March 25, 2010

The impoverished state of Android Apps

One of the reasons why I decided to buy an Android device was to investigate the possibility of writing applications for that platform. After spending a couple of days with Android, it’s pretty clear there are huge voids in the app space waiting to be filled. The transition from Palm OS is going to be painful because the following apps have no equivalent on Android:

  • Adarian Money. This is lovely little financial app that I’ve used for several years to track every penny I spend. The Android checkbook apps do not come close; the best-selling one doesn’t even track expense accounts, let alone support double-entry accounting. Clearly, a lightweight version of GnuCash is needed here.
  • DateBk. I’ve used this program for nearly ten years in its various incarnations, from DateBk+ on a Handspring Visor, to DateBk5 on a Centro. It’s the king of calendar apps and nothing on the iPhone or Android comes close. The Google Calendar app does sync with the web version, but is otherwise very minimal. It also has a serious bug: its ringtone reminders do not work when the screen is turned off, so you’ll miss appointments and meetings constantly. Pimlico has hinted that they might be porting DateBk to other platforms, but who knows when or if Android will ever be supported.
  • ListPro. This is a checklist app on steroids, almost a mini-database. I use this for packing lists, lists of items lent out to other people, notes on things to look up when I get home, to-do lists, etc. The Android apps are the usual mix: either seriously broken or only supporting a tiny subset of ListPro’s features.

If I didn’t have a full-time job, I’d start working on filling these gaps myself. I may do that anyway as a rainy-day weekend hobby. The prospect of writing in Java is not pleasant, so I may start working on the algorithms and data structures (or Models and Controllers, in newspeak) in Ruby, and hope that Duby is usable on Android by the time I need to start thinking about the UI (or View in newspeak).