The Android development team paved the way for developers Sept. 19 by warning developers what to expect from the build and how to treat their existing applications going forward. However, Google stopped short of releasing the much-anticipated ICS software developer kit (SDK) to enable developers to begin writing apps.
“Although Honeycomb remains tablets-only, the upcoming Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) release will support big screens, small screens, and everything in between,” wrote Scott Main, lead technical writer for Android. “This is the way Android will stay from now on: the same version runs on all screen sizes.”
Main cautioned that while it is true that some Honeycomb apps were designed to run solely on a large screen, this will become false with the arrival of ICS because Android apps are forward-compatible. That is, an app developed for Honeycomb is compatible with a device running ICS, which could be a tablet, a phone, or perhaps Android-powered TVs.
Main warned developers who have written Honeycomb apps to either prevent installation on smaller screens or support smaller screens with the same developer kit. Main then provided instructions for how a developer might prevent their app from being used on phones, whose screens tend to be 3 to 5 inches.
However, developers who want their Honeycomb app to run on any sized device should update their program to run on smaller screens using a single APK.
“Optimizing for handsets can be tricky if your designs currently use all of a large screen to deliver content,” Main noted. “It’s worth the effort, though, because Ice Cream Sandwich brings the Honeycomb APIs to handsets and you’ll significantly increase the user-base for your app. Using a single APK for all devices also simplifies your updating and publishing process and makes it easier for users to identify your app.”
To enable Honeycomb tablet apps to run smoothly on handsets, he advised programmers to build their app around Android “fragments,” code chunks developers can reuse in different combinations. Think in terms of creating single-pane layouts on handsets and multi-pane layouts on tablets.
Main noted that developers won’t be able to test their layouts for smaller screens without a handset running Honeycomb.
But the SDK is coming in October, so it won’t be long before developers can get their hands on the software package. Accordingly, he warned Android developers not to publish their changes until they can test them on a device or emulator running ICS.
In the meantime, offered a compromise. Developers can test their alternative layouts by using the “land” qualifier for tablets.
The first ICS device is expected to be the Samsung Droid Prime (or Nexus Prime) on Verizon Wireless, slated for a November launch to entice holiday shoppers.
However, neither Google nor Samsung nor Verizon will confirm this rumor. The Prime is expected to be Verizon’s alternative to offering the Samsung Galaxy S II handset.