While some of you may know Gradle (or Maven or Ant) from other projects, for Android developers its of great importance to understand and utilize Gradle to its fullest. Gradle ensures your builds run as consistently as possible across multiple devices while empowering you to dynamically change and easily update the core requirements of your application.
Its like a recipe
Take a standard recipe, like this awesome chocolate cake – it contains a description of all the parts and instructions required to make it. For starters, you need flour, sugar, oil, and a bunch of other things. These are the Gradle dependencies. You also need a bunch of tools like a bowl, mixer, and measuring instruments. These are the Gradle plugins. Where do you get all this stuff? Probably your pantry or the grocery store; these are Gradle (Maven) repositories.
Now that you've collected all of your tools and ingredients, you'll need to follow the instructions to actually make the cake. For Android developers this means configuring the android object, telling it how you want the app built. configurations, buildscript, and many others also provide instructions.
Finally, you've completed the instructions for sifting, whisking, and folding. Now its time to bake this cake! In our analogy gradle or gradlew executable is the oven. You pass in your build.gradle file and it bakes you an APK.
While many stop here, often recipes leave room for interpretation to make it your own. This is where Gradle really shines. You can inject your own ingredients (dependencies), tools (plugins), and instructions (additional code.) Just like modifying a cake, this could change the entire process. Maybe it takes longer to bake (slower build times) or it outputs multiple cakes (like a magical cake copy machine.)
This is just the beginning
After you build a project or two you'll find that many open source projects and tools utilize Gradle. It could be generating more code, archiving artifacts, counting the methods in your app, running adb commands, or even sending a message to your group chat when its done.