A short while ago I posted about how many Android applications hadn’t allowed for tablets by assuming a direct correlation between screen density and screen resolution. I used the Android Facebook application as an example, and as they’ve just released an update I thought I should follow up the previous post and look at the changes they’ve made. Unfortunately it seems they’re heading in the wrong direction.
The biggest backwards step is the removal of landscape mode. With ‘phones portrait mode is the norm, with tablets landscape mode is more common, but no matter what I tried I couldn’t get the facebook app to rotate the display to suit landscape mode. This is a definite backwards step as the previous version adjusted itself the the orientation of the device.
Reto Meier made a strong case for why developers shouldn’t presume to know how a user will use their device in his post on the Android status bar, but in case you missed the general message; Don’t assume you know how users use their device. Developers need to remember that users are more likely to find another app which suits their working style than change their working style to fit your app every time they want to use it.
It would also appear that the Facebook app still isn’t allowing for mdpi-large screens which are common on tablets. This can be easily seen when you compare the appearance on a Dell Streak (a WVGA mdpi-large device) with the appearance on a Nexus One (a WVGA hdpi-medium device);
Dell Streak on the left, Nexus One on the right
As you can see, the app is capable of producing a “good” UI on a WVGA screen, but because of the way Facebook have created the application it fails to do so on the Streaks WVGA screen.
It’s disappointing that the Facebook, who run one of the most popular sites in the world and went out and hired Erick Tseng from his role as a senior product manager for Android at Google to head up their mobile efforts, are still failing to fully support a class of device which many see as having a strong future. All I can hope is that other developers show a little more love for Android tablets, and that Facebook start to consider Android tablets in the next upgrade.
[If you’re interested in finding out more about Android tablets and how to create you apps to support them you should consider attending my talk at DroidCon UK]