This mobile thing will never last, right? We figured if we waited long enough, this whole “mobile application” thing would blow over and everything would go back to the way it used to be. You know, when phones were for calling people, and computers were for typing long, angry rants about how things aren’t the way they used to be.
In retrospect, we may have misread that one a bit. It turns out that even for Stack Exchange mobile is eating the world.
So today we’re excited to announce that Stack Exchange for Android is finally available for download on the Google Play store, for Android phones version 4.0 (ICS) and up:
What? You’re an iPhone user? Don’t worry, the iPhone alpha is coming soon, probably in the next six to eight weeks. In fact, you can sign up for the iPhone alpha starting today . We’ll be inviting people in waves on a first-come, first-served basis over the next few weeks. Meanwhile, keep reading to find out what’s new in the app.
One Feed to rule them all
Translating Stack Exchange to mobile was… tricky. We have over 110 communities in the Stack Exchange network. On the web they exist as mostly separate sites. We’re pretty new to mobile development, but we felt that releasing 110 mobile apps was probably not the right approach.
That meant we had to create an entirely new experience, one that didn’t exist on the web. A single, central location where you can check in on everything relevant to you across the network, whether you participate on one site or many. We dubbed it (not terribly creatively) “The Feed”. Here’s what it looks like:
This is a completely new feature for Stack Exchange. It includes:
- Customized recommendations of questions you can answer, based on the sites and tags you participate in
- Interesting questions tailored to your interests that will learn from your activity and get better over time
- Updates when you get upvoted or your answers get accepted, so you can feel good about helping others wherever you are
- All your replies (answers, comments, chat messages, etc.) in one easy timeline
- Community events, blog posts, and even recommended jobs for you from Careers
The Feed scales to your activity: if you’re only participate on one site, it’ll show you mostly questions from that site. If you participate on many, you’ll see all your updates in one convenient place.
We’ve had instant notifications of replies on the site for a while, but now you can take them with you wherever you go. You’ll get notified anytime you would get an inbox message on Stack Exchange, which includes answers, comments, chat replies, and more.
Don’t want those notifications? You can easily turn them on and off via settings, including whether they make noise or vibrate. You can even set quiet hours so you don’t get woken in the middle of the night.
Search, Ask, Answer, Comment, and Vote
And, of course, all the major things you can do on Stack Exchange are fully supported on the app: you can search for questions, ask or answer new questions, leave comments, vote, and even flag or vote to close.
If you want, you can configure your phone to automatically open the app when clicking URLs on websites to make getting into the app even easier.
Why Android first? What about iPhone?
We set out to create a fully native experience for each platform. That meant designing the app twice, once for each platform, to make sure it felt right to users of each. We started with Android mostly because we’re new to mobile, and the Google Play Store process is more forgiving if we make mistakes!
If you’re an iPhone user, sign up for the iPhone alpha today! We’ll start inviting alpha testers soon, and hope to launch the iPhone app in a few short months.
What about tablet / chat / missing feature X?
This is just the first version, and we plan to keep working on both of the apps in parallel. A tablet optimized version of the app is next, and then we’ll start adding in missing features based on what you tell us we’re missing. So if there’s something you’d like to see in the app, let us know on Meta under the ‘android-app’ tag.
Let us know how we’re doing
Are you looking to get onboard the Android wave? Check out the Android developer openings on Stack Overflow Jobs.