sdk

What I want from Google Maps SDK for Android

For the past two months Google Maps and mapping has consumed a large portion of my life. During this time I have come to love and hate Google Maps V2. Besides just writing up a couple of issue trackers, I figured I would share my findings in hopes that it saves another developer the stress.

Touch Listeners

User input is super critical to be able to build robust mobile applications. The maps SDK falls short at providing developers the ability to differentiate between user input and programmatic camera changes. Currently the only way to tell that the user has interacted with the map is through the onCameraChangeListnener which should be considered a hack more than anything else. The API docs even go as far to say:

During an animation, this listener may not be notified of intermediate camera positions.

The simple fact that it may or may not be notified is a bit irritating to me. I would rather the API draw a line in the sand and either give me all of the changes or just the beginning and the end. I would say for simplicity's sake it would make sense to just give us the update at the end of the animation, then create a new listener for map touch events. Even just the basic touch up and down events would be a huge win.

Markers

A large part of the reason for having a map in your application is to visualize data or information. One tool Google gives us to do this is the marker, in essence a bitmap that represents a location on the map. Though it is probably the most utilized component of the maps SDK it is one of the most underwhelming. Lets take for instance marker animations. If you have done Android development before you would assume that the marker could be animated the same way as any other View. Unfortunately Marker is not a subclass of View so all of the base property animations are off limits. Instead the only field that is worth animating, position, relegates you to simple translations of xy, through the LatLng.

There is also some weirdness when trying to change a markers bitmap after it has been instantiated. The weirdness manifests itself as an IllegalManifestArgumentException when using the setIcon() method. Now Google hasn't officially responded to the issue and the status is marked as needs more info. I am hoping that they will have an answer soon, but until they do I am including this in my wish list. As of the writing of this post, the best way to side step this issue is to remove the marker and re-create the marker with the new bitmap you would like. Not the best of solutions, but I have not seen anything more staright forward.

Overall, a large portion of professional Android development right now is working with 3rd party SDKs and when doing so there is an inherent risk that we as developers assume. For me, the risk of having these issues or deficiencies in Google Maps was not enough to warrant me to look elsewhere for mapping SDKs, but the feature set put before me didn't create that restriction. Though Google Maps is a completely adequate tool, I would love to see more granular control for developers as well as better methods of communicating changes from the user to the developer.