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Organizing for America Lands in the Android Market

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, October 14 2010

Hoping to achieve pan-mobile domination, the DNC's Organizing for America wing has just gone live with an Android version of its canvassing app, previously available in iPhone and iPad flavors.

Why bother with Android? Because more and more people are taking to Google's open-source mobile operating system. "Android's growth over the last few months has been staggering," said Democratic National Committee CTO Josh Hendler. According to numbers released by comScore last week, Android is on track to have the biggest share of the American mobile market by February. Like its iPhone cousin, the OFA Android app equips volunteers with maps, voter contact information, and other details needed for them to conduct freelance field work.

As to nuts and bolts, the DNC brought in the firm MartianCraft to help create their Android version, and help was needed. Hendler estimates that making an Android edition of their mobile app actually took longer than building it from scratch for Apple's iOS. Somewhat different than the web, the mobile market is a varied place, where differences loom large between not only platforms but devices running on the same platform. "It was a surprisingly difficult process," said Hendler. "It helped that we had the design and flow, and we had our voter contact API. But other than that, it's like rebuilding the app from scratch." For one thing, the programming, the programming languages involved are distinct ones: Java when it comes to Android, and Objective-C on the iPhone.

That said, Android's open approach to its apps market makes one step of the process zippier. Apple's approval process can take days, if not weeks. "We pushed it out last night," said Hendler, "and it was live in 20 minutes."

So, the big question: if you build it, even on multiple platforms, will they come? It's tough to know. Apple keeps under wraps the number of downloads an app enjoys. Hendler demurred when it comes to hard numbers, but called the download and use rate they've seen on the iOS version of their canvassing app "healthy."

You can grab a copy of OFA's brand-new Android app here.

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