Author: Wei-Meng Lee
Publisher: Wrox, 2011
Aimed at: Those wanting to develop for Android tablet devices
Pros: Well written and informative
Cons: Not suitable for beginner or for experienced app developer
Reviewed by: Harry Fairhead
Is Android Tablet development so different from phone development that it needs its own book?
Beginning Android Tablet Application Development starts off where most Android books start - with a look at history and then how to download and install the tools you need. By the end of Chapter 1 you have written and run your first Android app. The steps are illustrated by full color screen dumps and at a quick look the book give the impression that it is clean and well designed. However, if you try and actually read it then things aren't quite so good. The screen dumps can be difficult to make out and the colored listings are sometimes very faint. It's a good attempt at using color to make the book easier to read but it doesn't quite work.
Nevertheless, the author's style and many down-to-earth comments do help you understand. For example, where most authors just say that you need to give your app a package name, there is a boxout describing how you should create the name. Similarly there are boxes on the bugs that are in still in Eclipse and often cause beginners trouble.
Chapter 2 proves that this book really is about tablets and not just a rewrite of a phone book with "tablet" in the title. It introduces activities and fragments and the action bar. The problem is that it uses Android 3, a platform that never caught one, and since it came out the Android 4 SDK has been released. This is a problem throughout the book and if you are not willing to make the effort to adapt the descriptions to Android 4 then you need to wait for the next edition of this book. However most of the idea described are applicable to Android 4 and it is a very good introduction to tablet development. You can always download the Android 3 SDK and use it to see the examples in action - after all Android 3 is still in use and it will be some time before Android 4 actually hits real devices.
Chapter 3 is on the User Interface and explains views and view groups. Again it is heavily biased towards using the standard UI components with fragments.
This brings the first part of the book to a close and Part II is a set of two projects. The first is a location based app and the second is about using SMS and messaging. Again the projects are all about using fragments and tablet features. The final chapter is about publishing Android applications.
Part III of the book is made of appendices - why they are not chapters is unclear. Appendix A s on using Eclipse and Appendix B is on using the emulator.
Overall the book has a strange structure - it starts off with a chapter assuming you know nothing about Android. Then it jumps in with tablet-specific features and suggests that you might like to read the author's introductory book on Android if you find it all too fast paced. Then a bit more on the UI and we then have some example projects and a how to publish your app. Each one of the chapters is well written, well presented and there is a lot of useful information but it isn't clear who the should read the entire book. A beginner needs to read a more complete discussion of Android development, even though Chapter 1 is very good. A more advanced programmer won't want to read either the first chapter or the one on publishing Android apps.
In many ways this book would have been better as a short essay on tablet development, or as a few final chapters in a more comprehensive book. If you know Android development and just want to master the mysterious fragments introduced in Android 3 then you might like to read Chapters 2 and 3 in this book. I'm not sure how useful you will find the rest.