Google’s Android L Ups Runtime, Power, and Visuals for Developers
Google’s planned Android L release, revealed Wednesday at the Google I/O Conference, will give developers a smorgasbord of new capabilities to work with, including a faster runtime and enhancements for battery life and visual effects.
Featuring more than 5,000 APIs, Android L supports 64-bit processing, bringing Android to parity with Apple’s iOS 7. And it’s designed to run across a wide range of devices, not just smartphones and tablets.
Google has also rethought Android’s user appeal with its “material design” style that incorporates advanced graphics capabilities via Google’s Polymer, a Web component framework for building HTML design elements for use across mobile and desktop devices. Screen elements can expand, reform, and reshape intelligently, and animations can run at 60 frames per second.
Android L runs exclusively on the Art runtime, which is the focus of Google’s efforts to improve Android performance, said Dave Burke, senior director of engineering for Android at Google. Supporting ahead-of-time and just-in-time compilation and interpreted code, Art offers improved memory efficiency and supports ARM, x86, and MIPS hardware. Back-end compilers were optimized, resulting in a two-fold performance improvement over the previous Dalvik virtual machine, which is the subject of a five-year legal fight between Oracle and Google. Applications inherit Art’s performance improvement without developers having to make any code changes.
A new garbage collector and memory allocator in Art reduce pauses and the duration of pauses associated with a garbage collection event, resulting in improved application performance, Google says. To improve GPU performance, L offers the Android Extension Pack, which features tessellation, geometry shaders, compute shaders, and advanced adaptive scalable texture compression. “Quite literally, this is PC gaming graphics in your pocket,” said Burke. At its WWDC conference last months, Apple unveiled its own gaming-quality graphics engine, called Metal.
Android L gives developers 3D support and lets them specify elevation values for screen surfaces. “We’re giving designers familiar tools like baseline grids that work across screens,” with developers able to start design on a phone and bring that same design to tablets and laptops, said Google’s Matias Duarte, vice president for design.
Android L also features a new keyboard UI.
Google said battery life would be a major theme at Google I/O, and Android L addresses that issue with Project Volta. Developers can use a tool called Battery Historian to correlate battery discharge with what was happening on the device, and a new job scheduler API optimizes power consumption in applications by allowing the platform to coalesce nonurgent network requests from multiple applications. A battery-saver mode in L allows for power conservation by turning off background data; this mode can be triggered manually or configured to come on automatically.
A developer preview SDK of Android L is available at the Android developer site, and devices using it are anticipated for release this fall.