26 November 2012

Designing for Tablets? We’re Here to Help!

Posted by Roman Nurik, who often writes about Android design-related topics on Google+

So you’ve got a great Android phone app on Google Play, your users love it, and you’re kicking back and watching the download numbers soar. Congrats! But like any enterprising developer, you may be thinking, “how do I take my app’s success even further?” The answer: an equally awesome experience on tablets. Users love their tablet apps! For example, Mint.com found that the larger screen real estate allowed tablet users to engage with their budget data 7x more than on phones. And TinyCo found that on average, paying users spent 35% more on tablets than on handsets. So now is the right time to think about how your app translates onto these larger screen devices that are designed to meet users’ more generic, everyday computing needs.

In this post, we’ll recap some of the resources available for crafting a great tablet experience for your users. These resources are useful for everyone in the app development pipeline—from product managers, to designers, to developers, and QA engineers.

Android Design Guidelines

No conversation about Android app design or development should go very far without first consulting the Android Design guidelines. While most of the sections are relevant to all Android devices, certain sections stand out as particularly relevant to design on tablets.

The Devices and Displays page introduces the concept of density-independence. For example, although the Nexus 4, Nexus 7, and Motorola XOOM all have a similar pixel resolution (1280x768, 1280x800, and 1280x800 respectively), they have vastly different screens. Instead of thinking in pixels, think in dips (density-independent pixels)—that way, it’s much easier to conceptualize the difference between Nexus 4 (640x384 dp), Nexus 7 (960x600dp), and Nexus 10 or the Motorola XOOM (1280x800 dp).

Following the 48dp rhythm discussed in Metrics and Grids helps take some of the guesswork out of sizing elements, especially for tablets. When in doubt, use multiples of 48dp (or 16dp for a finer grid) for sizing elements horizontally and vertically. For example, when showing sparse content on larger screens, consider using generous side margins of 96dp or 144dp. Or when deciding how wide your master pane should be in a master/detail layout for 10” tablets, see how your master content looks and feels with a width of 240dp or 288dp.

The Multi-pane Layouts guide discusses use cases and examples for combining related views into a single screen to simultaneously improve app navigation and make optimal use of the available screen real estate. It also discusses strategies for laying out content across both portrait and landscape, all while maintaining functional parity across orientations. Since users enjoy using tablets in both portrait and landscape orientations, it’s even more important to react properly to orientation changes than with phones.

Lastly, the Downloadable Stencils offer designers a great starting point for high-fidelity mockups, complete with reference device outlines, correctly sized action bars, and more.

Android Training for Developers

The Training section of the developer site offers task-oriented technical training material, complete with flow diagrams, code snippets, sample projects and more. Several of these ‘classes’ are geared toward helping developers understand how to scale your apps across any screen size.

The Designing Effective Navigation class—aimed more at the initial design phase of the app creation process—offers a methodology for effectively planning and grouping screens on tablets, and even shows example wireframes for a simple news reader application following this methodology.

The classes Building a Dynamic UI with Fragments and Designing for Multiple Screens demonstrate how to use fragments in conjunction with Android’s resources framework. They show how to easily choose between tablet and handset layouts at runtime while maximizing code reuse and minimizing your application size using resource aliases. They also demonstrate techniques for adapting UI flows based on the current layout.

Lastly, while not precisely a training class, the Supporting Tablets and Handsets document offers even more information about some of these key best practices. And if you’re the type of developer that would prefer to skip the text and jump right into the code, you can even add a Master/Detail flow, complete with handset and tablet support, to your app with just a few clicks using the Android Developer Tools for Eclipse.

Android Design in Action Highlights

Each week, a few of us on the developer relations team get together on the Android Design in Action live show to discuss Android design best practices, as well as provide original ‘redesign’ mockups to help demonstrate our vision of how Android apps should look and feel.

A recent episode focused on the topic of responsive design, or designing flexible apps that can adapt to whatever screen size or form factor they’re run on:

In the episode, we celebrated successful examples of responsive design on Android, ranging from creating calendar events in Google Calendar, to browsing wallpapers and stories in Pattrn and Pocket, to playing video in TED, and finally to managing your conference schedule in the open-source Google I/O 2012 app.

We also regularly feature tablet design concepts on the show (some are shown below), so we highly recommend tuning in each week for design ideas.


For even more tablet app inspiration, check out a few of these apps: Expedia Hotels & Flights, Pulse News, SeriesGuide, Tasks and Timer.

The Tablet Quality Checklist

Over in the “Distribute” section of developer.android.com, the recently published Tablet App Quality checklist is a great way to check if your app is tablet-ready along a variety of technical dimensions. You should make sure that everyone involved in your mobile products is aware of  the standards defined in this checklist, as it is one of the ways in which the Google Play team selects apps to feature in the Staff Picks for Tablets collection.

So What are You Waiting For?

It's been an exciting year for Android tablets. Make sure your app is positioned to succeed in the evolving device landscape by following some of the best practices and examples discussed here and on the rest of developer.android.com.

If you have specific questions about your app, let us know on Google+ (+Android Developers) or Twitter (@AndroidDev)!

14 November 2012

Android SDK Tools, Revision 21

Posted by Xavier Ducrohet, Android SDK Tech Lead, and Angana Ghosh, Product Manager in Android

Along with the Android 4.2 SDK, we also launched a brand new update of the Android SDK Tools (Revision 21). The update includes new tools and capabilities that can help you work more efficiently as you create applications. Tools such as a new multi-config editor, and new Lint rules will help you develop apps more quickly, while a new UI test framework will give you more ways automate testing and QA for your apps. For new developers, one-click SDK download and new app templates help you get started more quickly.

Multi-config editor

A new multi-configuration editor allows you to develop and prototype your UI across various orientations, screen sizes and locales. For example, while editing your layout in portrait mode, you can see if your edits aren't visible in the shorter landscape orientation. You can see previews for other screen sizes from small phones to large tablets, you can see previews for the layout using all the available language translations in your app, and so on. You can even see how the layout appears when it is included as a fragment in a different larger layout. Finally, Android allows you to create specialized layouts for any of these configurations, and the multi configuration editor shows you these overridden layouts.

Here is a screenshot of the layout editor showing one of the layouts from the Google I/O application, across a variety of screen sizes.

More app templates

Tools R21 brings three new app templates to help you to easily add new screens to your app. There’s a new full-screen activity for use as a photo or video viewer, a settings activity to handle basic user preferences and a login activity to capture username/password.

UI Automator Test Framework

One common approach to UI testing is to run tests manually and verify that the app is behaving as expected. UI Automator is a new software testing framework available in Tools R21 that provides you with tools to easily automate UI testing tasks. It provides a GUI tool to scan and analyze the UI components of an Android application (uiautomatorviewer), a library containing APIs to create customized functional UI tests, and an execution engine to automate and run the tests against multiple physical devices. UI Automator runs on Android 4.1 (API level 16) or higher. To learn more head over to the UI Testing documentation.

One-click SDK installer

New Android SDK developers now have a convenient way to download all the various SDK components like Tools, Platform Tools, Eclipse ADT, and the latest system image with a single click. Existing developers can continue to manage their SDK components and get updates through the SDK Manager.

Revamped AVD creation dialog

The new dialog makes it easier to create Android Virtual Devices (AVDs) matching real device profiles. The AVDs will also appear in the layout editor to show you how the layouts will look.

More Lint rules

And to wrap things up there are 25 new lint rules which catch several common sources of bugs, for example deviations from Android design guide for icons, checks for mismanaged wakelocks, common sources of locale-related bugs and so on. So make sure you upgrade and let Lint loose on your projects before your next app update!

A minor bug-fix to the Android NDK is also available. For a complete list of what’s new, see the release notes for SDK Tools R21, ADT 21.0.0 and Android NDK R8c.

13 November 2012

Introducing Android 4.2, A New and Improved Jelly Bean

Posted by Angana Ghosh, Product Manager in Android, and Dirk Dougherty, Android Developer Relations Team

Today we are making Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) SDK platform available for download. Below are some of the highlights of Android 4.2, API level 17.


We've worked with our partners to run Renderscript computation directly in the GPU on the Nexus 10, a first for any mobile computation platform.

New ways to engage users

Users can now place interactive lock screen widgets directly on their device lock screens, for instant access to favorite apps and content. With just a small update, you can adapt any app widget to run on the lock screen. Daydream is an interactive screensaver mode that users can encounter when their devices are charging or docked in a desk dock. You can create interactive daydreams that users display in this mode, and they can include any type of content.

New interaction and entertainment experiences

Android 4.2 introduces platform support for external displays that goes beyond mirroring. Your apps can now target unique content to any number of displays attached to an Android device.

Enhancements for international users

To help you create better apps for users in languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian, Android 4.2 includes native RTL support, including layout mirroring. With native RTL support, you can deliver the same great app experience to all of your users with minimal extra work. Android 4.2 also includes a variety of font and character optimizations for Korean, Japanese, Indic, Thai, Arabic and Hebrew writing systems.

To get started developing and testing, download the Android 4.2 Platform from the Android SDK Manager. For a complete overview of what's new, take a look at the Android 4.2 platform highlights or read more of the details in the API overview.