Mastering Database Storage and Retrieval in Android

Abbas Suterwala

Data has always been the most important part of any mobile application. Developers need to store substantial amounts of data in an organized fashion in order for their apps to be truly valuable to their users. In Android, you can store your data using quite a few different methods, both in active memory and in written files. Many apps also have a remote web service that provide the data for the app in question. Android also supports data storage in a local database, and the operating system provides a good infrastructure for storing and retrieving data. In most cases, the most simple and straightforward way to acquire and preserve user data is via SQLite databases.


SQLite is a relational database technology that’s used most often when the developer requires an embedded database in a small system. SQLite is included with the Android system and can be easily used in your Android app. For more details on SQLite, you can visit and

Creating a Database in Android

In order to write data to a database, we need to create our database first. To create a database in SQLite in Android, you need to create a subclass of the class SQLiteOpenHelper. This class provides the functionality to create a database and calls a function that can be overridden by the derived class. The SQLiteOpenHelper constructor accepts four arguments, which are

  1. Context – This is the context that will be used to create the database. (Here you can pass the Activity object.)
  2. Name – The name of the new database file.
  3. Factory – A cursor factory (you can usually pass this as null)
  4. Version – The version of the database. This number is used to identify if there is an upgrade or downgrade of the database.

Below, we I’ve created a class (MyDatabaseHelper) that is going to derive from SQLiteOpenHelper:

public class MyDatabaseHelper extends SQLiteOpenHelper{

private static final String DATABASE_NAME="MyFriendsDatabase";

public MyDatabaseHelper(Context context) {

super(context, DATABASE_NAME, null, 1);



public void onCreate(SQLiteDatabase database) {

database.execSQL("CREATE TABLE friends (_id INTEGER PRIMARY KEY AUTOINCREMENT, name TEXT, phonenumber INTEGER);");



public void onUpgrade(SQLiteDatabase db, int oldVersion, int newVersion) {

db.execSQL("DROP TABLE IF EXISTS friends");




In the constructor above, we pass the name of the database that we want to create called as “MyFriendsDatabase.” We also override the following methods:


This method is called when we create the database. It is passed the SQLiteDatabase reference, which we can use to perform various operations on the database. In this method, we use the function execSQL to execute an SQL query to create a table called “friends,” which has three columns. The first column, (_id) is required to generate a unique id for each column. This is necessary in case you are going to use classes like SimpleCursorAdapter (more on this later in the article). The second and third columns (name and phone number) are the data fields that we actually want to store.


This method is called whenever the database is upgraded. In this method, SQLiteDatabase and the oldVersion number and newVersion number are passed.

In this function, we simply drop the “friends” table if it exists and create a new one, but there could be more complex logic based on the tables you are creating in the database and what you would want to happen on an upgrade.

Adding Values within the Database

Once the database is created, now let’s examine how we can add values to the database. We are going to use the insert function on the SQLiteDatabase class. The insert function takes three arguments: the name of the table in which to insert values, the name of one of the column of the table, and a reference to a ContentValues

In class MyDatabaseHelper below, we will write a function to insert values into the database.

public void addFriend(String name,int phonenumber)


ContentValues values=new ContentValues(2);

values.put("name", name);

values.put("phonenumber", phonenumber);

getWritableDatabase().insert("friends", "name", values);


In this function, we take the input arguments as the name and the phonenumber. Then, we create a new object of ContentValues, we put the values for name and phonenumber within that new object. Once we have done that, we get the SQLiteDatabase reference for writing using the function getWritableDatabase, which is a member of SQLiteOpenHelper. Once we have the reference of the SQLiteDatabase, we call the insert function, which takes the arguments as the table name, one of the columns of the table, and the ContentValues. This will enter a new row in your friends database table.

If I want to use MyDatabaseHelper to create a database and add some data values, the code would be as follows:

public void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {



databaseHelper = new MyDatabaseHelper(this);

databaseHelper.addFriend("Abbas", 987);

databaseHelper.addFriend("John", 9877);

databaseHelper.addFriend("Michael", 8334);


Here in our activity, we create a new object (MyDatabaseHelper) and then add some values in the table by calling the function addFriend.

Running Raw Queries on a Database

Once we have added the data into the database, we will now see how the data can be retrieved. To retrieve the data, there are two possible methods.

Runing a raw SQL query

We can directly run an SQL query like SELECTto retrieve the records from the database.

To run a raw SQL query, you have the function rawQuery, which takes the SQL statement as a string as its first parameter and the selection arguments as its second parameter. So, if we have to write a function in MyDatabaseHelper to retrieve all records from table friends, it would be as follows:

public Cursor getFriends()


Cursor cursor = getReadableDatabase().rawQuery("select * from friends", null);

return cursor;


To Run Queries on Database

We can also run queries on the database using the function query on the SQLiteDatabase. The query function lets you query on one table and also specify some selection and ordering criteria. The query function takes several arguments: the name of the table, the name of the columns of the table to retrieve, the selection criteria, the arguments for selection criteria, the group by clause, the having clause, the order by clause, and the limit.

If we have to write the same function above to retrieve all friends using query, it would be as follows:

public Cursor getFriends()


Cursor cursor = getReadableDatabase().query("friends",

new String[] { "_id", "name", "phonenumber"},

null, null, null, null, null);

return cursor;


The Database Cursor

The result of a query is returned in form of a Cursor object, which basically helps by caching the result of the query in an efficient way and providing functions to access the data.

If we want to fetch the data of all friends from the Cursor returned by the getFriends function, we would write the following code:

Cursor AllFriends = databaseHelper.getFriends();


while (!AllFriends.isAfterLast()) {

String Name = AllFriends.getString(1);

int number = AllFriends.getInt(2);



The cursor has functions such as moveToFirst, which moves the cursor to the first record, moveToNext, which moves the cursor to the next record, and isAfterLast, which checks if the Cursor has moved passed the last record.

The cursor also has functions like getInt, getString, etc., which take the index of the column and return the value.

Deleting Values from the Database

To delete values from the database, you can either run raw query or use the delete function on SQLiteDatabase. The delete function takes three arguments: the table name, the where clause, and the where clause arguments. The function to delete all values from the database is as follows:

public void deleteAll()


getWritableDatabase().delete("friends", null, null);


Using Cursor Adapter to Display Data Values.

Android provides us with Cursor adapters, which let us attach a cursor with a ListView. The class SimpleCursorAdapter is one of these adapters, and it’s quite useful. If we want to show the list of friends in a list view, the code would be as follows:

Cursor AllFriends = databaseHelper.getFriends();

String[] from = { "name", "phonenumber" };

int[] to = {, };

ListAdapter adapter=new SimpleCursorAdapter(this,android.R.layout.simple_list_item_2,


, from,


ListView myList=(ListView)findViewById(;


Once we do this, the list of friends will appear on the Android device as shown below.


Data is the most important part of today’s competitive apps. A well-built app must store and retrieve data efficiently and with ease, so that it can function smoothly and please users. Android provides several forms of good support to store data in databases for your Android apps. It provides all the functionality to create and update SQLite databases and database tables. Make sure to make the most of it when designing your next Android app!

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