September 8, 2009 | by Andrew Kameka
Will the budget level HTC Tattoo still be appealing if it can’t load most existing Android apps? The Tattoo has a 2.8 inch screen with a QVGA display (240 x 320). The problem is that other Android devices tend to run at a 320 x 480 resolution, so apps have been designed with that display in mind. Getting the Tattoo to display these apps in their current form is like trying to fit a size 12 woman into a size 8 dress – it’s a stretch and not very flattering.
According to Android framework engineer Dianne Hackborn, The HTC Tattoo will not be able to run current applications unless developers make changes that will enable the device to function correctly. Hackborn made this comment in a developer discussion:
One of the important things to know about the QVGA devices like this is that none of the existing apps will show up on the market there, because until [Android version] 1.6, developers have had no requirement to design for a smaller screen, and there is little the platform can do to make existing apps work on a smaller screen with a good experience.
So why get Android if you’re limited to how many of the 10,000 apps will display and function appropriately? New app development is easier to implement, but Tattoo users will have to hope that developers are willing to go back and make their existing app interface more suitable. Hackett encourages developers to do just that, but will they?
ActionComplete developer Borys Burnayev doesn’t seem interested. Here’s what Burnayev had to say on his blog:
[Hackett] goes on about UI fiddling, alternative layouts, and low-density graphics. It’s all good and well other than I’m not going to do that. For many Android applications, ActionComplete included, the main differentiating factor is a neat and clean user interface. Addressing a different screen size is roughly equivalent to redoing 50% of the application.
When I contacted Burnayev for further comment, he explained the plight of developers who have created UI-based apps. Going back to change his app would require changing the application manifest and making the app usable across resolutions, a significant undertaking. “The key to a great UI is leveraging all the screen real estate effectively,” Burnayev told me. “A ‘unisex’ UI designed to work with any screen resolution looks mediocre on every single one.”
I’ve seen a couple other developers concerned about issues related to screen size, but framework engineer Romain Guy has been working to allay those concerns. Hackborn promises that a blog post addressing the issue of different screen sizes is forthcoming.