Learning Resources

Basic working of android application framework


With Android's breadth of capabilities, it would be easy to confuse it with a desktop operating system. Android is a layered environment built upon a foundation of the Linux kernel, and it includes rich functions. The UI subsystem includes:

  • Windows
  • Views
  • Widgets for displaying common elements such as edit boxes, lists, and drop-down lists

Android includes an embeddable browser built upon WebKit, the same open source browser engine powering the iPhone's Mobile Safari browser.

Android boasts a healthy array of connectivity options, including WiFi, Bluetooth, and wireless data over a cellular connection (for example, GPRS, EDGE, and 3G). A popular technique in Android applications is to link to Google Maps to display an address directly within an application. Support for location-based services (such as GPS) and accelerometers is also available in the Android software stack, though not all Android devices are equipped with the required hardware. There is also camera support.

Historically, two areas where mobile applications have struggled to keep pace with their desktop counterparts are graphics/media, and data storage methods. Android addresses the graphics challenge with built-in support for 2-D and 3-D graphics, including the OpenGL library. The data-storage burden is eased because the Android platform includes the popular open source SQLite database. Figure 1 shows a simplified view of the Android software layers.

Android architectureFigure 1

Android runs atop a Linux kernel. Android applications are written in the Java programming language, and they run within a virtual machine (VM). It's important to note that the VM is not a JVM as you might expect, but is the Dalvik Virtual Machine, an open source technology. Each Android application runs within an instance of the Dalvik VM, which in turn resides within a Linux-kernel managed process, as shown below.

An Android application consists of one or more of the following classifications:

Android architecture

An application that has a visible UI is implemented with an activity. When a user selects an application from the home screen or application launcher, an activity is started.
A service should be used for any application that needs to persist for a long time, such as a network monitor or update-checking application.
Content providers
You can think of content providers as a database server. A content provider's job is to manage access to persisted data, such as a SQLite database. If your application is very simple, you might not necessarily create a content provider. If you're building a larger application, or one that makes data available to multiple activities or applications, a content provider is the means of accessing your data.
Broadcast receivers
An Android application may be launched to process a element of data or respond to an event, such as the receipt of a text message.

An Android application, along with a file called AndroidManifest.xml, is deployed to a device. AndroidManifest.xml contains the necessary configuration information to properly install it to the device. It includes the required class names and types of events the application is able to process, and the required permissions the application needs to run. For example, if an application requires access to the network — to download a file, for example — this permission must be explicitly stated in the manifest file. Many applications may have this specific permission enabled. Such declarative security helps reduce the likelihood that a rogue application can cause damage on your device.