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Mike Riley

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Professional Android 2 Application Development Book Review

March 28, 2010

I have read almost every book published on Android application development, several of which I have reviewed for Dr Dobbs. Wiley (under the Wrox imprint) has published author Reto Meier's Android book (essentially his second edition of his original Professional Android Application Development). In Pro Android 2, the author expounds upon his initial release to explore and leverage the new features in the 2.x Android OS. Is this book better than the other Android books on the market? Read on to find out.Like a number of Android titles on the market today, Professional Android 2 Application Development assumes that readers already know basic Java programming and are familiar with other application development technologies like the Eclipse IDE.

Readers begin with a convincing comparison of why Android is a better platform to develop compared to other mobile OS platforms. They also receive an overview of the Android stack, Android Eclipse plug-ins, SDK and setting up the development environment. After constructing the obligatory Hello World examples, readers are introduced to understanding applications, activities, layouts, menus and other resources. User interfaces are constructed in Chapter 4, with the next chapter covering adapters, broadcast receivers and intents. Managing files, reading/writing program preferences, manipulating Android's SQLite-managed data, location-based services (i.e., GPS data capture and map making), creating and managing services (apps that can be set up as background processes, something iPhone developers have been chomping at the bit to be able to do on that platform), authoring widgets, using Android's audio-visual stack (camera, audio/video capture and playback), handling MMS and SMS messages, controlling the bluetooth and WiFi radios and the related connectivity manager as well as collecting and processing sensor data (predominantly from the accelerometer found in most commercial Android hardware implementations). Chapter 15, the final chapter, concludes with nearly 50 pages of advanced topics such as using wake locks, using the Android Interface Definition Language (AIDL) to support interprocess communications (IPC's), creating more sophisticated tweened animations and other canvas drawing, surface views and interactive controls. Conspicuously absent was a chapter or discussion on power management (checking battery state, the importance of not abusing services, etc.), a topic that remains a persistent concern among developers and users alike. I did like the fact that the publisher did not cut back on code listings. While the choice to reprint snippets and refer readers to download the full source from the book's website could have been an option, the decision to reprint a good portion of the sample code was smart and adds immensely to the comprehension process so critical when learning something new.

Given the author's proximity to the Android development team at Google (Reto works for Google as an Android evangelist), I was hoping to see sidebars, call-outs and other highlights featuring key staff on the Google Android team sharing their thoughts on best use cases for certain libraries or reasons behind design constraints in the current version of the OS. Such insights would have (perhaps unfairly) elevated this book well above other Android development titles on the market. While some may assert that these off-track threads would be distracting in a programming tutorial book, I disagree. By understanding the thinking behind why one approach was optioned over another helps to provide me with a better, more cohesive and informed understanding of why certain choices were made… even if these choices revolve around 'inside baseball' conversations.

Even with these minor criticisms, Reto Meier's Professional Android 2 Application Development delivers an excellent foundation for building a solid understanding of the Android development stack. While it is not the most exhaustive Android programming title on the market (that award currently goes to Android consultant Mark Murphy and his comprehensive, accurate and most up-to-date Android books in my opinion), Professional Android 2 Application Development supplies enough essential information that will empower readers with the ability to easily and confidently build a variety of Android programs.

Title: Professional Android 2 Application Development Author: Reto Meier Publisher: Wiley Publishing ISBN: 978-0-470-56552-0 Pages: 576 Price: $44.99 US

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