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Improved Photo Support in RSS and Flickr Activities



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.

The Improvements

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.

Wallpaper Support

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.

Conclusion

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.

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