Android 3.2 - getting closer to a single OS
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Monday, 18 July 2011

Android 3.2 is a decimal point step towards the unified operating system we all need so that we can write a single app that runs on any Android device.

Android 3.2 was released last Friday (15th July 2011) and for a decimal point upgrade it has some interesting new features. The version 3 family (Honeycomb) is still optimized for use on tablets but it is starting to add facilities to work with variable screen sizes. The API provides more control for the programmer to vary the layout. A set of new quantifiers allow you to for example specify the smallest width a resource should be displayed using. You can use this to build a set of conditional layouts for your app which are used depending on the screen resolution available.Talking about screen resolutions 3.2 now supports 720p for apps that display on TVs.

Another improvement is the ability to zoom in on applications that can't cope with a large screen. The idea is that the OS first renders the UI at the scale specified and then zooms the pixels up to the full screen size. This is clearly going to produce some very clunky interfaces in some cases but it's often better than nothing and it can be disabled in the manifest.

 

honeycombicon

The key new features are (from the Android Developers Blog):

  • Optimizations for a wider range of tablets. A variety of refinements across the system ensure a great user experience on a wider range of tablet devices.
  • Compatibility zoom for fixed-sized apps. A new compatibility display mode gives users a new way to view these apps on larger devices. The mode provides a pixel-scaled alternative to the standard UI stretching, for apps that are not designed to run on larger screen sizes.
  • Media sync from SD card. On devices that support a removable SD card, users can now load media files directly from the SD card to apps that use them.
  • Extended screen support API. For developers who want more precise control over their UI across the range of Android-powered devices, the platform’s screen support API is extended with new resource qualifiers and manifest attributes, to also allow targeting screens by their dimensions.

You can download the new API complete with emulator from the Android Developers web site.

Also recently releases are updates tot eh SDK tools, the Eclipse plugin and the NDK.

 

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