Android 4: New features for Application Development–PacktPub Book Review

As a break from my normal programming schedule I was passed a new Android book for review, I ‘m always interested how the other side lives (before I come running back to C# and Windows), in many cases we can see similarity with platforms which seems to grow closer with each release as each learns from new developments in the other and tried to improve on them.

http://www.packtpub.com/android-4-new-features-for-application-development/book

 

 

So let’s see what we got.


This book is a practical and hands-on guide for developing Android applications using new features of Android Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), with a step-by-step approach and clearly explained sample codes. You will learn the new APIs in Android 4.0 with these sample codes.

It’s probably best that you have a good understanding of Android programming as this is not for the beginner, it contains a lot of easy to read code examples and layout code for building pages (and in some cases apps) but without the basics you would struggle.

You don’t need knowledge of older Android versions, just a beginners intro on how to build Android apps is sufficient, at least know what an Activity is and the basic layout language used by Android development.


Here’s a brief run through what all the chapters are and what to expect from them.   The book is laid out like a cookbook of sorts focusing on each of the new areas covered with firm examples of each.

Chapter 1 “Action Bar for All”

Introduces the action bar and shows you how to use and configure it.  Think menu bar.

Chapter 2 “A New Layout – GridLayout”

Introduces the GridLayout and shows you how to use and configure that. GridLayout is a new layout introduced with Android Ice Cream Sandwich which is an optimized layout and could be used instead of LinearLayout or RelativeLayout.

Chapter 3 “Social APIs”

Covers the Social APIs that were introduced with Android Ice Cream Sandwich. This API makes it easy to integrate social networks, furthermore, high resolution photos can now be used as a contact’s photo.

This chapter also shows Social API usage with examples.

Chapter 4 “Calendar APIs”

Covers the Calendar APIs which were introduced with Android Ice Cream Sandwich for managing calendars.  Event, attendee, alert, and reminder databases can also be managed with these APIs, they also allow you to easily integrate calendars with Android applications.

This chapter also shows how to use Calendar APIs with examples.

Chapter 5 “Fragments”

Introduces the basics of fragments and how to use them.

They are basically the same as user components on Windows platforms.

Chapter 6 “Supporting Different Screen Sizes”

Introduces the best ways of designing user interfaces that support different screen sizes.

Knowing the increasing fragmentation of the Android platform this section goes a ways to suggest tips and tricks on how to plan for the multiple resolutions available.

Chapter 7 “Android Compatibility Package”

Introduces the Android Compatibility Package and shows you how to use it.

The Android Compatibility Package allows the porting of the new APIs for the older versions of the Android platform.

Chapter 8 “New Connectivity APIs” – Android Beam and Wi-Fi Direct”

Introduces us to Android Beam, which uses the NFC hardware of the device and Wi-Fi Direct which allows devices to connect to each other without using wireless access points. This chapter will teach us the usage of Android Beam and Wi-Fi Direct.

Chapter 9 “Multiple APK Support”

Introduces us to Multiple APK Support which is a new option in Google Play (Android Market) by which multiple versions of APKs could be uploaded for a single application.

Chapter 10 “APIs with Android Jelly Bean”

Covers Android Jelly Bean and the new APIs within it.


If you were looking for a cookbook to show you techniques for how to use some of the new features of Android V4 (Ice Cream Sandwich / Jelly Bean) then you will have an excellent reference for your shelf here, complete with prime examples for how to implement them.

It’s not a tutorial book or a beginners book so keep that in mind, as stated earlier there is an expectation that you have at least tried Android development before.

Pros:

  • Very Detailed Samples
  • The sections on Different Screen sizes and Compatibility packages were very enlightening
  • Full featured examples end to end (both UI and Backend code)

Cons:

  • Each section is isolated and doesn’t mesh (not exactly a bid thing) but there is no re-use between sections
  • Not much detail on the feature itself however does detail its implementation very well.  Likely to need additional reading to understand the feature


There’s a lot say about this book, as a prime technical reference for the experienced Android developer it has a lot to offer, certainly if you have an existing app (or are planning what features to put in a new one) this book will give you a keen insight to where you could expand your capabilities.

The new backwards compatible ways for putting new features in old apps is certainly one I haven’t come across before.

However if you are new to Android development sadly this isn’t going to help you due to the expectation of knowledge on your part, saying that however if you just want to test and try features then the sample included are fully working and will show you what’s what, just don’t expect a fully fledged app by the end of it.

So if your after another reference for your shelf this is certainly one to pick up.

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