My First Android App, Six Years Later

Allow me to indulge in a bit of throw-back-Thursday reminiscing as I look back on my first ever Android app: FlightTrack.

In October of 2009 I joined a small travel app startup, Mobiata, and was tasked with writing the Android version of its already successful iOS app FlightTrack.

The deadline was a month and a half, set because of a program Google was running that would help fund development. Unbeknownst to me during development we never actually applied for the funds, so it was a punishing deadline for little reason. I knew nothing about Android going in - nor had I ever worked on an entire project by myself - so it was quite a rush.

The original version was (if my memory is correct) was released this week, six years ago. I couldn't find an APK for 1.0, but I found 1.1 lying around (which was only released a month later).

Those 1.x style launchers! 3d perspective icons be back in fashion someday, I just know it.

Back in the old days, we used to put all our controls in the menu. It was an easy solution for a hard design problem: where do I put all my actions?

This easy solution had an unfortunate drawback: many people did not know about the menu button. You'd think it'd be essential to using Android, plus it was fairly prominent on the bottom of the device, but it still confounded many.

Ultimately, developers switched to using on-screen buttons exclusively because it was far more clear to users. The menu button died off (along with an even less-used search button).

Ugly yet functional. Check out the title bar! Yes, all apps used to just have a tiny strip for their title at the top.

I was surprised to see that searches still worked. The fonts render nicely on modern phones, but the assets are low density by today's standards. There was no need for anything above mdpi since that was as good as it got!

Those tabs are amazing. Most drawables on the screen are shapes. Gradients were hot back then. Those carets were a rad takeaway from iOS.

I remember being doubtful of making the title taller than standard for this screen. Nowadays everything has an action bar which is taller than that.

By contrast, here's the current version of FlightTrack. I played almost no role in its development since I'd moved onto Expedia by the time this revision was being created.

I was extremely lucky to get into Android when I did for two reasons. First, it became an useful platform to know well. Being knowledgeable in Android has been a boon to my career. It would've been hard to predict at the time that it was going to take off like it did.

Second, it was a great platform to cut my teeth on. There were few users and even fewer good apps. As a result those were forgiving days. I made countless gigantic mistakes, but instead of alienating users it only served to improve my ability. I am not jealous of people attempting to get into Android now, where you're expected to deliver a lot more functionality with better design.

If you've read this far, thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me.