Early returns on the Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" software development kit have developers praising the unified perspective and capabilities of the Google mobile OS -- but their ability to test new apps is constrained by the lack of Android 4 devices, which also limits the market for apps that use the new OS.
Android 4 unifies the OS and the SDK for both smartphones and tablets, replacing the Android 2.x OS for smartphones and the Android 3.x OS for tablets. "Google has really done an amazing job giving us a way to build on the phone and on the tablet," says Siamak Ashrafi, a developer at mobile application builder YLabz.com.
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No Android 4 hardware for testing -- or for customer adoption
The lack of Android 4-capable hardware is a limiting factor to developers. "The emulator that's currently with the SDK is gruesomely, painfully difficult to work with," Ashrafi says. One reason is that they can't yet test on actual devices. That makes it difficult to implement some new technologies.
For example, Nick Farina, CTO at software developer Meridian, cites a hardware acceleration capability brought over from Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" as a question mark because no hardware is yet available to test it. "Presumably, Google's own apps are written properly and take advantage of this new hardware-rendering pipeline, but there's no way to know how well it all works until I get a chance to play with some new [Android 4] devices like the Galaxy Nexus." The feature "still requires the typically lazy developer to understand how the rendering system works and the consequences of layout and invalidating/drawing too much," he says.