Over the last few weeks, I’ve been learning the Android SDK in an effort to bring Layers to Android devices. It’s going pretty well, but every once and a while I run into a truly WTF moment.

Tonight I was importing some images from the iPhone version of Layers when I noticed that Android seems to visibly reduce the quality of PNG files at compile time. In images with fine gradients, smooth color transitions, or very light shadows you tend to get banding. It almost looks like the image were being converted to a GIF file.

I figured it’d be easy to fix. Go into Eclipse, right click on everything, look in menus… repeat… profit! Unfortunately, it seems there’s no way to turn off compression for specific file or choose a non-lossy compression method. However, I found this gem of a solution in the Android Widget Design Guidelines:

“To reduce banding when exporting a widget, apply the following Photoshop Add Noise setting to your graphic.”

Um… what now?

It turns out, you can get around the compression algorithm by adding a small amount of pixel noise to your images. It’s mostly invisible, and it prevents the compression from producing obvious bands.

It’s an instant fix, but I almost laughed out loud. Seriously? This is the documented solution? *sigh*.