Introduction to Android Jetpack

Learn about what’s available in Android Jetpack, a consolidation of a number separate libraries and tools under one banner that was announced at I/O 2018. By Kevin D Moore.

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Most Android apps now use the support libraries to help users add all kinds of updated widgets and to address compatibility issues across Android devices and OS versions. You’d be hard-pressed to find an Android app that doesn’t use something from them, and they’re included as a dependency in template projects made in Android Studio. Widgets as fundamental as RecyclerView are included in them.

The support libraries are great to use, but they have evolved quite a bit over the years and the names have become somewhat confusing. There are and, for example. Looking at the names alone, do you know what classes are in them? The names are supposed to designate what version of Android they support, but, as they have evolved, the minimum version has increased to API Level 14.

Google has realized that this variety of ever-changing libraries is very confusing for new (and old) developers and has decided to start over. Consequently, it has created Android Jetpack as a way of both providing guidance and also as a recommended set of libraries and tools. Through Jetpack, Google provides components that form a recommended way to architect your app. Furthermore, Google hopes that Jetpack will eliminate boilerplate code and simplify complex tasks while still providing backwards compatibility.

Note: If you’re new to Android Development or Kotlin, it’s highly recommended that you start with Beginning Android Development with Kotlin to learn your way around the basic tools and concepts.

To help address version confusion, Google is also resetting all of the Jetpack-related libraries to version 1.0.0 and starting their package names with a base name of androidx. Moreover, each component will be in its own library, though it’s important to note that Google is still working on transitioning libraries to the new package names.

There are also a couple of other resources in Jetpack, including the Android KTX library, which makes it easier to use Kotlin with Android. And, finally, Android Studio 3.2 Canary 14+ now has a Migrate to AndroidX option to convert your existing code and libraries to androidx (but I would recommend you wait until they are out of alpha, since pretty substantial known issues exist in the Canary 14 and 15 conversions).

Jetpack is broken up into four main areas: Architecture, Foundation, Behavior and UI. Most of the items in Jetpack are a re-arrangement and categorization of existing libraries, but a few of the items are new. By the end of this article, you should have a good sense of Jetpack’s features and where to find more information on each of them.

Jetpack: Architecture

The Architecture area of Jetpack includes eight different libraries and tools that help you architect your app and manage the data used by and displayed in the app. Most of these are existing libraries. However, there are three new libraries: Navigation, Paging, and WorkManager. Beginning with the newest libraries:


Navigating between activities and/or fragments has never been easy. Now, with the Navigation library and the navigation viewer built into Android Studio, you can visually design how your screens are connected to one another. Many people have noticed that this is similar to Storyboards in Apple’s Interface Builder for iOS app development.

Using Navigation, you visually connect one screen to another using “destinations”. You create a navigation graph that will have a starting destination that can have actions to go to other destinations. The great thing about this is that you can define animations in the visual editor. The library even handles deep linking into your app. Passing data between destinations can be done in a safe way with a new plugin called safeargs. You can define what arguments the Fragments in the navigation graph accept from within the navigation file itself.

Here is a screenshot of two fragments with an action between the two. You can set up your app to navigate to the second fragment from inside a button click listener in the first fragment.


Note: As of this writing, the Navigation libraries do not work well with the androidx versions of the support libraries. They work sufficiently with the existing support libraries but not the new ones. Be sure to check the release notes on each version of Android Studio 3.2 to see when this has been addressed.

You can find more information about Navigation here: Navigation.


Have you ever had to deal with large amounts of related data? Maybe too much for you to download at once? The Paging library will help by providing ways to handle the paging of data in a RecyclerView.

The Paging library uses several key classes: PagedList, PagedListAdapter, and DataSource. PagedList is a list that loads data lazily from a DataSource, allowing the app to load data in chunks or pages. PagedListAdapter is a custom RecyclerView.Adapter that handles pages with a DiffUtil callback.

For the DataSource, you will use one of three different subclasses: PageKeyedDataSource, ItemKeyedDataSource, or PositionalDataSource.

You can find more information here: Paging.


Over the years, there have been several systems built into Android for handling background jobs or alarms. They differ on different versions of Android and you have to write a lot of code to handle the different versions of the OS.

WorkManager solves this problem and gives you one library for creating deferrable, asynchronous tasks and defining when they should run. You can define one-time jobs or repeating jobs.

You can find more information here: WorkManager.

Data Binding

This library has been around for awhile. Data Binding lets you bind your data to your layout in XML, so that, when you change your data in running code, the views defined by the layout are automatically updated. Moreover, when your UI changes, your data objects are updated.

You can find more information here: Data Binding.


The Lifecycle library helps you listen for lifecycle events in other components besides an activities and fragments. This allows you to have lifecycle-aware logic in places other than just an Activity or Fragment. The library works by using annotations on methods so you get notified for the events that you are interested in.

You implement LifecycleObserver, annotate methods and add this observer to a lifecycle owner, which is usually an Activity or Fragment. The LifecycleObserver class can get the current lifecycle state by calling lifecycle.getCurrentState() and can use this information to avoid calling code when not in the correct state.

A LifecycleOwner is an object that has Android lifecycle events. The support library Activity and Fragment classes already implement the LifecycleOwner methods. A LifecycleOwner has a Lifecycle object that it can return to let the observer know what the current state is.

You can find more information here: Lifecycles.