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

Pebble engineer Kean Wong has explained two key issues for the delayed launch of its Android App Store: the complicated nature of Android development and a lack of resources.
February 12, 2014
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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.