Understanding the Observer Pattern in Android Development

Understanding the Observer Pattern in Android Development


The Observer Pattern is a behavioral design pattern that defines a one-to-many relationship between objects, ensuring that when one object changes state, all its dependents are notified and updated automatically. This pattern is particularly useful in Android development, where it can help manage and simplify complex interactions between different components of an app. In this blog, we will delve into the Observer Pattern, exploring its implementation in Android, use cases, and benefits.

What is the Observer Pattern?

The Observer Pattern is a software design pattern in which an object, known as the subject, maintains a list of its dependents, called observers. The subject notifies these observers of any state changes, typically by calling one of their methods. This pattern promotes loose coupling and allows for dynamic subscription and notification mechanisms.

Key Components

  • Subject: The object that holds the state and notifies observers about changes.

  • Observer: The objects that watch for changes in the subject.

  • ConcreteSubject: The specific implementation of the subject that changes state.

  • ConcreteObserver: The specific implementation of an observer that gets notified about changes.

The Observer Pattern in Android

In Android, the Observer Pattern is widely used in various frameworks and libraries, such as LiveData, RxJava, and ViewModel. These frameworks simplify the process of observing data changes and updating the UI accordingly.

LiveData and ViewModel

LiveData and ViewModel are part of Android Jetpack, a suite of libraries to help developers follow best practices and write robust apps. LiveData is an observable data holder class, and ViewModel is a class designed to store and manage UI-related data in a lifecycle-conscious way.

  • LiveData: An observable data holder class. LiveData is lifecycle-aware, meaning it respects the lifecycle of other app components, such as activities, fragments, or services.

  • ViewModel: Designed to store and manage UI-related data in a lifecycle-conscious way. ViewModels survive configuration changes like screen rotations, making them ideal for managing UI-related data.

Implementing the Observer Pattern in Android

Step-by-Step Implementation

  1. Create the Subject (Observable)

     import java.util.Observable
     class DataRepository : Observable() {
         var data: String? = null
             set(value) {
                 field = value
  2. Create the Observer

     import java.util.Observer
     class DataObserver : Observer {
         override fun update(o: Observable?, arg: Any?) {
             if (o is DataRepository) {
                 println("Data updated: $arg")
  3. Connect the Observer to the Observable

     class MainActivity : AppCompatActivity() {
         private lateinit var dataRepository: DataRepository
         private lateinit var dataObserver: DataObserver
         override fun onCreate(savedInstanceState: Bundle?) {
             dataRepository = DataRepository()
             dataObserver = DataObserver()
             // Update data
             dataRepository.data = "New Data"

Practical Use Cases in Android

  • LiveData and ViewModel: LiveData automatically notifies observers (usually UI controllers like activities and fragments) when data changes.

  • RxJava: Allows the implementation of reactive programming, where you can observe changes in data streams and react accordingly.

  • EventBus: A library that simplifies communication between different components of an Android app using the Observer Pattern.

  • Custom Implementations: For specific use cases where standard libraries may not suffice.

Advantages of Using the Observer Pattern

  • Decoupling: Observers are loosely coupled to the subject, allowing for greater flexibility and easier maintenance.

  • Dynamic Relationships: Observers can subscribe or unsubscribe to the subject at runtime, providing dynamic interaction.

  • Reusability: Common observer logic can be reused across different parts of the application.

  • Code Readability and Maintainability: Clear separation of concerns leads to more readable and maintainable code.


The Observer Pattern is a powerful design pattern that plays a crucial role in Android development. By understanding and implementing this pattern, developers can create more robust, maintainable, and scalable applications. Whether through built-in frameworks like LiveData and ViewModel or through custom implementations, leveraging the Observer Pattern can significantly enhance the responsiveness and user experience of Android applications.

By using the Observer Pattern effectively, you can ensure that your application components communicate seamlessly and react promptly to data changes, providing a smoother and more dynamic user experience.