Tablet-inspired UI garners praise
The revised Android 4 user interface, which is largely based on the "Honeycomb" tablet version, gets high marks from developers so far. For example, Android 4 "Ice Cream Sandwich" makes impressive use of fragments (introduced in "Honeycomb"), which help developers lay out the user interface, says freelance developer and trainer Robert Mac Hale: "Fragments work like dynamic HTML in two ways. First, areas of the screen may be updated independently. Second, reusable user interface components are now easier to create, maintain, and deploy."
Farina and Ashrafi see some similarities between Android 4 "Ice Cream Sandwich" and Apple's iOS platform for the iPhone and iPad. Google is finally getting the late Steve Jobs's message that attractiveness is critical on mobile devices, Ashrafi says: "For the first time, I have something that is coming relatively closer to how nice the iOS development platform is, in terms of the GUIs and the simplicity of using it. For me, it makes a huge difference."
An action bar providing view titles and buttons onscreen that are contextually related to content is similar to the iOS toolbar, Farina notes: "I believe it's a good thing to standardize on the placement of these really common UI needs." Android 4 does away with the physical buttons that Android 2.x smartphones use for going back to a previous screen and for accessing the home screen, application menus, and search engine.
Evolutionary but welcome API changes
"The API changes in [Android 4] seem more evolutionary than revolutionary, which is a good thing for developers," says Brian Hardy, a software engineer at mobile software development house Big Nerd Ranch.
In addition to the Beam and Wi-Fi Direct APIs, Android adopts the "Honeycomb" security and device management APIs. Two new APIs that Mike Burns, a developer at Thoughtbot, is eager to try out are ShareActionProvider and Calendar Intents. "The ShareActionProvider is an abstraction around the very common desire for sharing a piece of data. For example, sharing a photo via SMS or sharing a URL via email," he says.
Calendar Intents, meanwhile, "provide a way for apps to hook into the existing Google Calendar app, so a user can add events and view an agenda, consistently, from third-party apps." Both features boil down to having a consistent UI and reusable code for executing commonly requested features, Burns says -- something he has wanted Google to do more of.
This article, "Android 4: Developers praise the new UI and APIs," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.