Droidcon UK Day 2

Posted in Android, JavaScript by Dan on October 7th, 2011

Another day, another early train to London. Following yesterday’s Barcamp, the second and final day of Droidcon UK was for the scheduled presentations. Mark Murphy (a.k.a. @commonsguy/the StackOverflow Android guru) delivered a well received opening keynote (video here) containing several predictions of where the Android ecosystem is heading over the next 3 years.

The first of the inevitable sponsors’ keynotes saw Cisco pitch its enterprise Android tablet, the Cius. It’s a chunky 7-inch device (I’m sure they’d say “rugged”) and it only runs Android 2.2, but it represents a different approach to tablets compared to other Android device manufacturers. The main selling point is that it’s part of a fully integrated enterprise communications platform (VOIP, video-conferencing, etc.) that includes a desk phone docking station for the tablet. Later, in the afternoon, HTC touted its Android APIs for exploiting features specific to HTC tablets, such as the pen input on the HTC Flyer.

The rest of the day provided the opportunity to pick and choose from four streams of presentations. Erik Hellman from Sony Ericsson spoke about how to use hidden APIs in Android. These are features that are publicly available at compile time but explicitly excluded from Google’s documentation (via a Javadoc @hide annotation in the source). The examples were how to write code to access a device’s SMS message store and how to programatically toggle WiFi tethering.

Emlyn Howell from Accenture provided an interesting diversion with his discussion of the challenges of building in-car entertainment systems using Android. The thought of roads full of people playing with touchscreens rather than looking at the road is enough to make me never want to drive again, but apparently this danger is avoided by providing reliable voice control functionality.

One of the things you hope to get from events such as Droidcon is valuable insights that you can go away and apply to your own work. Truthfully, I didn’t really get so much of that from today’s presentations compared to yesterday or the ADL on Monday. However, there was one presentation towards the end of the day that I did find particularly interesting and intend to explore in more detail. James Hugman presented Kirin, a new JavaScript framework for developing cross-platform mobile apps with truly native user interfaces. The UIs are developed using the platform’s standard tools and then bound to the application logic written in JavaScript. This avoids the UI compromises of PhoneGap and Titanium Appcelerator while eliminating the duplication of logic that occurs with a strategy of 100% native apps for each platform.