A Dessert For Developers: Some Ice Cream Sandwich, Please!

Sunday, 13 April 2014 14:57

The appearance of the new Galaxy Nexus running on Android 4.0. Ice Cream Sandwich still stays one of the most spectacular events in the mobile world. Only a very lazy blogger hasn’t written an article or a short commentary about it. I don’t want to be lazy; moreover, I think, there isn’t such a thing as too much Ice Cream Sandwich. So, I’ll also make my contribution and present to you a short review of great possibilities Android 4.0. offers for mobile application development service.

Maybe, the most important novelty is developing of apps for many devices at once: smartphones and tablets. Other new features make possible developing of many interesting apps like multiplayer games, photo editors and so on. So, let’s start:

  1. Unified UI toolkit:
  2. A single set of User Interface components, styles, and capabilities for phones, tablets, and other devices. It lets developers create apps for phones and tablets. However, the toolkit includes all of the familiar Android 3.x interface elements and APIs like rich notifications and resizable home screen widgets.

  3. Social interaction and timetable.
  4. Android 4.0 extends social and sharing features to any application on the device. Applications can integrate contacts, profile data, and calendar events from any of the user’s activities or social networks and also add events to database and manage dates and reminders. Much attention is also devoted to recent activity feedback which is a way for applications to “tag” a contact with common activity during contact calling, email or SMS message sending. Building on this social API, developers can add powerful new interactions to their apps allowing multiple social networks and contacts sources. It has become easier for developers to add calendar services to their apps, too.

  5. Rich communication and sharing:
  6. New social and calendar APIs, Android Beam for NFC-based instant sharing, Wi-Fi Direct support, Bluetooth Health Device Profile support.

    Android Beam is an NFC-based feature that lets users share information about used apps just by touching two NFC-enabled phones together. When the devices are close, the system sets up an NFC connection and displays a sharing UI. To share whatever you want with the other device, just touch the screen. For developers, Android Beam is a new way of triggering almost any type of proximity-based interaction like contacts exchanging, multiplayer gaming, chats or video calls, photo and video sharing, and more. Almost any interaction is possible! Developers can also use a framework API to discover and connect directly to nearby devices over a high-performance, secure Wi-Fi Direct connection. No internet connection is needed. Applications can use Wi-Fi Direct for sharing of files, photos, or other media between devices or between a desktop computer and an Android device. And developers can also build powerful medical applications using Bluetooth to communicate with wireless devices and sensors in hospitals, fitness centers and homes.

  7. Multimedia:
  8. New graphics, camera, and media capabilities.

    Developers can take advantage of a variety of new camera features in Android 4.0. ZSL exposure, continuous focus, and image zoom let apps capture photos and videos much better. For easier focusing and image processing, a face-detection service identifies and tracks faces in a preview and returns their screen coordinates. And a set of high-performance transformation filters let developers apply rich effects to any image passed as an OpenGL ES 2.0 texture. Developers can adjust color levels and brightness, change backgrounds, rotate, add lens distortion, and apply other effects. Android 4.0 also adds support for additional media types and containers e.g. MKV to give developers access to the formats they need.

  9. Deep interactivity and customization:
  10. Improved notifications, lockscreen with camera and music controls. I especially like a new audio remote control that allows controlling song selection and playback just with your voice, without having to unlock and navigate to the music app. The new framework API lets developers write text-to-speech engines and make them available to any app requesting TTS capabilities.

  11. Interface and input:
  12. Improved soft keyboard, stylus input support, better mouse support, and an efficient network usage. In Android 4.0, users can see how much network data their running apps are using and set limits on data usage for specific applications. In this context, developers need to design their apps to run efficiently and follow best practices for checking the network connection.

So, the Ice Cream Sandwich opens new opportunities for developers to add innovative features to their applications. The SDK for developing on Android 4.0. is free for downloading.


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