The latest release of Android Studio has many fixes and many additions, but is still on track to be sidelined by something better. Android development is a mess and the tools just aren’t helping.
I take no pleasure in writing yet another moan about the state of Android Studio. We need a good tool to help produce simple run-of-the-mill apps. What we have is a tool that increasingly pushes the toolmaker’s agenda rather than the user’s. The publicity drive is headed by the acronym MAD – Modern Android Development. It’s a slogan that pushes an approach that is new and underdeveloped and arguably retrograde. It also marks out anything that isn’t MAD as not modern and hence old and to be deprecated. Andoid Studio is currently the front line of MAD and yet it becomes increasingly bloated and unusable.
The latest release has little to offer. The headline feature in Google’s own presentation is Composer Animation Preview.
“This previously experimental feature is now available to allow Jetpack Compose developers to inspect and debug their animations built with Compose. If an animation is described in a composable preview, you can inspect the exact value of each animated value at a given time, pause the animation, loop it, fast-forward it, or slow it down. It is especially useful to compare animations with their design specs frame by frame.”
Well yes, animation is fun, but it doesn’t get the MVP (minimal viable product) ready for the first customer preview. As far as core dev features go that’s about it. After this what we have are useful extras, but nothing that tackles the basic problem of actually getting started with Android. The new version has a tweaked CPU profiler. You can now see if you can remove the Jetifier flag to decrease build times by 5-10%, which would be great if development times were reasonable in the first place. And that’s about it.
I get that this is a minor release, but there is no sign that Android Studio is heading in a direction that makes Android development easier. As well as MAD, it still has all the original clutter of the XML approach to UI design – which is arguably better than MAD anyway. As well as all of the Kotlin machinery, it is all still built on top of extensive Java libraries and the JVM legacies of the first Android system. Despite a steady campaign to make MAD seem easy and mature, the average Android programmer must still be confused about what best practice is and the key development tool doesn’t help clear up the confusion.
Perhaps it’s time to split Android Studio into Classic and MAD editions.
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