Android Builds Extend Corona SDK Beyond iPhone

Generating apps that run on multiple mobile platforms is getting easier.
Developers will soon have another option to create mobile applications that run on multiple platforms. Ansca Mobile on Monday revealed that the forthcoming 1.2 version of its Corona SDK will allow users to create Android apps in addition to iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad apps.

"It's my distinct pleasure to confirm that, yes, indeed, actually we are actively working on an Android version of Corona (code-named Overdrive)," said Ansca director of engineering Eric Herrmann in a blog post. "We've been working on it for quite some time, and it's looking really good."

A teaser video posted to YouTube shows the Core Damage app -- created in Corona -- running on both an iPhone and an Android-based Nexus One.

Some of the other features on the drawing broad for Corona 1.2, according to Ansca co-founder Carlos Icaza, include a physics engine, image tiling, polylines, improved image manipulation capabilities, support for MapKit and multi-touch, and a variety of framework enhancements like scrollable lists, better XML support and better sockets integration.

Corona is one of a growing number of cross-platform development frameworks for mobile devices. It's designed to allow the rapid development of 2D Flash-style games, utilities, and visually-oriented apps.

Corona SDK 1.2 is planned for release in May, which happens to be when Google is holding its annual developer conference this year.

Cross-platform development is generally preferable because it allows developers to make their applications available in multiple markets.

Other such systems include Unity Technologies' Unity3D, Rhomobile's Rhodes, and PhoneGap, each of which has different strengths.

More established development platforms that reach beyond the mobile arena like Adobe Flash also have strong points, not to mention the support of a large number of developers. But Flash at least continues to be constrained by Apple's refusal to allow it on the iPhone.

In the second quarter of the year, Adobe's Creative Suite 5 release is expected to provide a way to generate iPhone binaries from Flash content.

But preliminary iPhone app builds generated by Adobe's Flash Professional CS5 Packager for iPhone have been surprisingly inefficient, according to Ansca Mobile. A minimal "Hello World" app processed using unreleased Packager code comes out at 8 MB, the company claims. The same "Hello World" app compiled in Corona comes out at 300 KB.

It remains to be seen whether Adobe's final version will produce more compact code, but further reductions seem unlikely given that Unity for iPhone Basic also generates fairly large iPhone binary files (though the latest 1.6 version offers improvements in this area). And such files get larger once submitted to the Apple App Store due to the DRM code that Apple adds.

This was a bigger issue before last month, when Apple limited app downloading via a 3G connection to 10 MB. Apps over that limit, because they cannot be downloaded over 3G, tend not to sell as well, being available only to customers through a Wi-Fi connection or through iTunes on the user's desktop.

Apple's file size limit for 3G downloading was raised to 20 MB in February.