I have recently had the chance to get stuck back into some native Android development. One of the things I really enjoy about working with the Android framework is that I get the chance to explore new patterns, and patterns that I have used before for Ruby, but not yet in Java.

One of these new patterns is the idea of a broadcast receiver. Broadcast receivers are a core part of the Android framework, however receivers are triggered outside the cotext of an application activity or fragment, so it can be a little unclear how to trigger something to happen in an activity (such as updating a UI component) when an intent is received.

The best example of this pattern is a code snippet. The following class is one I added to the NZSL Dictionary Android application. It registers and receives intents from the DownloadManager system component - specifically, when a download completes with a success or failure state (DownloadManager.ACTION_DOWNLOAD_COMPLETED), or when the notification that the system shows when the download is completed is clicked (DownloadManager.ACTION_NOTIFICATION_CLICKED).

public class DownloadReceiver {
    private DownloadCallback callback;

    private BroadcastReceiver receiver = new BroadcastReceiver() {
        public void onReceive(Context context, Intent intent) {
            if (callback == null) return;
            String action = intent.getAction();

            switch (intent.getAction()) {
                case DownloadManager.ACTION_NOTIFICATION_CLICKED:
                case DownloadManager.ACTION_DOWNLOAD_COMPLETE:

    public void registerContext(Context context, DownloadCallback callback) {
        this.callback = callback;
        IntentFilter filter = new IntentFilter();
        context.registerReceiver(receiver, filter);

    public void unregisterContext(Context context) {
        callback = null;

    public interface DownloadCallback {
        void onDownloadCompleted();
        void onDownloadNotificationClicked();

This class exposes two core methods - registerContext and unregisterContext. These methods are intended to be connected to the lifecycle methods of an activity or fragment - specifically, onPause and onResume.

registerContext accepts two arguments - the context to use, and the callback class implementing the DownloadCallback interface. These arguments can normally be set to the same value - the activity or fragment wanting to receive messages when a relevant download action occurs.

unregisterContext simply accepts a the single context to use to disable the broadcast receiver. No AndroidManifest.xml changes are necessary, since the receiver is connected and disconnected as registerContext and unregisterContext are called.

Within the broadcast receiver, it is also possible to do something else with the value, such as caching it in a class-private field so that registerContext can return a value immediately to the subscriber without waiting for the broadcast intent to be triggered. An example of when I have found this useful is in a NetworkManager, to detect whether there is an active internet connection or not.

The main reason I like this pattern is that it abstracts away just about any kind of behaviour that may be received from a broadcast intent. This can be more than just system broadcasts, as other apps can also emit intents that can be listened for and intercepted.

When an intent is received by a class following this pattern, it can be parsed, validated, and otherwise repackaged before being passed to the subscribing class via a consistent interface that is abstracted away from exactly how the data was received. Nice!