New Android L preview image greenlights 64-bit apps

Google has just given the go signal for developers to start giving some thought to making their apps 64-bit ready in time for the next Android release. This comes with the release of a new emulator image for Android L preview, confirming that the next Android version will indeed be ready for a 64-bit mobile world. Whether that will translate into something that end users will actually be able to notice and appreciate will largely depend on the marriage between the software and the hardware.

While already banal on the desktop, the 64-bit CPU architecture isn't as widespread on mobile devices, especially in consumer products. While there have definitely been 64-bit CPUs in some corners of this tech sector, the topic was only recently pushed to the forefront when Apple revealed its own 64-bit A7 chip on the iPhone 5s last year. This sparked some hype around the technology and has pushed chip makers such as Qualcomm and Samsung to express interest in it as well.

But 64-bit hardware is only half the equation in the overall experience. Software must also be designed to take advantage of that new architecture. Being based on Linux, Android already has the foundation for 64-bit compatibility, but the platform itself wasn't formally ready. At least until now. With the announcement of the new Android L image, Google is also putting out a call to developers to make sure that their own apps are ready for the transition. An Android app that is 64-bit ready will be able to access more memory space, theoretically larger than 4 GB, if our mobile devices ever reach that number, new 64-bit specific instruction sets, and a larger number of hardware CPU registers (very small, but very fast storage space on the CPU).

Developers whose apps are written completely in Java won't even have to lift a finger, considering the programming language's partly interpreted nature. Those using other languages, especially C and C++, will have to perform some steps to build against the new Android NDK or Native Development Kit, now also updated for 64-bit. With 64-bit support in Android L now all but confirmed, all that's left is for device makers to start shipping with the appropriate hardware and this upcoming version of Android before we can truly feel the benefits of a 64-bit world in our pockets.

SOURCE: +Google