Author: Ed Burnette
Publisher: Pragmatic Bookshelf, 2008
Aimed at: Mobile developers interested in Android platform
Pros: Clear and practical overview of Android
Cons: Doesn’t go much beyond documentation
Reviewed by: Harry Fairhead
Android is Google’s open source mobile phone operating system based on Linux and Java. There is an Android SDK that you can download and use for free and it integrates with the Eclipse IDE which is also free. You don’t even need an actual Android phone to work with because the SDK includes a simulator. What this means is that you can start developing Android applications with little investment other than time and energy – but should you?
There are alternatives and most of the mobile phone manufacturers have an SDK that you can download and start working with, usually with only a registration needed. Hello Android is exactly what you need to find out in double quick time what the Android platform is all about from the application development point of view. Notice that it doesn’t cover the more advanced and ambitious task of customising the Android operating system itself, which is a possibility that many think sets Android above all other mobile development systems. To do this you would need special developer hardware and plenty of experience with the Linux operating system in general, making it a much more difficult task than simply developing applications with run under Android which is the subject of this book.
It really is a “Hello World” sort of book that in its 200 plus pages manages to give you the flavour of what Android can do for you. You do need to be reasonably familiar with object oriented programming – preferably in Java but other languages are so similar that it isn’t a huge handicap to only know C#, say – and you need to be familiar with the idea that the IDE will generate code for you. This is not a step-by-step book and you will need to bring some, but not much, intelligence to interpreting its instructions – especially since the Android SDK is changing quite quickly.
The book starts from the very basics and explains exactly what you need to write an Android program and roughly how to install it all. It then moves on to consider the overall programming model used by Android and introduces the important ideas of resources and manifests and the overall lifecycle and structure of an application. The example is a Sudoku game but really it is just an excuse to put together a simple user interface. From the basics we then have a lightening tour of 2D graphics, playing audio and video and storing local data. In the third section of the book we look at slightly more advanced topics – using the browser, interacting with the GPS and location services, SQL and finally OpenGL. To be honest the idea of using OpenGL 3D graphics on a mobile device is a little hard to believe but it seems to work on the simulator at least!
This is a short book so don’t expect it to be a complete reference work. It also doesn’t stray far from the beaten track of the documentation. But it is well presented and there are enough comments and asides to make you think that you are getting something extra. It’s an ideal book if you want to dip into Android and find out if it is worth taking further and it goes far enough to be the only book you will need if you are lucky (i.e. smart).