Following on from yesterday’s article where we looked at some of the core features of Android Ice Cream Sandwich, we thought we’d look at what some of the other elements of the new version will bring to developers and end users.
Again, I sat down with senior Android developer at Mubaloo, Scott Bown to discuss some of the other important additions that ICS brings, “Probably the most unsung feature of ICS is the new event intent. For some reason previous versions of Android lacked the ability to easily add events to calendar support. Finally with ICS, adding events to the calendar will be easy! Another nifty addition is the availability of using Bluetooth health devices. This should open up avenues for health monitoring apps without the need for expensive, customised hardware giving Android developers the potential to create lifesaving apps.
The accessibility features are also a welcome addition, as these features have become required on webpages as the internet has grown and spread. Many of these accessibility features and other essential fixes have been back ported to the support library, meaning they are supported for devices from Android 1.6 onwards."
While there is much that Bown was excited about from a developer perspective, there was one sore point, regarding the new ‘Action Bar’ menu feature that was first seen in Honeycomb. This will change depending on the app or widget open at the time, allowing users a range of different actions without having to trawl through menus. "The fact the native ActionBar is not supported by the support library was my only disappointment with ICS. It's such a useful feature of the Honeycomb SDK, without it developers will have to stick to custom implementations of the ActionBar, creating more work to maintain consistent controls, look and feel across ICS and previous version apps."
There is certainly a great deal of excitement from the developer community about Ice Cream Sandwich, as the potential for ever more usable, ever more advanced features means that innovation in the app arena will continue to grow. The unified platform should, when rolled out to enough devices, finally start to plug some of the fragmentation issues that have afflicted Android development over the years. While there is a large and varied selection, Android apps require additional effort to ensure they run across the many versions of the OS, hardware and custom skins put on by OEMs. We just have to hope that ICS is enough to turn this around.