The impending release of the new Nook HD and Nook HD+ tablets are a good thing for developers with Android apps on the Nook store. However, you may need to make a few changes to ensure that your apps will be available for the new devices.
While the Nook test team will verify that your app is compliant, you should probably take a more proactive role if you want your apps to be available for the new Nook HD devices rolling out very soon.
First of all, the new devices are running ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich – Android 4.0). This brings in a number of more modern features of Android, including widgets. In addition, Nook reversed a few of their customizations used for the Nook Color and Nook Tablet, following the standards a little better. Unfortunately, that breaks some apps that have been customized for Nook already.
Reverting Nook Color and Nook Tablet customizations
Things would be easier if I hadn’t made customizations to handle the previous two generations of Nook devices. Don’t get me wrong, though, I still want to support all versions of Nook to maximize my exposure. Supporting older devices is always a business decision, but I suspect that the older Nook tablets may hang around for a while.
Two changes that stand out to me are the location of the external storage (/mnt/media is no longer accessible), and the wallpaper mechanism is now the standard one used by Android. If you use either of these currently on Nook, they won’t work with the new devices.
Beyond that, the higher resolutions need to be handled. Since the Nook devices use a little screen space for the on-screen menu bar, you will want to verify your layouts on the new Nook devices if possible, even if you already have done testing on ICS devices. If you can’t do that, at the very least load up an emulator for the Nook HD and ensure the app works flawlessly there.
Read here for more details on the new developer requirements for the Nook HD. The Nook team didn’t really emphasize the details of the changes very well – I guess they figured we’d all scour the documentation immediately. I personally skimmed the changes and figured I was close (I already supported higher resolutions and Android 4.x). The problem for me lies in the Nook-specific changes.
Determining which Nook device you have
While I previously used my market flag (since I created a Nook-specific .apk) to enable the Nook-specific code, I need to make updates. I now need to know which device line the app is running on before deciding which code to execute.
The Nook team now recommends using the Build.MODEL constant to decide which device you are on. They haven’t released the PRODUCT field values for the HD tablets yet, so stick to the MODEL name for now.
It’s not a difficult check to perform. In fact, I just updated the Android Market Manager library to add methods to check if you are on a known Nook device, as well as which Nook product line (e.g. Nook HD or HD+ vs. Nook Color or Tablet). Go ahead and grab the code for your Nook apps.
Avoiding problems with Nook Updates
I was in the process of submitting an update right as the HD roll-out was happening, so I hit a few snags with deployment.
I suggest releasing your app updates separately before the HD update, if you have them ready and want to speed up release. In my case, I want to get the new Pumpkin Carver Pro update (which coincidentally added HD to the name, but wasn’t fully tested for the Nook HD devices) available for all of October. I hit a few rejections because I tried to target the HD devices and the UK as well, all in one update.
If your app hasn’t been reviewed and approved yet for the HD platforms (they did an initial review of all apps and sent an email to developers), don’t set a price for the UK in your next update – your app will be rejected. You probably shouldn’t check the box for the HD devices either, as this may slow down this release.
On the other hand, if your primary purpose is to update for the HD devices, by all means take care of it all in one go. Just make sure you address any concerns noted in your HD test email.
Getting ready for HD
Now that you can detect if you’re on one of the HD devices, and you know about the changes you need to make, get your apps ready! The new devices will likely bring a lot of downloads, and you want to be there for that. Plus, the new UK market will only sell your app if it is for the Nook HD or Nook HD+!