Fragmentation is an often cited issue of the Android ecosystem, but the people who really bear the brunt of it are not so much the end users, but the developers who have to create applications to support multiple versions of the platform. It’s for this reason Google created the Android Support Library, which is used to provide backwards compatibility for newer features of Android.
Originally released in March 2011, just after the introduction of fragments in Honeycomb (Android 3.0), the support library (originally called the “Android Compatibility package”) provided developers the means to use Fragments, LoaderManagers and a few other classes across mostly all versions of the platform, going back to Donut, version 1.6. This library, combined with the excellent ActionBarSherlock, gives developers the means to write a single codebase which can support multiple versions of the platform without having to write platform specific code – the only exception that comes to mind is the ActionBar action view widgets, which need specific pre-ICS implementations.
Fast forward a couple of years to Google I/O 2012 and the, now named, Support Library is on revision 9 and has brought with it a lot of updates. Google is slowly implementing functionality that has, up until now, been developed by other people. For example, revision 9 includes a lot of bug fixes and new functionality to the ViewPager class; however, note currently the ViewPageIndicator library still offers better functionality. The Notification Builder has also been updated, but again note that a third party library, in the form of the NotificationCompat2 library, is still the recommended way to provide complete support for notifications across all platform versions without sacrificing the newer functionality where available.
Of particular interest, and the reason for the title of this blog post, are the many bug fixes for the Fragment class, which by now should be core building blocks used by all Android developers (if you aren’t using them yet – what are you doing?!) – this in itself should be reason enough to update.
Google seems to update Android every time it releases a new Nexus device, and if the rumor-mill is correct, we should be seeing a new Nexus handset at some point toward the end of the year. If past updates are anything to go by, Google should be releasing another updated version of the Support Library sometime soon. Be sure to keep an eye on the Support Library updates and implement new versions as soon as they’re released in order to take advantage of the new features and bug fixes.
Safari Books Online has the content you need
Check out these Android books available from Safari Books Online:
|Android in Action, Third Edition is a fast-paced book that puts you in the driver’s seat–you’ll master the SDK, build WebKit apps using HTML 5, explore cross-platform graphics with RenderScript, learn to use Native Development Kit, and master important tablet concepts like drag-and-drop, fragments, and the Action Bar, all new in Android 3.|
|Beginning Android 4 is fresh with details on the latest iteration of the Android platform. Begin at the beginning by installing the tools and compiling a skeleton app. Move through creating layouts, employing widgets, taking user input, and giving back results.|
|Android in Practice is a treasure trove of Android goodness, with over 90 tested, ready-to-use techniques including complete end-to-end example applications and practical tips for real world mobile application developers. The book dives into important topics like multitasking and services, testing and instrumentation, building and deploying applications, and using alternative languages.|
|Android UI Fundamentals: Develop and Design walks developers through the different choices available on their way to creating a well-designed application for Android. While building a simple application, Jason works through the basics of Android UI development including layout, event handling, menus and notifications.|
|Programming Android shows experienced application developers what they need to program for the Android operating system — the core building blocks, how to put those blocks together, and how to build compelling apps that work on a full range of Android devices.|
|Whether you want to develop a commercial application for mobile devices, or just want to create a mobile mashup for personal use, Android Application Development demonstrates how you can design, build, and test applications for the new mobile market|
About this author
|Martyn Haigh has been a coder since his dad showed him a BBC Micro at the age of 3. He has a degree in Computer Science, likes clean code and has been programming Android devices for longer than it’s been commercially viable. In his spare time he snowboards, slays monsters and has been the Times Magazine person of the year on three different occasions. Sometimes he writes things on www.martynhaigh.com. He’d love you to visit.|