Android: Pocket Primer

Author: Oswald Campesato
Publisher: Mercury Learning
Pages: 250
ISBN: 978-1683920885
Print: 1683920880
Kindle: B071D4T7J7
Audience: Java Programmers
Rating: 4
Reviewer: Mike James

Can Android really fit in your pocket?

The problem is that Android is huge - the app framework that is. I find it hard to believe that you can get anything useful into 250 pages unless the subject matter is narrowed down. There is also the small matter that both Android and, particularly, Android Studio keep making changes that break tutorials and books alike. This doesn't seem to be of any concern to the Android teams, but it makes a huge difference to the quality of training material available. This particular book is on Android Studio 2 and hence misses out some of the changes that were introduced in Version 3 and beyond. In particular this book is about Java Android development, as Kotlin wasn't even on the horizon in the days of Android Studio 2.

Chapter 1 is an overview and it is already out of date in that the Jack compiler was eventually dropped in favour of a different approach. This really doesn't matter, however, because this sort of detail is beyond the book's level. We next have a hello world example, which is used to explain in some detail the structure of an Android project as created by Android Studio. There is a lot to take in, but it is all fairly simple and you can always come back to it when you really need to know.



Chapter 2 explains how to work with Android Studio to create a UI - both using the Layout Editor and the XML Editor. There aren't any screen dumps, so the changes in layout in Android Studio 3 don't matter. However the main layout component used is the RelativeLayout which has now been relegated to the Legacy category in favour of ConstraintLayout. This is the sort of change that makes buying, or worse writing, a book on Android so challenging.

Chapter 3 continues with the topic of the UI and here again we hit a small snag because it uses the TimePicker which, as I reported recently, has been removed from the Layout Editor in Android Studio 3.1. This may be a temporary glitch, but we will have to wait and see. The Fragment is introduced very early and this is an advanced topic. From here the chapter goes into more advanced components and does discuss the ConstraintLayout, which is now the default. The first three chapters do form a reasonable, if fast, introduction to the Android UI.

Chapter 4 is about simple graphics. It covers the user of the Canvas components and covers some animations.

Chapter 5 introduces gestures - basically the onTouchEvent and related packages.

Chapter 6 changes the subject completely and covers Android sensors - orientation, compass, vibration, audio and so on. Oddly location services and GPS aren't covered.

Chapter 7 deals with data storage including SQLite and basic files.

Chapter 8 covers services and broadcast receivers - intents, services and some aspects of multi-threading via the JobScheduler.

Chapter 9 is a bit odd to find in a book that has so much core Android it could cover. It is on Android VR, TV, Auto and Things. None of these topics are exactly mainstream.

Chapter 10 is equally as much a surprise as it covers functional reactive programming which is again not a mainstream topic as far as Android programming goes. It mostly is just an introduction to the approach without very much emphasis on Android - it could be in a different book.

Overall this pocket primer is a fast look at main core Android topics. It is a bit of a shame that the last two chapters go so far from the core but if you are interested in them you might not agree. There are lots and lots of Android topics not covered - location, NFC, advertising, Play services and so on. As a lightening overview for a programmer skilled in Java and knowing roughly what to expect from a framework like Android, this is a reasonable guide. If you are a beginner then you need something slower paced.


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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 10 April 2018 )