To address concerns from Android users about the state of Pebble’s software development, engineer Kean Wong has written a little bit about the issues facing Pebble’s Android development schedule, which he pins down to two key issue: the complicated nature of Android app development and a lack of resources to test the thousands of possible Android device configurations that are out there.

Any app developer will tell you that a lot goes in to ensuring that different features work together, and Pebble is a particularly greedy app when it comes to resources. The Android app relies heavily on Bluetooth, a Javascript runtime environment, access to the internet, and has to perform back and forth communications with the Pebble device, all without breaking down or interrupting the user experience. This might go some way to explain why the Store was a little sluggish during our first look.

Essentially, the problem boils down to the fact that Pebble is working on compatibility for over 1000 different Android devices, with 27 different versions of Android 4.x to support, and the app also has to contend with other apps for access to a smartphone’s limited amount of memory. With iOS, the limited number of handsets and set in stone hardware makes the situation much simpler.

This is also a major part of the second problem, being a small company, Pebble only has a limited number of resources to expend on Android support.

In order to ship a high quality, reliable Android experience that will work for many thousands of users across the myriad of devices and operating systems, we need engineers working on the Android app who are both fantastic engineers and great Android developers.

The team currently only consists of a small number of developers, and due to the demanding nature of Android development, Pebble has been recruiting and expanding its Android team for a little while. However, finding the right talent is proving to be tough for Pebble, the blog is even asking for referrals at this point.

(we) will keep refining the Android app until it is working well for all Android users – only at that point is it ready to go out the door

Unfortunately there’s no ETA on when the Android app will arrive on the Play Store its finished form, but those who are willing to try out a beta version can download the .apk file directly from Pebble.

Comments

  • Tanner Hoyt

    That’s what fragmentation gets you.

    • Phil Rigby

      Exactly. Hate them or love them, the Apple way of controlling iOS is the way things need to be – not necessarily the “walled garden” where you can’t do what you want, but Google dictating what version of Android goes on devices and allows users to do the upgrade rather than allowing providers to hold back OS releases, add their own bloatware etc.

      • Grman Rodriguez

        It’s not. Both have their mistakes, that would mean every phone is the same in software which is lame. The correct way is the windows way. It may come with a versiĂłn of Windows but you can always install whatever version you want yourself. I wish every phone came with the option of installing stock ROM on it. That would be the way things need to be.

  • BrianS

    That’s got to be the craziest explanation I’ve ever heard. Look, people have developed for Windows for years. There’s far more than 1,000 devices and they have lots of diffferences. Between Major versions/Minor Versions/Service Packs and Hot Patches the number of “versions” is even larger. Yet developers manage to get apps working there routinely. His fundamental development problem is that he believes he needs to structure it so that all possibilities are tested. That’s not even really possible for iOS (especially as Apple makes it difficult to get older versions). When you make a Windows App that needs to be resizeable, you don’t test the app on 10,000,000,000 different possible window sizes. You use some intelligence to figure out what sizes really need to be tested. And this is what that guy needs to do with Android.

  • John Doe

    Why can they not just talk to Google and see if they can use the Play Store for their repository? Or is it a Testing thing? in which Pebble them selves could do the testing then add it to the store themselves eliminating the need for Google doing it ..
    Anywho, just my 2 cents to this ..

  • Pradeep Viswanathan R

    Is that an app? its a webpage !!!!