Technical Details

On this page you will find some technical information on what your app supports, the sorts of files we create and provide to build your app, and various lists and overviews that may be useful to you. At the bottom of the page is a glossary of any technical terms and acronyms used on our website. You can click any dashed-underlined word when reading to take you straight to the glossary.

Our compatibility mission statement

It is our mission to make high quality apps that work on as many devices and reach as many users as possible. To do this we follow many best-practice guidelines to create apps that are widely compatible. We work hard to build apps that are still useful even if the user device is old and may not contain all the necessary features. We build apps that are secure and stable; and do not require any more permissions than is needed for them to work. We develop apps in a modular way which makes changing them in future fast and easy. We take the time to test our apps on many physical devices. We recognise that Android has an open culture where one-size-does-not-fit-all and users are encouraged to customise. We wish to support not just the biggest players in the Android space, but the smaller and custom Android devices and projects available which end users have chosen to use, and to make our best efforts to support these where possible.

Overview of Android operating system

Android started in 2003. It is an open source project which means that it is entirely free and open for anybody (whether they are a large corporation, a small group or individual hobbyist) to take, change and resell or use without restriction. Android is currently managed by the Open Handset Alliance, of which most major hardware and software companies are members. One of the leading members is Google.

With an open source project several years old which encourages a diverse range of creative and technical people to engage, develop and hack, it is with little surprise that the end result is a very diverse range of Android devices and systems. From low-end budget devices to premium flagship products, there is now something for everybody. We wish to support as many of them as possible. After all, the end users have chosen to use their particular Android so their wish should be respected rather than mandated against.

Android versions

Over the years since Android started it has gone through 11 major releases to bring it to where we are today; Android 5.1/Lollipop — every major release of Android is named after a sweet treat following letters of the alphabet. We work hard to try and support versions of Android that are still used by at least 0.5% of the global market. That means we still support as far back as Android 2.3/Gingerbread. However, that doesn't automatically mean your app won't work on anything older, it just means the probability of it fully working decreases with the age of the Android version it is being used on, as inevitably some required features may not be available in very old versions.

Many flavours of Android

Not only are there many versions of Android, there are many flavours of it too. The majority of Android flavours are not fundamentally different on a technical level. Most changes are a slight rebranding of Android, often changing icons, bundling services and the addition of custom interfaces (aka "skins") — these are easy to support. Some changes are very deep and can go as far as modifying the fundamental Android system (called "mods/ROMs") to remove or replace core components creating a radically different result — these can be more tricky to support but we do support all common mods, such as:

Android flavours

An example of a quite radical Android is Amazon's Fire OS which is used to power Amazon's range of Fire phones and Kindle readers. Amazon took the Android project and removed the majority of the Google platform services and replaced them with their own counterparts. The end result is an Android that goes beyond just a changed look and feel but operates in quite a different way. There is no Google Play store but instead Amazon's own Appstore, for example. Despite these changes it is still Android and users still choose to use these devices, and we we still wish to do our best effort to support these devices. In fact nearly all versions of Fire OS are included in our compatibility guarantee.

Overview of device form factors

We now live in a multi-screen world — Android is no longer available on just the mobile phone. Android has since spread to tablets and we also support these as standard. However, Android didn't and won't stop there. Where possible, and depending on your app requirements, we can support laptops (Chromebooks), wearables (Android Wear), televisions (Android TV & Chromecast), cars (Android Auto) and other form factors.

Various form factors

The above image doesn't even include many other Android powered form factors that are already available to purchase today. Now is the time to think beyond just phone and tablet, we can develop your app for the new multi-screen world. We will not restrict your app to work on only specific devices unless you explicitly request this; we will attempt to make your app accessible by as many devices as possible.

Android version usage stats

As a general rule of thumb, we work to guarantee that your app will be compatible with all Androids released in the previous 5 years and released in (at least) the next 2 years from the date we develop your app. In practice it is likely to be significantly longer than 2 years.

Android version usage

For the sake of practicality we also require users of older Androids to account for at least 0.5% of the global audience for us to make efforts to support it, which is a very low threshold. In essence, that's a lot of compatibility — guaranteed at over 99.6% and rising!

Common Hardware & Software Quick Compatibility Matrix

Android Software CustodiansDevice ManufacturersAfter-Market ROMs
Open Handset AllianceGoogleHTCSamsungSonyLGAmazonCyanogenTeam KangOmni
Android Open Source Project
(“Pure Android”)
Stock Android
(“Google Play Edition”)
SenseTouchWizVariousVariousFire OSCyanogenModAndroid Open
Kang Project
OmniROM
Legend: Yes Current; guaranteed working Planned Future; guaranteed working Maybe Old; probably not No Ancient; definitely not N/A Never made/released
1.0-1.1Alpha & Beta
1.5Cupcake
1.6Donut
2.0-2.1EclairEspresso
1.0-2.0
3.0
3.0 Lite
5.0
2.2FroyoEspresso
1.0-2.0
3.0
3.0 Lite
Mediascape UI
Arc
3D UI
Optimus UI 2.0
6.0-6.1
2.3GingerbreadEspresso
1.0-3.5
4.0Arc
Timescape UI
3D UI
Optimus UI 1.0
Optimus UI 2.0
1.07.0-7.2
3.0-3.2Honeycomb2.14.0Timescape UI3D UI
4.0Ice Cream Sandwich3.6
4.0-4.1
4.0
Nature UX
Nature UX Lite
Timescape UI
Xperia UI
3D UI
Optimus UI 3.0
2.09.0-9.1ics
4.1-4.3Jelly Bean4+
5.0-5.5
Nature UX
Nature UX 2.0
Nature UX 2.5
Timescape UI
Xperia UI
Optimus UI 3.0
Optimus UI 4.0
3.010.0-10.2jb
jb-mr1
jb-mr2
4.3
4.4Kitkat5.5-6.0Nature UX 2.5
Nature UX 3.0
Xperia UIG UI
Optimus UI 3.0
4.0-4.511.0-M12kitkat
kitkat_mr2
4.4
5.0-5.1Lollipop6.0-7.0Nature UX 3.5Xperia UIG UI
Optimus UI 3.0
5.012.0-12.1l-mr1
lollipop
lollipop-mr1
5.0-5.1
6.0M (2015 release)
7.0N (2016 release)

N.B.: This is not an exhaustive list, it shows only the principal and most common software and hardware makers related to Android. There are thousands of other devices and projects which your app will run on; including device manufacturers (like Motorola, RIM, ZTE and Huawei) and ROMs (like Dirty Unicorns, Hive UI, Asus Zen UI, Emotion UI and Pac Man ROM).

Supplied files

At various stages as your project progresses we will send you an .apk file. These files can be installed on your devices to show you work-in-progress previews of your app for your private evaluation use. You can use the evaluations previews to provide us with direction and guidance for any changes and alterations before your app is fully completed. When your app is completed and you are happy with the result, we will send you a final .apk file to use and/or distribute as you wish — this will be your actual app.

Along with the final .apk file we will send you a keystore file which you will need in order to put your app on a public app store. If you wish your project to include having your app listed on a public app store like Google Play and/or Amazon Appstore then we offer this as an additional service also. You aren't required to distribute your app via a public app store, you can distribute it privately or via your own website, or your own corporate app store if you so desire (again we can help with these things). We supply the keystore so you have the flexibility should your needs ever change in the future and you require it.

Also when your project is complete we will send you a compressed zip file containing all the source code, assets and other data we used to build your app. These files are required to alter and change your app in the future. You can give the source code to any Android developer to modify your app and you are not locked in to using just our services, as some unscrupulous app developers trick customers in to doing by not supplying the source code. The source code itself is well structured Java classes and accompanying support files following industry best-practice guidelines.

.apk This file can be installed on your Android device or Android emulator to test your app. These files are what an app store downloads..tar.gz / .tgz / .zip This compressed file can be opened by software like 7Zip, WinZip, StuffIt & more on Linux, Mac and Windows. These files contain your source code.

Glossary

after market
Any custom ROM or "mod" user-installed after the purchase of a device, often done so to get the latest Android version, replace the skin or remove bloatware. Often devices have to be unlocked to do this; but as the unlocking process becomes easier and more automated then after market ROMs are becoming more popular.
Amazon Appstore
An app store provided by Amazon to replace Google Play on their own Android version (Fire OS), powering devices like the Fire phone and Kindle e-reader.
Android
The awesome mobile operating system with over 1 billion 30-day active users. In legal trademark terms, the name "Android" is owned by Google.
Android Open Source Project
The official name of the Android project, including the source code released under the Apache License. The Android Open Source Project is custodianed by the Open Handset Alliance with a big part played by Google.
AOSP
See Android Open Source Project
Apache License
One of several popular legal licenses used to release source code in order to guarantee it is free and accessible to anybody to reuse for any purpose and preserve their freedoms to do so. The AOSP is released under the Apache license.
apk
Files ending .apk are self-contained app installation files downloaded from an app store or retrieved by some other means that allows an app to be automatically installed on the target device. Equivalent to a desktop "setup" file. Usually signed by a keystore before being published.
app store
A service provided by a device maker and/or software provider to allow the discovery, download, purchase and updating of compatible apps and often other consumer content. Google provides the most common app store called Google Play however device manufacturers and other providers sometimes provide their own app store alongside or in place of Google Play. See also Amazon Appstore.
bloatware
Bloatware is a term for bundled apps and content that come pre-installed on devices that are rarely wanted and cannot usually be removed; often just taking up space or "bloating" the devices already limited storage. Often bloatware is found to be somewhat nefarious including tracking, spying or other privacy invading capabilities which is one of the major driving forces to users installing their own custom mod.
clean room
A development methodology where a copyright app can be duplicated in a legal fashion by first examining and documenting it to an exacting written specification. This is then checked to ensure it contains no copyrightable works. In a "clean room" (free of contamination of any source materials), an app is independently developed following just the specification, therefore being able to demonstrably prove that no copyrightable work exists in the end product.
CM
See CyanogenMod
CyanogenMod
A very common after market Android ROM which brings enhanced features and customisability to the end user without any device supplier bloatware pre-installed. CyanogenMod is produced by Cyanogen and the CyanogenMod community.
Fire OS
See Amazon Appstore
Google
A large US technology company who purchased the Android project and made it open source. The leading founding member of the Open Handset Alliance. Google owns the trademark rights to the name of Android as well as many Google services, such as the Google Play store.
Google Market
See Google Play
Google Play
Google Play Services is the core functionality to enable the discovery, downloading, purchase and updating of Android compatible apps and other content through Google's app store, called Google Play (formerly "Google Market"). See also Amazon Appstore.
Google Play Edition
See stock Android
Google Play Services
See Google Play
HTC Sense
A popular default skin that comes on HTC devices.
keystore
A keystore is a file which contains a cryptographic key. This key is used to sign an apk file (much like a signature) to enable the recipient to be sure that it came from the true source and has not been maliciously replaced or altered. A keystore file is therefore an important required file when you want to upload your app to a third party like an app store. We provide the keystore to you when we supply your completed app, along with the source code for your app.
mod
A type of ROM that is usually customised on a deeper technical level compared to a skin which is a ROM usually customised only on a visual level. Popular mods include CyanogenMod.
OHA
See Open Handset Alliance
Open Handset Alliance
The Open Handset Alliance are the custodians of the Android Open Source Project and oversee management of the alliance members and the direction and release of the Android platform. The OHA contains several major members including large software vendors and device manufacturers all working towards creating the open interoperable Android mobile operating system.
open source
An (often non-proprietary) project whose source code is open and available under an open source legal license, such as the Apache License; which typically guarantees the freedom to copy, alter, redistribute and use the source code or project in any way you wish.
ROM
The core operating system; the part that makes the device actual Android. Devices come with a pre-installed ROM direct from the manufacturer or retailer which can often be updated over-the-air. Usually these types of ROMs are skins like HTC Sense or Samsung TouchWiz. Some users choose to install their own ROM (an "after market ROM") such as CyanogenMod.
Samsung TouchWiz
A popular default skin that comes on Samsung devices.
signed
See keystore
skin
A type of ROM that is usually customised only on visual level compared to a mod which is a ROM usually customised on a deeper technical level. Popular skins include HTC Sense and Samsung TouchWiz. Most skins come bundled with additional bloatware.
source code
The actual programming code written by a programmer which is eventually turned in to an app (an apk file). Having the source code allows somebody to change and modify the app. We provide the source code to you, along with the keystore, when we supply your completed app.
stock Android
The plain version of Android provided by Google without any additional skin or bloatware from third party device manufacturers or retailers.
UI
See skin
Something missing? Incorrect? Collaborate!
If you've spotted an omission or mistake, or just want us to update the glossary, please say hello, let us know and we'll get right on it.