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Cross-platform development has presented a significant challenge for largest independent developers for many years. Quite often, it’s simply too much of a time and resource investment to learn a new programming language in order to port your app above to another platform. But MechDome Developer Tool makes it easy now.

For years, this fact of support allocation is what has pushed many developers to primarily focus their work on iOS, expected to the more lucrative market. Thanks to projects such as Xamarin, however, developers who are common with C# have been capable of pushing their projects across iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile. But Android developers are extremely familiar with writing in Java, so using Xamarin would require a developer to familiarize themselves with a different language and build platform. We’ve covered one project aimed at bridging the gap between mobile operating systems by giving a cross-development platform for Java developers – Intel’s Multi-OS Engine – but there’s no telling where the project is headed. That’s where MechDome arrives in.

MechDome is a start-up team based in California and combined in January that has developed a conversion tool to automatically generate native iOS and OS X application from your Android application. No need to learn how to use a new IDE or API. All you need to do is send an APK file to MechDome (no need to give them your source code), and the fully automated tool will compile a standalone binary in moments for iOS and OS X that the developer can then share on Apple’s App Store. We met down in an interview with MechDome’s founder & CEO, Mario Kosmiskas, to view a presentation of the tool in action – and it works. Though there are some limitations due to major differences between how iOS and Android operate (which we’ll discuss below), the tool has previously designed a few live apps on the Apple App Store such as the open-source Reddit client RedReader and an open-source Sudoku consumer to prove it works.


Android Apps on iOS with MechDome

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The stated goal of MechDome Developer Tool is to permit developers to convert an unmodified Android app into a primary iOS or OS X app. Compared to technologies like Intel’s Multi-OS Engine or Xamarin, an Android developer does not require to know how to bind an Objective-C library because the tool will manage that for you. Nor is there any need to use a UI builder to modify your Android app, as MechDome Developer Tool handles converting all Android UI components. Yes, even Android tablet apps translate nicely into a format suitable for iPads.

 

MechDome Developer Tool biggest goal is that the converted Android app will function in a manner that users of the target OS will be natural with. For instance, the Android share menu will be replaced with the native share sheet in iOS, and will include  the capability to use AirDrop if applicable. Apps that post notifications in Android will rather display a notification in iOS’s Notification Center. Certain intents such as opening a camera on Android will start the camera on the iOS device, and URL intents on Android will call Safari on iOS. Content providers on Android that admittance contacts or the calendar will instead access the relevant iOS or OS X databases for this information.

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In general, although all hardware functionality required for the use of an Android app will be mapped directly to use the compatible hardware in iOS.

Software functions, though, can be split into 3 distinct categories:

1) functionality that does not exist on iOS (such as the toast message) will be executed directly,

2) functionality that exists on both iOS and Android are replaced with the compatible iOS method, and

3) functionality that exists on iOS but not on Android (such as Apple’s 3D Touch archives) cannot be converted but can be implemented through the use of a library.

Maximum activities, show, services, toasts, and basic content providers should be convertible from Android to iOS, according to MechDome’s founder.

But as stated previously, there are indeed some limitations to this tool that are imposed by the environment of how iOS works. One of the biggest challenges facing an Android developer looking to convert his or her app to iOS is how to manage a background service. iOS is much more stringent with when and what kinds of background co-operation that third-party applications can run, for better or worse. Furthermore, the rich intent system present in Android that provides for inter-app communication is largely out on iOS. Finally, the Google Play Services API is currently not maintained, so any app relying on Google services will not function. Thus, developers will be mostly limited to functionality that is reached directly by manual user input, which should not pose a significant problem for most apps.


MechDome Developer Tool In Use

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In a private demo, the machine does indeed seem to function as advertised. Mr. Kosmiskas described compiling several fully functional Android apps into working iOS and OSX apps. Toast notifications, notifications under the Notification Center, web view, location access, text input, And general functionality of UI elements all worked in the demo. The AOSP calculator running on iOS looked and functioned exactly as it does on any Android device.
Updating an application and recompiling it for iOS was also shown, and the process fairly simple. The developer, in this case, Mr. Kosmiskas, explained changing a text box to display “XDA-Developers” in Android Studio. He then shipped the app, produced a signed APK, and compiled the iOS and OS X binaries in seconds from the MechDome server. When the iOS app was begun using an emulator, the changes made in Android Studio were present.

Currently, MechDome Developer Tool is undergoing an open public beta program. Developers can register their app on the MechDome website to receive a welcome to test transforming their Android app. No pricing information has yet been unveiled for the service, unfortunately. Still, it’s an enjoyable project to stay on the lookout for if you’re an Android developer looking to eventually make waves in Apple environment without having to expend much effort of your own.

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