Book Review of Android Programming: Pushing the Limits by Erik Hellman

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The fundamentals of Android app programming can be learned through free tutorials on the Internet. But after a while you’ll hit a wall and won’t know where to go.

Android Programming: Pushing the Limits helps you take that next step into more advanced Android app development. You do need some practical knowledge of Android development but you certainly don’t need to be a master of Java to pick up this book.

The author Erik Hellman has a nice style of writing that feels colloquial and natural to any reader. Granted there’s only so much that writing can do to teach someone how to write code. But I find the writing style to be approachable and encouraging for less experienced developers.

Book Contents

With over 400 pages and 20 chapters this is definitely one of the larger Android programming books out there.

Erik does an excellent job organizing the content into sections based on different topics and libraries. You learn one at a time and you can even jump around to different sections that interest you the most.

Here’s a full list of the chapters for this book:

  1. Fine-Tuning Your Development Environment
  2. Efficient Java Code for Android
  3. Components, Manifests, and Resources
  4. Android User Experience and Interface Design
  5. Android User Interface Operations
  6. Services and Background Tasks
  7. Android IPC
  8. Mastering BroadcastReceivers and Configuration changes
  9. Data Storageand Serialization Techniques
  10. Writing Automated Tests
  11. Advanced Audio, Video, and Camera Applications
  12. Secure Android Applications
  13. Maps, Location, and Activity APIs
  14. Native Code and JNI
  15. The Hidden Android APIs
  16. Hacking the Android Platform
  17. Networking, Web Service, and Remote APIs
  18. Communicating with Remote Devices
  19. Google Play Services
  20. Distributing Applications on Google Play Store

The author assumes you already know about Eclipse and how to build some basic Android applications from scratch. The book spans 430 pages and only the first couple chapters act as softer introductions.

All of the other chapters push you down avenues of Android programming you may have never encountered before.

I was surprised to see the details in chapters 4-5 talking about user experience design. This is technically a programming book, however the author explains that the user experience is a huge part of app development.

The chapters on audio/video management and the maps API were all incredibly powerful to me. These are features that many app developers want to understand but just don’t know where to start.

You’ll learn everything from testing your applications and improving performance to eventually submitting and distributing the app on the Google Play Store.

Erik spares no expense with this book and he really urges developers to get out there and try new things with Android. The true value of this book is its hodgepodge approach covering every advanced Android feature you could possibly imagine.

Pros & Cons

The writing style and content organization make this book approachable and even fun. Everything flows naturally and the concepts are explained along with source code to help you understand what’s happening in each exercise.

Android programmers who don’t feel challenged enough will enjoy the variety of content. This is one of the book’s strongest points because very few other Android programming books cover such a wide span of knowledge.

My biggest concern is with the level of detail in each chapter. Erik went to great lengths to cover as many different Android development topics as possible. But some chapters can feel a little rushed leaving you wanting more.

This is OK to me since the goal of the book is to get you familiar with all the more advanced subjects. But it would’ve been nice to have more detail in each chapter to really give developers a push further in each direction.

Yet even with some chapters being light in content I still think this book covers the widest breadth of advanced Android programming topics for app developers. You’ll struggle to find free online tutorials that cover all this content to the same level of detail.

Erik’s writing style is also super easy to follow and until I can find another advanced-level Android book, this is my top recommendation for Android devs who are comfortable and want to go further.

Who Is This For?

You will need experience in Android programming before getting this book. If you’re a complete newbie I’d instead recommend something like Android Programming for Beginners.

You’ll learn the most from this book if you don’t focus on just one specific need. So you may practice creating a photo/video app like Snapchat, but only focusing on that section pushes away all the other great material in this book.

I think you should approach this book with the intention of studying everything. Android programmers who want to improve across all areas will get the most value from this book.

Erik’s way of explaining how features & libraries work, and more importantly why they work, should be reason enough to pick up a copy.

But please don’t make this your first Android programming book because you will end up discouraged.

So when exactly would you be ready for this?

Once you’ve built a few basic apps and once you can build an Android app from scratch without following a tutorial. At that point you may still be a little inexperienced, but if you have tenacity you’ll definitely be ready for Erik’s book.

Final Summary

Erik Hellman put together one fine Android programming book and I have to give him credit for the work he’s done.

Android programmers who want to build higher-level applications need to learn these techniques somewhere. This may come from working on a team, or it can come from personal projects with a study guide like this book.

Android Programming: Pushing the Limits offers that next step for Android devs who know they need to learn more but just aren’t sure where to start. This book gives you a bunch of reliable starting points and offers practical techniques that you can apply to your app development cycle.

Some of the chapters do feel shallow and I would’ve liked to see even more examples. But for a full 20 chapter book I really can’t complain.

Overall a worthy investment for Android programmers who want to push themselves further into the platform.

Review Rating: 4/5


Alex is a fullstack developer with years of experience working in digital agencies and as a freelancer. He writes about educational resources and tools for programmers building the future of the web.