With version 3.2.1 Andromo adds some important improvements to the way in which RSS-based image feeds are handled. These changes have a major impact on the way in which the Flickr and RSS Activities handle these types of feeds.
Internally we call this new feature the Photo Feed UI (UI meaning User Interface). If you are familiar with the Photo activity then you are already familiar with much of what the Photo Feed UI can do, the major difference is that now it’s dynamic. Before we look at the differences and benefits of the new Photo Feed UI let’s take a quick look at what Andromo needs under the hood to be able to show your data within the new UI:
The Required Feed Type
This section largely pertains to the RSS Activity, as all Flickr activities already contain the required data, however, under the hood, both feeds are treated in the exact same manner. What Andromo wants, in order to display the new Photo Feed UI, is a image-based media RSS feed. This means that the each feed item must contain the following two items:
<media:content url="http://www.urltoimage.com/image.jpg" type="image/*" height="XX" width="YY"/> <media:thumbnail url="http://www.urltiimage.com/image_thumbnail.com.jpg" height="75" width="75" />
- media:content – This is the full URL to the image that will be displayed in the View Pager when the user clicks on an item in the index
- media:thumbnail – This is the full URL to the thumbnail image that will be used in the index grid.
Both items are required for the feed to be a Media feed and for Andromo to deliver the Photo Feed UI in a consistent manner. However (as always) Andromo will do it’s best to work with whatever you give it. Be sure to test your app before releasing to the public in order to ensure that the feed is handled properly by Andromo and the results are what you want.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s look at the improvements. The four major improvements (discussed in further detail later in the post) are:
- Improved Thumbnail Index
- Native Image Handling (no more webview)
- Modernized User Interface (No more “film-strip”, View Pager)
- Wallpaper Support (dynamic wallpaper apps)
While the runtime changes are quite dramatic only a few changes to the settings on andromo.com were made. In the case of the Flickr Activity all apps built after 3.2.1 will get the new runtime interface. As for the RSS activity, the “Photo Feed” RSS List style setting will have to be chosen, in order for the new interface to be chosen. Now let’s look at the improvements:
Improved Thumbnail Index
The Photo Feed UI presents a grid-based index of thumbnails in the same way that the Gallery Dashboard and Photo Activity do. This lets your users see more of what they want to see: the images.
Native Image Handling
This means that instead of using a WebView the RSS content HTML to display the Image data as we previously did in the Flickr activity and the RSS Content Activity, we now use an Improved ImageView to handle the image data. This means that interacting with the images is much smoother, consistent, and user friendly. No more odd sized content or janky scrolling; now you can pinch to zoom, double-tap, or fling your images in the way you expect a top-tier app to behave.
Note: The WebView is a Native Android control, so your app was always “native”, however using an ImageView is a bit more native.
Modernized User Interface
The new Photo Feed is a much more modern way to display images then the previous Flickr “film-strip” (Gallery view) interface. The film strip has been replaced by a beautiful and modern image-grid with a subtle transparency to allow for the images titles to be displayed.
The Photo Feed content is displayed within a ViewPager letting your users easily swipe from one image to another in the manner they have become accustomed to on modern Android devices.
Baked into the new Photo Feed UI is the ability for your end user’s to take any of the feed images and use them as their Android device’s wallpaper. This means that you can finally create dynamic wallpaper apps.
Of course wallpaper support was already available in the Photo Activity, but as many of our developers noticed creating a wallpaper app using that activity was often difficult given the 50MB apk size limitation and the static nature of the applications content.
Now with the Photo Feed UI you can deliver small APK files to your end users and a dynamic always-updating stream of wallpapers.
Note: Wallpaper apps created with the Photo activity were, and are still, a fine choice, however there are differences between using it and the new Photo Feed UI: offline vs internet required, large apk size vs small apk size, static vs dynamic, etc. There is no right choice here, think about what will work best with your content and your end users and go with that.
The Photo Feed UI is a great improvement to the way image-based media feeds are handled by Andromo. If you are using an RSS activity to display images I urge you to switch to using the new look, if you have a Flickr activity in any of your apps I also urge you to re-build your apps, your users and perhaps your app rating will thank you.
Whether it’s an RSS or Flickr activity updating your app is hardly any work on your part: select “Photo Feed” as the RSS List Style(in the case of an RSS Activity), update the version of your app, and re-build. The result will be a brand new, modern user interface that you can give to your users.