I'm looking to make a service which I can use to make calls to a web-based REST API.

Basically I want to start a service on app init then I want to be able to ask that service to request a url and return the results. In the meantime I want to be able to display a progress window or something similar.

I've created a service currently which uses IDL, I've read somewhere that you only really need this for cross app communication, so think these needs stripping out but unsure how to do callbacks without it. Also when I hit the post(Config.getURL("login"), values) the app seems to pause for a while (seems weird - thought the idea behind a service was that it runs on a different thread!)

Currently I have a service with post and get http methods inside, a couple of AIDL files (for two way communication), a ServiceManager which deals with starting, stopping, binding etc to the service and I'm dynamically creating a Handler with specific code for the callbacks as needed.

I don't want anyone to give me a complete code base to work on, but some pointers would be greatly appreciated.

Code in (mostly) full:

public class RestfulAPIService extends Service  {

final RemoteCallbackList<IRemoteServiceCallback> mCallbacks = new RemoteCallbackList<IRemoteServiceCallback>();

public void onStart(Intent intent, int startId) {
    super.onStart(intent, startId);
public IBinder onBind(Intent intent) {
    return binder;
public void onCreate() {
public void onDestroy() {
private final IRestfulService.Stub binder = new IRestfulService.Stub() {
    public void doLogin(String username, String password) {

        Message msg = new Message();
        Bundle data = new Bundle();
        HashMap<String, String> values = new HashMap<String, String>();
        values.put("username", username);
        values.put("password", password);
        String result = post(Config.getURL("login"), values);
        data.putString("response", result);
        msg.what = Config.ACTION_LOGIN;

    public void registerCallback(IRemoteServiceCallback cb) {
        if (cb != null)

private final Handler mHandler = new Handler() {
    public void handleMessage(Message msg) {

        // Broadcast to all clients the new value.
        final int N = mCallbacks.beginBroadcast();
        for (int i = 0; i < N; i++) {
            try {
                switch (msg.what) {
                case Config.ACTION_LOGIN:
                    mCallbacks.getBroadcastItem(i).userLogIn( msg.getData().getString("response"));

            } catch (RemoteException e) {
    public String post(String url, HashMap<String, String> namePairs) {...}
    public String get(String url) {...}

A couple of AIDL files:


oneway interface IRemoteServiceCallback {
    void userLogIn(String result);



interface IRestfulService {
    void doLogin(in String username, in String password);
    void registerCallback(IRemoteServiceCallback cb);

and the service manager:

public class ServiceManager {

    final RemoteCallbackList<IRemoteServiceCallback> mCallbacks = new RemoteCallbackList<IRemoteServiceCallback>();
    public IRestfulService restfulService;
    private RestfulServiceConnection conn;
    private boolean started = false;
    private Context context;

    public ServiceManager(Context context) {
        this.context = context;

    public void startService() {
        if (started) {
            Toast.makeText(context, "Service already started", Toast.LENGTH_SHORT).show();
        } else {
            Intent i = new Intent();
            i.setClassName("", "");
            started = true;

    public void stopService() {
        if (!started) {
            Toast.makeText(context, "Service not yet started", Toast.LENGTH_SHORT).show();
        } else {
            Intent i = new Intent();
            i.setClassName("", "");
            started = false;

    public void bindService() {
        if (conn == null) {
            conn = new RestfulServiceConnection();
            Intent i = new Intent();
            i.setClassName("", "");
            context.bindService(i, conn, Context.BIND_AUTO_CREATE);
        } else {
            Toast.makeText(context, "Cannot bind - service already bound", Toast.LENGTH_SHORT).show();

    protected void destroy() {

    private void releaseService() {
        if (conn != null) {
            conn = null;
            Log.d(LOG_TAG, "unbindService()");
        } else {
            Toast.makeText(context, "Cannot unbind - service not bound", Toast.LENGTH_SHORT).show();

    class RestfulServiceConnection implements ServiceConnection {
        public void onServiceConnected(ComponentName className, IBinder boundService) {
            restfulService = IRestfulService.Stub.asInterface((IBinder) boundService);
            try {
            } catch (RemoteException e) {}

        public void onServiceDisconnected(ComponentName className) {
            restfulService = null;

    private IRemoteServiceCallback mCallback = new IRemoteServiceCallback.Stub() {
        public void userLogIn(String result) throws RemoteException {
            mHandler.sendMessage(mHandler.obtainMessage(Config.ACTION_LOGIN, result));


    private Handler mHandler;

    public void setHandler(Handler handler) {
        mHandler = handler;

Service init and bind:

// this I'm calling on app onCreate
servicemanager = new ServiceManager(this);
application = (ApplicationState)this.getApplication();

service function call:

// this lot i'm calling as required - in this example for login
progressDialog = new ProgressDialog(Login.this);
progressDialog.setMessage("Logging you in...");;

application = (ApplicationState) getApplication();
servicemanager = application.getServiceManager();

try {
    servicemanager.restfulService.doLogin(args[0], args[1]);
} catch (RemoteException e) {

...later in the same file...

Handler mHandler = new Handler() {
    public void handleMessage(Message msg) {

        switch (msg.what) {
        case Config.ACTION_LOGIN:

            if (progressDialog.isShowing()) {

            try {
                ...process login results...
            } catch (JSONException e) {
                Log.e("JSON", "There was an error parsing the JSON", e);



Solution 1

If your service is going to be part of you application then you are making it way more complex than it needs to be. Since you have a simple use case of getting some data from a RESTful Web Service, you should look into ResultReceiver and IntentService.

This Service + ResultReceiver pattern works by starting or binding to the service with startService() when you want to do some action. You can specify the operation to perform and pass in your ResultReceiver (the activity) through the extras in the Intent.

In the service you implement onHandleIntent to do the operation that is specified in the Intent. When the operation is completed you use the passed in ResultReceiver to send a message back to the Activity at which point onReceiveResult will be called.

So for example, you want to pull some data from your Web Service.

  1. You create the intent and call startService.
  2. The operation in the service starts and it sends the activity a message saying it started
  3. The activity processes the message and shows a progress.
  4. The service finishes the operation and sends some data back to your activity.
  5. Your activity processes the data and puts in in a list view
  6. The service sends you a message saying that it is done, and it kills itself.
  7. The activity gets the finish message and hides the progress dialog.

I know you mentioned you didn't want a code base but the open source Google I/O 2010 app uses a service in this way I am describing.

Updated to add sample code:

The activity.

public class HomeActivity extends Activity implements MyResultReceiver.Receiver {

    public MyResultReceiver mReceiver;

    public void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
        mReceiver = new MyResultReceiver(new Handler());
        final Intent intent = new Intent(Intent.ACTION_SYNC, null, this, QueryService.class);
        intent.putExtra("receiver", mReceiver);
        intent.putExtra("command", "query");

    public void onPause() {
        mReceiver.setReceiver(null); // clear receiver so no leaks.

    public void onReceiveResult(int resultCode, Bundle resultData) {
        switch (resultCode) {
        case RUNNING:
            //show progress
        case FINISHED:
            List results = resultData.getParcelableList("results");
            // do something interesting
            // hide progress
        case ERROR:
            // handle the error;

The Service:

public class QueryService extends IntentService {
    protected void onHandleIntent(Intent intent) {
        final ResultReceiver receiver = intent.getParcelableExtra("receiver");
        String command = intent.getStringExtra("command");
        Bundle b = new Bundle();
        if(command.equals("query") {
            receiver.send(STATUS_RUNNING, Bundle.EMPTY);
            try {
                // get some data or something           
                b.putParcelableArrayList("results", results);
                receiver.send(STATUS_FINISHED, b)
            } catch(Exception e) {
                b.putString(Intent.EXTRA_TEXT, e.toString());
                receiver.send(STATUS_ERROR, b);

ResultReceiver extension - edited about to implement MyResultReceiver.Receiver

public class MyResultReceiver implements ResultReceiver {
    private Receiver mReceiver;

    public MyResultReceiver(Handler handler) {

    public void setReceiver(Receiver receiver) {
        mReceiver = receiver;

    public interface Receiver {
        public void onReceiveResult(int resultCode, Bundle resultData);

    protected void onReceiveResult(int resultCode, Bundle resultData) {
        if (mReceiver != null) {
            mReceiver.onReceiveResult(resultCode, resultData);

Solution 2

Developing Android REST client applications has been an awesome resource for me. The speaker does not show any code, he just goes over design considerations and techniques in putting together a rock solid Rest Api in android. If your a podcast kinda person or not, I'd recommend giving this one at least one listen but, personally I've listened to it like 4 or five times thus far and I'm probably going to listen to it again.

Developing Android REST client applications
Author: Virgil Dobjanschi

This session will present architectural considerations for developing RESTful applications on the Android platform. It focuses on design patterns, platform integration and performance issues specific to the Android platform.

And there are so many considerations I really hadn't made in the first version of my api that I've had to refactor

Solution 3

Also when I hit the post(Config.getURL("login"), values) the app seems to pause for a while (seems weird - thought the idea behind a service was that it runs on a different thread!)

No you have to create a thread yourself, a Local service runs in the UI thread by default.

Solution 4

I know @Martyn does not want full code, but I think this annotation its good for this question:

10 Open Source Android Apps which every Android developer must look into

Foursquared for Android is open-source, and have an interesting code pattern interacting with the foursquare REST API.

Solution 5

I would highly recommend the REST client Retrofit.

I have found this well written blog post extremely helpful, it also contains simple example code. The author uses Retrofit to make the network calls and Otto to implement a data bus pattern:

Solution 6

Just wanted to point you all in the direction of an standalone class I rolled that incorporates all of the functionality.

It executes the request as non-blocking, and returns the results in an easy to implement handler. Even comes with an example implementation.

Solution 7

Lets say I want to start the service on an event - onItemClicked() of a button. The Receiver mechanism would not work in that case because :-
a) I passed the Receiver to the service (as in Intent extra) from onItemClicked()
b) Activity moves to the background. In onPause() I set the receiver reference within the ResultReceiver to null to avoid leaking the Activity.
c) Activity gets destroyed.
d) Activity gets created again. However at this point the Service will not be able to make a callback to the Activity as that receiver reference is lost.
The mechanism of a limited broadcast or a PendingIntent seems to be more usefull in such scenarios- refer to Notify activity from service

Solution 8

Note that the solution from Robby Pond is somehow lacking: in this way you only allow todo one api call at a time since the IntentService only handles one intent at a time. Often you want to perform parallel api calls. If you want todo this you have to extend Service instead of IntentService and create your own thread.

Solution 9

Also when I hit the post(Config.getURL("login"), values) the app seems to pause for a while (seems weird - thought the idea behind a service was that it runs on a different thread!)

In this case its better to use asynctask, which runs on a different thread and return result back to the ui thread on completion.

Solution 10

Robby provides a great answer, though I can see you still looking for more information. I implemented REST api calls the easy BUT wrong way. It wasn't until watching this Google I/O video that I understood where I went wrong. It's not as simple as putting together an AsyncTask with a HttpUrlConnection get/put call.

Solution 11

There is another approach here which basically helps you to forget about the whole management of the requests. It is based on an async queue method and a callable/callback based response. The main advantage is that by using this method you'll be able to make the whole process (request, get and parse response, sabe to db) completely transparent for you. Once you get the response code the work is already done. After that you just need to make a call to your db and you are done. It helps as well with the problematic of what happens when your activity is not active. What will happen here is that you'll have all your data saved in your local database but the response won't be processed by your activity, that's the ideal way.