Tips for Efficient Custom Development of Android Hardware

When conceptualizing a customized Android device, the 3 main areas to focus on are casing (mechanics), electronics, and firmware. Other aspects may include accessories and packaging (depending on business model), to name a few, but this article focuses specifically on the Android device itself.  Key factors within each area affect the development cost and time and unit cost. Understanding what impact different factors have enables a more efficient and beautiful development process. Read on for a summary of key details that matter in custom Android development.


Casing is unique as it incorporates two different disciplines of design; external and internal design.  Usually called Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering, respectively.  If good looking external design isn’t a key aspect for your custom Android hardware then using just a mechanical engineer for both should be fine.  Many mechanical engineers mistake themselves for industrial designers anyway.  Usually external design means less for products that users don’t see or are purely functional in nature.  For the sake of this article we’ll look at the best way to approach a product where design matters.

External design, unlike all the other areas covered here, is exclusively based on perception and emotion.  Intricate details affect branding, perception, and usability.  Hatch highly encourages our customers to work directly with an industrial designer (rather than through Hatch or any other final product supplier) on the case’s external design for the highest quality results.  Hatch will provide the dimensions and other relevant information to support the designer.  To allow a smooth transition to the mechanical designer, the industrial designer should define gap tolerances between the parts of casing, exact colors, and materials.  Usually industrial designers do a good job on the latter two, but making the case fit perfectly can take a lot of time.  Having this requirement from the beginning gives a clear goal, allowing a supplier to test internally before sending to the client.

It’s best to use a mechanical engineer with product specific experience to create the mechanical design.  That’s why Hatch takes control of mechanical design once external design is finished.  Hatch’s mechanical designers have made and modified hundreds of Android devices like tablets, phones, and custom hardware.   Without start to finish product specific experience even a very qualified mechanical engineer won’t foresee product specific design nuances.  Those nuances are related to finished product quality and, through support of supply chain partners, component selection.

Only through seeing multiple products go from start to finish do hidden design optimizations become clear; this is the definition of experience.  For example structures within the mechanical design to strengthen ports or block dust from entering the screen area.  Sometimes ‘the perfect’ design requires an expensive or difficult to source component.  That must be avoided (and there’s no such thing as perfect design).  Collaboration between Hatch’s experienced engineering team and a client’s mechanical designer combines the best of both worlds.  This has a higher cost for the client and maybe overkill, but certainly covers all bases.

Simple takeaways:

  1. Make sure your industrial designer specifies gap tolerances between parts of casing.
  2. Use a mechanical engineer with Android device experience for expertise with quality manufacturing details.
  3. Have the mechanical engineer work with a supply chain partner (like Hatch) to verify that the components suggested by the industrial designer are easy enough to obtain now and into the foreseeable future.


All projects have specific performance requirements that call for different kinds of electronics.  Potential for remorse comes when choosing commodity components like a screen or battery, designing around that, and then finding out that the screen isn’t crisp enough or the battery doesn’t last long enough.  When customizing an Android device choose components individually, by testing them in other devices first.  If there’s a screen you’re considering then get a sample of another device that uses the same screen to see if you like it.  Once you decide on all the key components then make an initial prototype to check that they work well together.

As much as possible stay within the framework of the CPU manufacturer’s reference design.  Clients have asked for a certain Bluetooth chip that’s not included in the reference design.  A change like this requires changing the tried and true reference design.  This change opens the door for new bugs.  It also takes a lot of engineering to make this modification.  Changing the reference design usually comes with a high development cost and higher mass production risk.

Simple takeaways:

  1. Sample key components individually in existing products before deciding on the final list.
  2. Test a prototype that integrates those chosen components before making mold.
  3. Stay within reference design; changing it opens the door to unpredictable problems.


A combination of knowing the result you want from customized Android firmware and clarifying what customizations are possible at the onset of a project sets the stage for smooth development.  The key here is to ask specific questions to the right people so you get reliable answers.  Many Chinese suppliers hire inexperienced sales people based on their young age and English ability.  Young means they’re cheaper and English means they can serve as a conduit of information to the customer.  Oftentimes the answers these people give customers are incomplete or just wrong.

Hatch uses direct connections with IC companies and their licensed engineering companies to directly access management level engineers.  While the engineers don’t usually speak English that’s not a problem and we’re usually able to get real answers about implementing complicated customizations.  Like proper directions before a new journey, knowing whether the customizations you want are feasible avoids going in the wrong direction.

Simple takeaways:

  1. Clear definition of what’s needed before starting the project.
  2. Find the right person to confirm feasibility of customizations saves losing time going in the wrong direction.

Any project that tackles the unknown is prone to risk and surprise.  Applying the takeaways, learned through first hand experience, listed above when approaching the project will maximize reliability while intelligently managing risk.

Are Smartwatches Only For Smart People?


This is a smart world. Everything we use has some kind of intelligence. This trend was kick started by the arrival of smartphones in the market, calling an end to both desktop computers and traditional phones.

If you really think about it, Smartwatches are a logical extension of Smartphones. Instead of lugging a big slab of material like a Smartphone around, you now have a sleek device strapped around your wrist smartly doing whatever it is supposed to do.

Frankly, a 5” screen just to view emails is a bit too big for any pocket. It doesn’t fit into the back pocket of my tight jeans nor can I carry it in my hand.

Smartwatch seems to be a valuable addition to my vast collection of devices and abracadabra. What should you then look for while buying a smartwatch?

Look and Feel

Smartwatches come in all shapes and sizes. Some are clunky and fat while others are just too feminine for my taste. I prefer something which is well ……smart looking.

Colors must go with your clothing. If you are the flashy kind, you can choose from a range of bright colors. For the sober kind, metallic grey and darker shades are available.

Overall, smartwatch should fit on your wrist without looking like a piece of rock.

Which Features Should You Look For In A Smartwatch?

The Smartwatch industry is at a stage of infancy. The software and firmware are unreliable and seem to be hurriedly put together. This is true even for big names such as Sony.

First off, your Smartwatch must be able to respond to voice commands. You should be able to activate your emails and notification without touching the watch.

Features from Google Glass would go well with a Smartwatch.  Secondly, you should be able to use Android as well as iOS apps in the same device.

Though a standalone Smartwatch should be preferred, you must realize that a small and compact appliance cannot do everything. Presently most Smartwatches are merely an extension of smartphone.

As long as connectivity between a Smartphone and Smartwatch is seamless, you should not worry about this limitation. Bluetooth is the preferred technology for communication between the two.

A decent calendar with notifications, push emails and SMS, weather reports are some features which are bare minimum. Heart beat monitor with GPS and a stop watch would be a plus for sports buffs. For the socially connected, Facebook and Twitter notifications are essential.

The Future Of Smartwatch

Who knows, future Smartwatches may come with rocket thrusters which can place you into geostationary orbit in space. Certainly, days are not far when these devices can perform all that Smartphones do today and much more.

Wearability and ease of use should improve with time. The entry of big players like Google, Sony and Samsung into Smartwatches clearly indicates that the future of this device is bright and you can look forward to many interesting innovations.

From the business point of view, small players with big ideas can develop smarter watches and reap the benefits. You must remember that in this modern world only ideas matter – design, manufacturing and even distribution can be handled with ease.

Are Smartwatches are only for smart people? In fact it’s meant for folks like us – too smart but too lazy to pick up our Smartphones.

Key Features of an LCD Panel

LCD Panel

Viewing Angle

The viewing angle is the widest possible angle a user can see accurately reproduced colors on display from edge to edge. Having a small viewing angle will show color shifts whenever you are not viewing that particular area straight on. Working with secure documents lends itself to using a monitor with a small viewing angle; however, a small viewing angle will make technical creative work difficult since even the slightest adjustment in angle can affect the color on screen. 

Response Time

This feature affects how heavily “ghosted” a screen is; you essentially see a lagging “ghost” behind objects that move across the screen. This phenomenon occurs because of a low response time. When an object moves across the screen the trailing pixels behind the object don’t change color quick enough, thus creating a ghost or shadow object trailing behind. Having a high response time for an entertainment application is paramount, since a “ghosting” movie can be unwatchable.

Contrast and Black Levels

Since an LCD is not self-illuminating it requires a back or edge light to illuminate the pixels. As a consequence, it is easier to reveal bright colors and whites with a back light but this severely affects black colors. The term “black levels” refers to how dark a pixel can actually become on-screen, which relates to how well the liquid crystals in the LCD can absorb the light from the back or edge light. If you want to show true blacks, you must block out all light coming in. For general computing, a low black level is acceptable but for watching movies it can ruin your experience when true blacks appear to be more of a dark gray than black.

Wide Color Gamut

This feature describes how well colors can accurately be displayed in any given situation. The wider the color gamut, the better the display can reproduce extended colors found in the Adobe RGB and NTSC color gamuts. For technical creative work, having a wide color gamut is necessary for producing accurate work for print.

From Buttons to Touch Screens… Find Out What’s Next!

3D Tablets

Why 3D will revolutionize the tablet

When considering how to distinguish your product from your competitors many factors come into play like price, quality and features. How can you stand out and how can you be the next big seller? Being dominant in one of these fields can help your sales, but why not try to take the lead and be dominant in an emerging field?   3D technology is continuing to evolve and is now at a stage where it is being integrated into consumer products. This has made the UI space really exciting and is somewhere smart devices can take advantage of. Microchips GestIC technology takes a new approach to 3D gesture control and uses E-field electro magnetics, is low cost and with some basic implementation will turn your smart device into a truly unique UI experience.

Over 40 years ago when Microsoft launched the mouse, it revolutionized the way in which humans communicated with the PC: Then, 15 years later, touch technology was introduced to the mass market and continues to dominate the way we interact with our devices. 3D is the logical step forward in the interaction evolution. Now is the time for these new developments to happen and its the companies today that innovate that will be the leaders in the future.

Check out Microchips concept Windows 8 keyboard one of thousands of different uses for this 3D gesture technology.