ScanPaste – My first app released to the Android Market

Last week I released by first Android application on the Android Market. It is called ScanPaste. The application lets you scan barcodes and then  copy the scanned data to the phone’s clipboard for pasting into web pages, emails etc.

I had been looking for a simple app to build, to test out the end to end Android Market publishing process and when I saw this blog post by about populating your Google books list using barcodes scanned with a USB scanner, I figured why not build an Android app to do it.

Now scanning barcodes with a phone’s camera is not that simple but luckily someone else has done all the hard work. The ZXing team have released an excellent barcode scanning application and library. Even better, using a cool feature of Android, integrating barcode scanning into ScanPaste was only a few lines of code!

In an Android application each screen is broken down into it’s own little task called an Activity. If an Activity is correctly “marked” it can be initiated not only by the application owning the Activity but by other applications. This is what the nice guys on the ZXing team have done and with their application installed, any other application can simply use the following code to scan and process barcodes:

// start the scan
Intent intent = new Intent("");
startActivityForResult(intent, 0);
public void onActivityResult(int requestCode, int resultCode, Intent data)
  if (resultCode == Activity.RESULT_OK && requestCode == 0)
    Bundle extras = data.getExtras();
    String result = extras.getString("SCAN_RESULT");
    // do stuff with result here

The rest of the app is pretty straightforward, a couple of buttons, a text field and some error checking. All up the application is less than 100 lines of code.

In all it took a few hours to put together and test. The bulk of the time was actually spent working on the icon :) The 1.5 Android platform has some pretty clear guidelines and I was trying to adher to them.

Building a signed app for upload to the Market was a snap, just a menu click and a step by step wizard. Actually publishing the application was as simple as uploading the signed .apk file, filling in a form and clicking on upload. Couldn’t be simpler especially when you compare it to the nightmare process of uploading an iPhone app to the iPhone App store and of course the Android Market doesn’t have a vetting process so as soon as the upload was complete the application could be downloaded by anyone.

One of the things that took me by surprise was that within half an hour the application had been downloaded 20 times. A week later it has been downloaded 1849 times and it has 1156 active installs! It also has a 4 12 star rating and all positive comments. From the comments it seems that many people are using the app to scan the barcodes of books that they are selling on Amazon.

Ok the bad stuff….

Firstly, a minor one,  in the developer console of the Market there is no way to see the comments about your application. You can see the rating and the number of ratings but that is it. Instead you need to look up the app in the Market application on your phone or view a 3rd party site like Cyrket (which apparently uses the Market’s own APIs so why the info cannot be surfaced in the developer console is beyond me).

Now for the killer…since I am in New Zealand I cannot sell any Android applications! I need to be in the US, UK or one of a couple of other countries to be able to sign up as merchant. What the heck is up with that? I see that as a major shortcoming of the Android platform and one that Google needs to rectify ASAP.

Hopefully with the imminent launch of the HTC Magic here in New Zealand this will change. Lets wait and see….