Google released a sample app to introduce Android developers to programming for multi-device applications. Called Universal Music Player, the reference app is bare bones and not consumer-ready, but functional on all Android devices.

Between desktops, tablets, smartphones and wearables, the number of devices we have at our fingertips keeps growing. While exciting for consumers, it creates a new problem for developers scrambling to make their work available on every screen.

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On the Web, developers can use responsive design to make a website adapt or “respond” to its context, adjusting size and layout to accommodate the device accessing it—whether a desktop, tablet or phone. With Universal Music Player, Google wants to show how responsive design can work for apps. Ideally, developers will only have to write their app once to suit all Android displays. 

Of course, the notion isn’t unique to Google or Android. This month, Microsoft also revealed plans for its universal app platform for Windows, which will allow developers to create just one app that works on every device that can run Windows 10, from desktop to Xbox One. Both Microsoft and Google’s offerings are in their earliest stage, while Apple has long offered tools such as Auto Layout, so iOS developers can make apps that automatically adjust to varying screen sizes. 

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Despite the liberal use of the word “universal,” users still stick to the same territories as before—Android, Windows and iOS. The label only refers to the screens within each platform. 

The real winners of the day are the developers, who will only have to program one app for each platform, regardless of how many types of devices they churn out. That’s in theory, of course—Android developers commenting on the news observe that the test app works only with Android 5.0 Lollipop, and not all Android devices run that. 

So much for “universal.” 


Developers can download Android’s Universal Music Player on GitHub and begin experimenting with it today. 

Images via Android Developers Blog