Google preps developers for one-size-fits-all Android update

Newest edition to work the same on smartphones and tablets

Google is preparing Android developers for the latest edition of its Android mobile operating platform that will work the same on both tablets and smartphones.

Scott Main, the lead tech writer for Google's Android Developers Blog, Monday reminded developers that the newest edition of Android -- dubbed "Ice Cream Sandwich" -- will "support big screens, small screens and everything in between." Main also emphasized that Android would maintain "the same version ... on all screen sizes" going forward.

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The majority of Main's post detailed steps developers could take to ensure that their tablet-based applications remained tablet-only once Ice Cream Sandwich comes to the market, and also ways to ensure that tablet applications work on smartphones once the Ice Cream Sandwich update hits. Overall, Main said that developers should update their tablet-based apps to work on smaller screens on the Ice Cream Sandwich platform instead of releasing two separate Android application package files for each form factor. Main said that this would be easier for developers in the long run since it would simplify "the updating and publishing process" and would make it "easier for users to identify your app."

Main also offered developers two key guidelines for optimizing their tablet apps for smartphones: They should make sure their app is designed around "fragments that you can reuse in different combination, in single-pane layers in handsets and multi-pane layouts on tablets" and they should "be conservative" with their "Action Bar design so the system can adjust its layout based on screen size." In other words, if you design an application that will require a large screen your should split it up into fragments that can be used as single panes on smartphones but can then be incorporated together on tablets.

Main didn't provide any specific dates for when the Ice Cream Sandwich software development kit would get released and he only said that the SDK was "coming soon" and that application developers should be prepared for it. Ice Cream Sandwich was officially announced this past May to address issues of device fragmentation that have long plagued previous versions of the Android OS. Google has said for months that its goal in designing Ice Cream Sandwich will be to make an operating system that can adapt to the multiple types of Android devices, whether it's a smaller-screen phone like the Droid Pro, a large-screen phone like the Droid X or a tablet like the Motorola Xoom.

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