Implementing an Android Started Service in Android Studio

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Understanding Android Started and Bound ServicesImplementing Local Bound Services in Android Studio


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The previous chapter covered a considerable amount of information relating to Android services and, at this point, the concept of services may seem somewhat overwhelming. In order to reinforce the information in the previous chapter, this chapter will work through an Android Studio tutorial intended to gradually introduce the concepts of started service implementation.

Within this chapter, a sample application will be created and used as the basis for implementing an Android service. In the first instance, the service will be created using the IntentService class. This example will subsequently be extended to demonstrate the use of the Service class. Finally, the steps involved in performing tasks within a separate thread when using the Service class will be implemented. Having covered started services in this chapter, the next chapter, entitled Implementing Local Bound Services in Android Studio, will focus on the implementation of bound services and client-service communication.




Creating the Example Project

Launch Android Studio and follow the usual steps to create a new project, entering ServiceExample into the Application name field and ebookfrenzy.com as the Company Domain setting before clicking on the Next button.

On the form factors screen, enable the Phone and Tablet option and set the minimum SDK setting to API 8: Android 2.2 (Froyo). Continue to proceed through the screens, requesting the creation of a blank activity named ServiceExampleActivity using the default values for the remaining options.

Creating the Service Class

Before writing any code, the first step is to add a new class to the project to contain the service. The first type of service to be demonstrated in this tutorial is to be based on the IntentService class. As outlined in the preceding chapter (Understanding Android Started and Bound Services), the purpose of the IntentService class is to provide the developer with a convenient mechanism for creating services that perform tasks asynchronously within a separate thread from the calling application.

Add a new class to the project by right-clicking on the com.ebookfrenzy.servicexample package name located under app –> java in the Project tool window and selecting the New -> Java Class menu option. Within the resulting Create New Class dialog, name the new class MyIntentService. Finally, click on the OK button to create the new class.

Review the new MyIntentService.java file in the Android Studio editor where it should read as follows:

package com.ebookfrenzy.serviceexample;

/**
 * Created by <name> on <date>.
 */
public class MyIntentService {
}

The class needs to be modified so that it subclasses the IntentService class. When subclassing the IntentService class, there are two rules that must be followed. First, a constructor for the class must be implemented which calls the superclass constructor, passing through the class name of the service. Second, the class must override the onHandleIntent() method. Modify the code in the MyIntentService.java file, therefore, so that it reads as follows:

package com.ebookfrenzy.serviceexample;

import android.app.IntentService;
import android.content.Intent;

public class MyIntentService extends IntentService {

    @Override
    protected void onHandleIntent(Intent arg0) {

    }

    public MyIntentService() {
        super("MyIntentService");
    }
}

All that remains at this point is to implement some code within the onHandleIntent() method so that the service actually does something when invoked. Ordinarily this would involve performing a task that takes some time to complete such as downloading a large file or playing audio. For the purposes of this example, however, the handler will simply output a message to the Android Studio LogCat panel:

package com.ebookfrenzy.serviceexample;

import android.app.IntentService;
import android.content.Intent;
import android.util.Log;

public class MyIntentService extends IntentService {

    private static final String TAG = 
		"com.ebookfrenzy.serviceexample";

    @Override
    protected void onHandleIntent(Intent arg0) {
        Log.i(TAG, "Intent Service started");
    }

    public MyIntentService() {
        super("MyIntentService");
    }
}

Adding the Service to the Manifest File

Before a service can be invoked, it must first be added to the manifest file of the application to which it belongs. At a minimum, this involves adding a <service> element together with the class name of the service.

Double click on the AndroidManifest.xml file (app -> manifests) for the current project to load it into the editor and modify the XML to add the service element as shown in the following listing:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<manifest xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
    package="com.ebookfrenzy.serviceexample" >

    <application
        android:allowBackup="true"
        android:icon="@drawable/ic_launcher"
        android:label="@string/app_name"
        android:theme="@style/AppTheme" >
        <activity
            android:name=".ServiceExampleActivity"
            android:label="@string/app_name" >
            <intent-filter>
                <action android:name="android.intent.action.MAIN" />

                <category android:name="android.intent.category.LAUNCHER" />
            </intent-filter>
        </activity>
        <service android:name=".MyIntentService" />
    </application>

</manifest>

Starting the Service

Now that the service has been implemented and declared in the manifest file, the next step is to add code to start the service when the application launches. As is typically the case, the ideal location for such code is the onCreate() callback method of the activity class (which, in this case, can be found in the ServiceExampleActivity.java file). Locate and load this file into the editor and modify the onCreate() method to add the code to start the service:

package com.ebookfrenzy.serviceexample;

import android.support.v7.app.ActionBarActivity;
import android.os.Bundle;
import android.view.Menu;
import android.view.MenuItem;
import android.content.Intent;

public class ServiceExampleActivity extends ActionBarActivity {

    @Override
    protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
        super.onCreate(savedInstanceState);
        setContentView(R.layout.activity_service_example);
        Intent intent = new Intent(this, MyIntentService.class);
        startService(intent);
    }
.
.
.
}

All that the added code needs to do is to create a new Intent object primed with the class name of the service to start and then use it as an argument to the startService() method.

Testing the IntentService Example

The example IntentService based service is now complete and ready to be tested. Since the message displayed by the service will appear in the LogCat panel, it is important that this is configured in the Android Studio environment.

Begin by displaying the Android tool window using either the tools menu button located in the far left corner of the status bar or the Alt-6 keyboard shortcut. Within the tool window, make sure that the Devices|logcat tab is selected before accessing the menu in the upper right hand corner of the panel (which will probably currently read No Filters). From this menu, select the Edit Filter Configuration menu option.

In the Create New Logcat Filter dialog name the filter ServiceExample and, in the by Log Tag (regex) field, enter the TAG value declared in ServiceExampleActivity.java (in the above code example this was com.ebookfrenzy.serviceexample but you may have changed this to reflect your company’s URL).

When the changes are complete, click on the OK button to create the filter and dismiss the dialog. Instead of listing No Filters, the newly created filter should now be selected in the Android tool window. With the filter configured, run the application on a physical device or AVD emulator session and note that the “Intent Service Started” message appears in the LogCat panel (note that it may be necessary to change the filter menu setting back to ServiceExample after the application has launched):

05-20 09:38:50.953  10961-10996/com.ebookfrenzy.serviceexample I/com.example.serviceexample﹕ Intent Service started

Had the service been tasked with a long-term activity, the service would have continued to run in the background in a separate thread until the task was completed, allowing the application to continue functioning and responding to the user. Since all our service did was log a message, it will have simply stopped upon completion.

Using the Service Class

Whilst the IntentService class allows a service to be implemented with minimal coding, there are situations where the flexibility and synchronous nature of the Service class will be required. As will become evident in this section, this involves some additional programming work to implement.

In order to avoid introducing too many concepts at once, and as a demonstration of the risks inherent in performing time-consuming service tasks in the same thread as the calling application, the example service created here will not run the service task within a new thread, instead relying on the main thread of the application. Creation and management of a new thread within a service will be covered in the next phase of the tutorial.

Creating the New Service

For the purposes of this example, a new class will be added to the project that will subclass from the Service class. Right-click, therefore, on the package name listed under app -> java in the Project tool window and select the New -> Service -> Service menu option. Create a new class named MyService with both the Exported and Enabled options selected.

The minimal requirement in order to create an operational service is to implement the onStartCommand() callback method which will be called when the service is starting up. In addition, the onBind() method must return a null value to indicate to the Android system that this is not a bound service. For the purposes of this example, the onStartCommand() method will loop three times performing a 10-second wait on each loop. For the sake of completeness, stub versions of the onCreate() and onDestroy() methods will also be implemented in the new MyService.java file as follows:

package com.ebookfrenzy.serviceexample;

import android.app.Service;
import android.content.Intent;
import android.os.IBinder;
import android.util.Log;

public class MyService extends Service {

    public MyService() {
    }

    private static final String TAG = 
            "com.ebookfrenzy.serviceexample";

    @Override
    public void onCreate() {
        Log.i(TAG, "Service onCreate");
    }

    @Override
    public int onStartCommand(Intent intent, int flags, int startId) {

        Log.i(TAG, "Service onStartCommand");

        for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++) {
            long endTime = System.currentTimeMillis() +
                    10 * 1000;
            while (System.currentTimeMillis() < endTime) {
                synchronized (this) {
                    try {
                        wait(endTime - System.currentTimeMillis());
                    } catch (Exception e) {
                    }
                }
            }
            Log.i(TAG, "Service running");
        }
        return Service.START_STICKY;
    }

    @Override
    public IBinder onBind(Intent arg0) {
        Log.i(TAG, "Service onBind");
        return null;
    }

    @Override
    public void onDestroy() {
        Log.i(TAG, "Service onDestroy");
    }
}

With the service implemented, load the AndroidManifest.xml file into the editor and verify that Android Studio has added an appropriate entry for the new service which should read as follows:

<service
 android:name=".MyService"
            android:enabled="true"
            android:exported="true" >
</service>

You are currently reading the Android Studio 1.x - Android 5 Edition of this book.

Purchase the fully updated Android Studio 2.3 / Android 7 Edition of this publication in eBook ($19.99) or Print ($45.99) format

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Modifying the User Interface

As will become evident when the application runs, failing to create a new thread for the service to perform tasks creates a serious usability problem. In order to be able to appreciate fully the magnitude of this issue, it is going to be necessary to add a Button view to the user interface of the ServiceExampleActivity activity and configure it to call a method when “clicked” by the user.

Locate and load the activity_service_example.xml file in the Project tool window (app -> res -> layout -> activity_service_example.xml). Delete the TextView and add a Button view to the layout. Double click on the new button and change the text to read “Start Service”. Use the light bulb icon menu to extract the string to a resource named button_text.

With the new Button still selected, locate the onClick property in the Properties panel and assign to it a method named buttonClick. On completion, the XML for the user interface layout should resemble the following listing:

<RelativeLayout xmlns:android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
    xmlns:tools="http://schemas.android.com/tools"
    android:layout_width="match_parent"
    android:layout_height="match_parent"
    android:paddingLeft="@dimen/activity_horizontal_margin"
    android:paddingRight="@dimen/activity_horizontal_margin"
    android:paddingTop="@dimen/activity_vertical_margin"
    android:paddingBottom="@dimen/activity_vertical_margin"
tools:context="com.ebookfrenzy.serviceexample.serviceexample.ServiceExampleActivity">

    <Button
        android:layout_width="wrap_content"
        android:layout_height="wrap_content"
        android:text="@string/button_string"
        android:id="@+id/button"
        android:layout_alignParentTop="true"
        android:layout_alignParentLeft="true"
        android:layout_alignParentStart="true"
        android:onClick="buttonClick" />
</RelativeLayout>

Next, edit the ServiceExampleActivity.java file to add the buttonClick() method and remove the code from the onCreate() method that was previously added to launch the MyIntentService service:

package com.ebookfrenzy.serviceexample;

import android.support.v7.app.ActionBarActivity;
import android.os.Bundle;
import android.view.Menu;
import android.view.MenuItem;
import android.content.Intent;
import android.view.View;

public class ServiceExampleActivity extends ActionBarActivity {

    @Override
    protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
        super.onCreate(savedInstanceState);
        setContentView(R.layout.activity_service_example);
    }

    public void buttonClick(View view)
    {
        Intent intent = new Intent(this, MyService.class);
        startService(intent);
    }
}

All that the buttonClick() method does is create an intent object for the new service and then start it running.

Running the Application

Run the application and, once loaded, touch the Start Service button. Within the LogCat window (using the ServiceExample filter created previously) the log messages will appear indicating that the onCreate() method was called and that the loop in the onStartCommand() method is executing.

Before the final loop message appears, attempt to touch the Start Service button a second time. Note that the button is unresponsive. After approximately 20 seconds, the system may display a warning dialog containing the message “ServiceExample isn’t responding”. The reason for this is that the main thread of the application is currently being held up by the service while it performs the looping task. Not only does this prevent the application from responding to the user, but also to the system, which eventually assumes that the application has locked up in some way.

Clearly, the code for the service needs to be modified to perform tasks in a separate thread from the main thread.

Creating a New Thread for Service Tasks

As outlined in Android Threads and Thread Handlers - An Android Studio Tutorial, when an Android application is first started, the runtime system creates a single thread in which all application components will run by default. This thread is generally referred to as the main thread. The primary role of the main thread is to handle the user interface in terms of event handling and interaction with views in the user interface. Any additional components that are started within the application will, by default, also run on the main thread.

As demonstrated in the previous section, any component that undertakes a time consuming operation on the main thread will cause the application to become unresponsive until that task is complete. It is not surprising, therefore, that Android provides an API that allows applications to create and use additional threads. Any tasks performed in a separate thread from the main thread are essentially performed in the background. Such threads are typically referred to as background or worker threads.

A very simple solution to this problem involves performing the service task within a new thread. The following onStartCommand() method from the MyService.java file, for example, has been modified to launch the task within a new thread using the most basic of thread handling examples:

@Override
public int onStartCommand(Intent intent, int flags, int startId) {
		
	Log.i(TAG, "Service onStartCommand " + startId);
	
	final int currentId = startId;
		
	Runnable r = new Runnable() {
	       public void run() {
	        	
	        for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++)
	        {
	        	long endTime = System.currentTimeMillis() + 
                                                             10*1000;
	        		
	        	while (System.currentTimeMillis() < endTime) {
	        		synchronized (this) {
	        			try {
	        				wait(endTime - 
                                     System.currentTimeMillis());
	        			} catch (Exception e) {
	        		      }
	        	       }
	           }		
	           Log.i(TAG, "Service running " + currentId);
	       }
	       stopSelf();
	    }
      };
	    
      Thread t = new Thread(r);
	t.start();		
	return Service.START_STICKY;
}

When the application is now run, it should be possible to touch the Start Service button multiple times. Each time a new thread will be created by the service to process the task. The LogCat output will now also include a number referencing the startId of each service request.

With the service now handling requests outside of the main thread, the application remains responsive to both the user and the Android system.

Summary

This chapter has worked through an example implementation of an Android started service using the IntentService and Service classes. The example also demonstrated the use of threads within a service to avoid making the main thread of the application unresponsive.


You are currently reading the Android Studio 1.x - Android 5 Edition of this book.

Purchase the fully updated Android Studio 2.3 / Android 7 Edition of this publication in eBook ($19.99) or Print ($45.99) format

Android Studio 2.3 Development Essentials - Android 7 Edition Print and eBook (ePub/PDF/Kindle) editions contain 77 chapters and over 810 pages

Buy eBook Buy Print Preview Book



PreviousTable of ContentsNext
Understanding Android Started and Bound ServicesImplementing Local Bound Services in Android Studio