By: Josiah Campbell On: January 26, 2016 In: Blog, Demos, Featured, Technical Articles Comments: 1

Android is a beautiful, misunderstood platform. On one hand, the Android framework provides an accessible starting through Java, but drops the ball on user interface architecture. The iOS platform provides a straight-forward way of dealing with the separation of model data, presentation and views by incorporating the Model-View-Controller architecture. Android does not provide a similar stock experience. By molding the view and presentation layers into one class – the Activity – Android allows for unwanted spaghetti code to quickly appear.

MVP: A Design Solution

But Activity’s view-presenter design shouldn’t discourage programming Android development. By being aware of Android’s shortcomings, it becomes easier to find solutions. Enter Model-View-Presenter, or MVP for short. The MVP architecture allows developers to separate the model (Plain Old Java Objects) from the presenter (more on this below) and the Activity class.

In MVP, the Activity class is oblivious to any behavior logic. Instead, the Activity is strictly a view. It displays boundary data and routes user events – such as a button click or a swipe-to-refresh action – to the presenter class. The presenter acts on the view and manipulates the model.


Implementing MVP in Android is straightforward, but there are a few tools that help developers get started. From my experience, there are a few tools I have used:

  • Retrofit is an HTTP client which allows Gson serialization, among others.
  • Butterknife is a library from Jake Wharton for view injection and binding.
  • RxJava implements Reactive programming and allows a useful alternative to AsyncTasks in Android.
  • Retrolambda provides lambda compatibility for Java 7, which Android targets.

All of these tools can be implemented using the Gradle build tool which is built into Android Studio.

M is for Model

The goal of this sample application is to retrieve video information from the Grand Valley State University YouTube channel. This process will require to access the YouTube Data API and pull down information in a JSON format. Since the model data is defined already defined, the API’s JSON response looks something like this:

    "kind": "youtube#playlistItemListResponse",
    "etag": "\"kuL0kDMAqRo3pU7O0pwlO-Lfzp4/x4w4rOlPlwRV4Tip_QtcDcuXgKE\"",
    "nextPageToken": "CAUQAA",
    "pageInfo": {
        "totalResults": 825,
        "resultsPerPage": 5
    "items": [{
                "kind": "youtube#playlistItem",
                "etag": "\"kuL0kDMAqRo3pU7O0pwlO-Lfzp4/PDRLMMmLcPNuIZa7NgIiBA6XN3Q\"",
                "id": "UUvqnQ-qv0k7G_gOvEVw8hj__fFtWz2lGK",
                "snippet": {
                    "publishedAt": "2015-12-18T15:47:12.000Z",
                    "channelId": "UCAPurJWGIUtvlul3mApdQRw",
                    "title": "2015 Fall Arts Celebration - Holiday Celebration",
                    "description": "Stille Nacht: A Celebration of Holiday Music from Europe",
                    "thumbnails": {
                        "default": {
                            "url": "https://i.ytimg.com/vi/2ArGL_lJWnI/default.jpg",
                            "width": 120,
                            "height": 90

Already the API provides a plethora of POJOs: one for the playlistItemListResponse, another for playlistItem, snippet and so on. The easiest solution I’ve found is to automate this part of the process by using a schema converter:http://www.jsonschema2pojo.org/. This simple web app generates one-to-one POJOs that even have Gson annotations. Sweet!

Service API

Model classes are settled, but how does one retrieve data from the YouTube API in Java? The easiest way is to create a service class to handle the API using a RestAdapter.

public class YouTubeService {
  private static YouTubeService instance;
  private static YouTubeApi mYouTubeApi;
  private static final String YOUTUBE_API_URL = "https://www.googleapis.com/youtube/v3";
  public YouTubeService() {
    RestAdapter restAdapter = new RestAdapter.Builder()
    mYouTubeApi = restAdapter.create(YouTubeApi.class);
  // ...

The next step is to create an interface that will handle the YouTube Data API’s endpoints using Retrofit:

public interface YouTubeApi {
  Observable<PlaylistItemListResponse> getPlayListItemsList(
                              @Query("playlistId") String playlistId,
                              @Query("nextPageToken") String pageToken,
                              @Query("key") String key);

P is for Presenter

The presenter class will handle data and user events, so it will take a copy of the Activity and the YouTube service class:

public MainPresenter(MainActivity activity, YouTubeService youTubeService) {
  mView = activity;
  mYouTubeService = youTubeService;
  // More constructor information ...

The presenter class will handle any interactions with the API, any modifications of the model data, and receive user commands from the view.

V is for View

When the activity is created it instantiates the service and the presenter, along with any other view-related information such as a list to display our YouTube results.

public class MainActivity extends AppCompatActivity {
  // Class and instance variables here ...
  protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
    mYouTubeService = newYouTubeService();
    mPresenter = new MainPresenter(this, mYouTubeService);
    // Set up the RecyclerView here ...

In order to handle a swipe-to-refresh event, the instance of the layout will call a method in the presenter class:

protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
  mYouTubeService = newYouTubeService();
  mPresenter = new MainPresenter(this, mYouTubeService);
  // Set up the RecyclerView here ...

And in the presenter class:

public void loadPlaylistItems() {
           .getPlayListItemsList(playlistId, nextPageToken, key)
           .subscribeOn(Schedulers.new Thread())
           .subscribe(new Observer<PlaylistItemListResponse>() {
             public void onCompleted() {
             public void onError(Throwable error) {
               Log.d(TAG, "We got an error: "+ error);
             public void onNext(PlaylistItemListResponse playlistItemListResponse) {

The presenter can issue information to the view such as setLoading(false) which the view (Activity) will set accordingly, but at no point does the view need to know why the method setLoading is being called. This is the beauty of MVP: separation of concerns.

And that’s it! If you want to learn more about MVP in Android, I recommend reading Fernandos Cejas’ Architecting Android article, or Antonio Leiva’s MVP for Android. For information on RxJava, Dan Lew’s Grokking RxJava series is an invaluable resource.

The example code from this article is open-source and accessible on GitHub. Download it, get an API key and enjoy.

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Josiah Campbell
Josiah Campbell is currently working on his BS in Computer Science at Grand Valley State University. He works as a student programmer in GVSU’s Mobile Applications and Services Lab. Among other things, Josiah recently implemented the current Android version of GVSU’s official Laker Mobile app.


    • Chris Carr
    • June 14, 2016
    • Reply

    Have you had much trouble debugging RxJava?

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