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I've heard so many complaints from developers about the delayed source release, however I've never known Google to withhold source code for Android.

Could the slight delay in release simply be due to legal issues such as scrubbing patent issues and verification that OSS code isn't infringing?

They're probably talking specifically about Honeycomb, which started showing up in devices in Feb. 2011 according to Wikipedia, but only now is being open-sourced. So that does seem to have been withheld.

Not that missing that deserves the downvoting you're getting though.

Honest question from a maybe-future Android dev: is it notably more challenging to develop for Android during periods when the source is not yet public? For example, is a lot of platform doc written from the POV of someone who expects you'll just peep the code when questions arise?

Update: +1 to everyone thinking 'man, I bitch about google sometimes, but this kind of thing is totally legit and awesome'

I do Android dev full time and it's pretty rare to actually need to look at the source. The only time is when encountering a strange bug that you suspect is caused by the underlying implementation.

Google has generally been good about releasing emulator images prior to releases, though usually it's only a few weeks. Luckily, it takes time for Android versions to achieve large market share, so any bugs can be squashed before it's a big problem.

Sometimes when I'm in a bad mood, the API and online doc are not cutting it - I start wondering why it doesn't work the way I'd expect it to, and from there I have multiple options, from StackOverflow to Google Groups to ordering a book on Amazon.com, and this is the true productivity killer because of, you know, the internet.

The definitive and fastest answer will always come from reading and understanding the source code, as I don't have to hope that someone had the same problem I'm having and someone else had an answer, or that someone will reply to my question before I give up. Eclair, Froyo and Gingerbread sources were enough for 99% of my needs though, but there was always this shadow of doubt for Honeycomb-specific features...

For the most part, having the latest source readily available will greatly reduce the amount of open browser tabs, and for that I'm thankful :)

is it notably more challenging to develop for Android during periods when the source is not yet public?

Not really. It's occasionally convenient to have the source, but it's not at all required and the documentation doesn't assume that you do.

I'm not sure why any developer would need access to source code with such a well documented SDK.

Lots of hackers would like the source so they can poach the some code, make a few enhancements then make a quick buck though...

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