Chris Alexander

On Engineering

Review: Beginning Android 3

13th August, 2011

Beginning Android 3 is a fantastic introduction guide by Android developer and CommonsWare founder Mark Murphy.

This book is an almost essential text for anybody who wants to get started with building Android applications and who has some programming experience behind them already. Presenting topics covering everything from getting the Android SDK installed to the most advanced Android programming and design discussions, this book presents an excellent ramp-up for just about anyone with a little programming behind them who wants to find out just about everything you could possibly want about Android.

This book assumes some level of development experience to get started with. However this need not necessarily be Java, as it covers which key topics you may like to separately research before getting on to the details. If you have Java experience and have worked with Eclipse before, they will be beneficial here, but are not necessary. The initial section is devoted to getting your machine (and, optionally, phone) set up to begin Android development, including installing the SDK, configuring Eclipse, and how to prepare your phone for non-Market applications. This “core concept” section also introduces Android development methodologies and best practices to an initial stage, which is a welcome inclusion.

Now that you are set up and ready to go, the book dives right in with a practical approach to building Android apps. The “Activities” section contains a vast amount of information pertaining to how to build Android user interfaces, specifically for the Activities windows. Everything you could possibly want to know about building layouts for Android, as well as adapting them to varying screen sizes, is included here, along with best practices tips and many useful tricks for adding that extra polish to your application.

Android 3 - code-named Honeycomb - is the latest major release of Android targeted mostly at tablet devices. While the technical content of this book is just as applicable for Android-powered phones as it is for tablets, this dedicated section gets down to details for building Android apps designed for larger display devices. There are also some features unique to Honeycomb, which this section addresses too.

The remaining half of this book consists of extremely in-depth technical content for a wide range of Android APIs. While the start of this book was very much focussed on getting started with Android, the second half is clearly meant as a detailed guide to building just about anything you can imagine with the Android APIs. Preferences, networking, Java libraries, web access, services and alerting, and many other development topics and tools are covered in sufficient detail so that you know how they work and how to use them, as well as how to find out more information if it ever comes to that. The book also mentions some other technology such as PhoneGap, for bringing web apps to native clients, but if you’re really into it there are other books for that (#5153).

Overall I found this an excellent guide to getting started and rapidly becoming very knowledgeable about Android development. The introduction to development is excellent and pretty much spot on, providing enough information without hand-holding over necessarily. The guide to Android APIs and the actual development styles and methodologies will be well suited to semi-experienced developers (or developers with some Java knowledge) as a way of getting involved in building Android apps like the pros.

Beginning Android 3 is available now from Amazon.