How To Develop Android Apps Using Ruby?

Despite rumors of Google developing an Android replacement called Fuchsia, the operating system is as popular as ever. As of Q2 2018, an impressive 88% of smartphones globally used the Android operating system, as this Statista report shows.

Entrepreneurs continue to launch Android apps in records numbers. Another Statista report shows that as of Q3 2018, there were 2.1 million Android apps.

Android developers have several options when it comes to programming language, Ruby is one. Are you wondering how to develop Android apps using Ruby? If you are then this guide is the one you have been searching for!

Contents

What is Ruby?
A little bit about Ruby on Rails
The advantages of Ruby
The popularity of Ruby
How to learn Ruby?
How can you develop Android apps using Ruby?
Embarking on an Android app development project using Ruby?

What is Ruby?

Ruby is a popular open-source programming language. Here are a few interesting facts about Ruby:

  • Yukihiro Matsumoto, a Japanese computer scientist, and programmer created the language.
  • His main objective was to create a language that was good for both functional programming and imperative programming. These two are distinct programming paradigms, operating as follows:
  • To achieve his objective, Matsumoto took components of several languages, e.g., Perl, Smalltalk, Eiffel, and Ada.
  • The first release of Ruby was in 1995.
  • Everything in Ruby is an object. Coders can assign properties and actions to every bit of information.
  • It’s a dynamically-typed language, i.e., the majority of the type-checking happens during the runtime. Read more about dynamically-typed languages in this Stack Overflow Q&A thread.
  • Ruby is a flexible language. Developers can alter its’ parts.
  • It’s free to use, modify, and distribute.
  • Programmers can attach a closure to any method, and this  closure is called a ‘block’. Blocks offer a lot of flexibility.
  • Ruby 2.6.1, i.e., the latest release of Ruby came in January 2019.

Read more about Ruby in “About Ruby”.

A little bit about Ruby on Rails

We can’t talk about Ruby without touching upon Ruby on Rails. A few interesting facts about it are as follows:

  • Ruby on Rails is a web application framework, built on Ruby.
  • David Heinemeier Hansson, a Danish programmer created this open-source framework. The first release was in December 2005.
  • Over time, many developers have contributed to it. The latest release is 5.2.2, and was released December 2018.
  • Ruby on Rails simplifies web application development. It uses 9 basic principlesto achieve this aim, for e.g., “Optimize for programmer happiness”, “Convention over configuration”, etc. Read more about these in “The Rails doctrine”, written by Hansson.
  • GitHub, Airbnb, Shopify, Twitch, SoundCloud, and Zendesk are a few famous applications built on Ruby on Rails.

The advantages of Ruby

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Ruby offers quite a few advantages for developers. These are as follows:

  • It’s a high-level language, therefore, it handles the machine-level complexities.
  • Programmers need to write less code.
  • Matsumoto wanted to make programming enjoyable. Ruby originated in Japan, where coders initially used it to create games. Ruby is fun to use, therefore, developers have intrinsic motivation.
  • Ruby reads like language, as a result, it’s easy to learn.
  • It’s a flexible language since there are no hard rules to build features.
  • There is a vibrant developer community, therefore, programmers get excellent support.

Read more about these advantages in “Why learn Ruby?”.

The popularity of Ruby

Ruby remains a popular language decades after its’ release, as the following facts indicate:

How to learn Ruby?

Programmers interested in learning Ruby can take advantage of the following popular Udemy courses:

  • Learn to code with Ruby”: A good starting point for beginners, this is a comprehensive course. It includes modules on solving common coding challenges with Ruby. The course also shows how to handle strings, arrays, hashes, and other objects.
  • Ruby programming for beginners”: Another popular course, this has source code and sample test files that learners can download. This extensive course also includes an eBook and interactive quizzes.
  • The complete Ruby on Rails developer course”: A highly popular course created and taught by top-rated Udemy instructors, it enables developers to learn Ruby on Rails in detail. It covers prototyping, moreover, it focuses on designing and building web apps.

How can you develop Android apps using Ruby?

I will now take you through the process of Android app development using Ruby:

Step #1: Use the Agile methodology

Your first step should be to choose the right software development life cycle (SDLC) model. I recommend Agile, due to the following reasons:

  • An Android app will require iterative development.
  • You will benefit from launching a “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP) and get real market feedback. This will help you in course-correction if the need arises. You can implement the remaining features in the subsequent iterations.

You can refer to “What is software development life cycle and what you plan for?”, where I have explained the advantages of the Agile SDLC model.

Step #2: Form your team, choose an MBaaS provider

You will need the following roles in your team:

  • Business analysts;
  • UI/UX designers;
  • Ruby developers;
  • Android developers with Java expertise;
  • Testers;
  • A project manager (PM).

For this project, I recommend you use a “Mobile Backend as a Service” (MBaaS) provider. Google Firebase is a reputed MBaaS provider. You get the following advantages if you engage an MBaaS provider:

  • MBaaS providers handle cloud infrastructure.
  • They address persistent storage and database.
  • An MBaaS provider deals with user management, security, 3rd party API integration, scalability, and push notifications.
  • You don’t need to hire cloud infrastructure architects and backend developers. Your team can focus on front-end design and development.

I have explained the advantages of MBaaS in “How to choose the best Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS)?”.

Step #3: Design an elegant and user-friendly UI

The “User Interface” (UI) of a mobile app is important for attracting and retaining users. Your UI/UX design team needs to design a simple yet attractive UI. Consider the following:

  • Designers need to choose the right mobile navigation menu design. There are several options, e.g., “Hamburger” menu, “Tab bar”, “Priority +” menu, etc. Consult our guide “Mobile navigation menu examples”.
  • The design team should select a mobile app color scheme that suits the features, functionalities, and target audience of the app. There are several options, e.g., minimal color usage with focused palettes, high-contrast colors, etc. You can read “8 trends in mobile app color scheme” for more insights.
  • UI designers need to carefully design the icons for your app. There are several best practices, e.g., using restraint in design, design recognizable and icons that are easier to memorize, keeping the design simple, etc. Our guide “How to design the perfect icon for your mobile app?” can help your team.

Step #4: Use RubyMotion

RubyMotion is a Ruby language implementation. This can run on Android, moreover, it also works on iOS and OS X. Following are a few relevant facts concerning RubyMotion:

  • It has a unified runtime approach. It also includes optimized binary support using a static compiler.
  • Programmers can create apps from the terminal command line interface (CLI). They can write code and see the changes in real-time, using the console.
  • There is robust integration with Android runtime. RubyMotion supports the latest Android version.
  • RubyMotion has testing tools and supports interactive debugging.
  • Developers can access the entire collection of Android APIs, moreover, they can use 3rd party Java Archive files (JARs).
  • RubyMotion makes it easy to submit the app to Google Play.

Read more in the RubyMotion “Features” page. I recommend you use RubyMotion for this project.

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Step #5: Install and configure the required development tools

You need to install and configure the following to use RubyMotion effectively:

  • Download RubyMotion: Follow the instructions that you find here.
  • Install Java: RubyMotion needs a Java compiler. Follow the instructions in “How do I install Java?” to install Java.
  • Set up the Android environment: You need to follow the instructions in “Getting started with RubyMotion for Android”.
  • Download and install the Genymotion Android emulator: You can follow the instructions on their website.
  • Configure a device for development: Follow instructions in “Getting started with RubyMotion for Android”.
  • Install the RubyMine text editor: This is from JetBrains, i.e., the company behind the famous IDE IntelliJ IDEA. It works well with RubyMotion. You can download it from here, and follow their instructions for installation.

Step #6: Create a project for your app using RubyMotion

Setting up a project for your app using RubyMotion is the next step, and involves the following:

  • Creating a new project using RubyMotion, including the appropriate directories;
  • Configuring the project for subsequent development;
  • Using the configuration options, setting custom values, declaring file dependencies, etc.

Follow the guidelines in “RubyMotion project management guide for Android”.

Step #7: Use the RubyMotion runtime guide for coding

You are now in the coding stage, and you will likely need some assistance. Note the following:

  • RubyMotion includes a runtime for Android, moreover, it includes the core Java classes.
  • The object model of RubyMotion is based on Java. It’s an implementation of Ruby on “Java Native Interface” (JNI), which the Android runtime uses.
  • All RubyMotion objects are Java objects. Therefore, we also get all Java classes and methods available in Ruby.
  • Java types interface with Ruby, additionally, RubyMotion also has some built-in classes based on the Java class library.
  • RubyMotion can access Java methods in the same way as Ruby methods.
  • Developers using RubyMotion can define methods to implement interfaces in classes like they do in Java. You have already likely inducted Android developers with Java expertise, however, if the team needs guidance then they can read “Java Interfaces”.
  • RubyMotion uses common Android memory management best practices.

You can get more detailed guidance in “RubyMotion runtime guide for Android”. RubyMotion also has several sample projects. You can access them here, and you can read the code.

Step #8: Build-management using RubyMotion

You need to use RubyMotion for build-management of your app. This involves the following:

  • Creating development and release versions;
  • Compilation of the code into machine code;
  • Linking the machine code with the RubyMotion runtime;
  • Generating the appropriate Android bytecode;
  • Creation of “.apk” archive for copying the files into it;
  • Making the bundle ready with the Java Android keystore.

Read more in “RubyMotion project management guide for Android”.

Step #9: Debug using RubyMotion

It’s time to debug the code. RubyMotion offers detailed guidance for debugging, which includes the following:

  • Using GDB, i.e., “The GNU Project Debugger”;
  • Attaching the debugger, including when you are working with an emulator;
  • Managing breakpoints;
  • Checking the execution backtrace once the developer hits a breakpoint;
  • Inspecting the objects like local variables and instance variables;
  • Controlling the execution flow of the program.

You can read “RubyMotion debugging guide for Android” for guidance.

Step #10: Test the Android app using RubyMotion

The next step is to write functional test cases and test your app. This involves the following:

  • Writing test cases including test specifications;
  • Organizing the test cases in the appropriate RubyMotion directories;
  • Running tests using appropriate RubyMotion commands.

RubyMotion provides detailed instructions and commands for writing and running tests, and you can find them in “RubyMotion testing guide for Android”.

Step #11: Run your Android app with an emulator

Now that you have tested your app thoroughly, it’s time to run it. Do the following:

  • Install Genymotion, which is a popular Android emulator.
  • You can run this on the cloud, or on your desktop.
  • Create and start a virtual device.

Execute appropriate commands to run your app on the emulator. You can find the commands in “RubyMotion project management guide for Android”.

Step #12: Publish your Android app in Google Play

Publishing your app in Google Play involves quite a few steps, e.g.:

  • Creating an application in “Google Play Console”;
  • Preparing an app store listing;
  • Answering the content rating questionnaire;
  • Managing the APK files;
  • Publishing your app.

Read about this process in “Upload an app”.

Step #13: Use the “Scrum” technique to manage your project

While there are several Agile project management techniques, “Scrum” is a time-tested one, and I recommend you use it for this project. This involves the following:

  • The PM performs the role of a “Scrum master” and creates a cross-functional “Scrum team”.
  • A “Product owner” provides the features, i.e., requirements in a document called the “Product Backlog”.
  • The team estimates the features, considers the priorities and slots them into “Sprints”, i.e., iterations.
  • The team conducts a set of meetings during the project execution, as follows:
    • “Daily stand-up meeting” to discuss the project status;
    • “Sprint review meeting” to demonstrate the app, where the project stakeholders approve the sprint provided the features work;
    • “Sprint retrospective meeting” to learn lessons from a sprint.

You can read our guide “How to build a Scrum development team?” for more details.

Embarking on an Android app development project using Ruby?

Android development using Java or Kotlin is common, however, Android development with Ruby is less common.

You will need to find Ruby developers experienced with Android development, moreover, you need to manage the project end-to-end.

If you don’t have the expertise then consider getting professional help. Read our guide “How to find the best software development company?” before you engage a development partner.

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