Android L 64bit Emulator Available
Written by Mike James   
Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Google has released a 64-bit emulator image for the forthcoming Android L - but only for the Intel x86  chip. Where is ARM 64-bit?

The new emulator will allow developers to build or optimize older apps for the upcoming Android L OS and its new 64-bit architecture.


Moving to 64-bit increases the addressable memory space, allows a larger number of registers and new instructions sets for developers but the app isn't necessarily faster. 

Apps built on Java will automatically gain the benefits of 64-bit because their byte code will be interpreted by the new ART VM which is 64-bit. Which also implies that no changes to pure Java apps are necessary. Those built on the Android NDK will need some optimization to include the x86_64 build target. Intel has advice on how to go about porting code that targets ARM to x86/x64.

Using the new emulator, developers will only be able to create apps for Intel's ATOM-based chips so the real question is where is the ARM 64-bit emulator and associated support? 

Apple made a lot of fuss about moving to 64-bit with its ARM A7 SOC and Google has emphasised the fact that Android L is 64-bit capable.

With most Android devices running on ARM and not Intel architecture you have to wonder why it is that the first 64-bit emulator is for Intel chips? Part of the reason is perhaps the strategy that Intel has been applying to get its products into the mobile market. By providing developers with good system support, particularly its HAXM accelerator and a range of Atom OS images, many an Android programmer regularly tests on emulated Intel architecture even though most of their deployment is to ARM devices.

As well as the new emulator there is a 64-bit upgrade to the HAXM accelerator which should make it even more attractive. To quote Intel:

"This commitment is evident not only in the delivery of the industry’s first 64-bit emulator image for Intel architecture, and 64-bit Intel HAXM within the Android L Developer Preview SDK, but also in many other innovations along the way such as the first 64-bit kernel for Android KitKat earlier this year, the 64-bit Android Native Development Kit (NDK), and other 64-bit advancements over the last decade."

Could it be be that a change to Intel archecture might happen as part of the change from 32-bit mobile to 64-bit mobile? 

There is a clear advantage in just building a single device that can run Android or Window 10 say and Microsoft would be relieved not to have to pursue WindowsRT any more. 

It clearly depends on what the hardware manufacturers do and this probably is a function of what pricing Intel offers on the chips.

What is certain is that if an architecture flip does occur, most of us will be mentally well prepared by Intel's efforts.  




More Information

Android Developers

Extending our 64-Bit Leadership with Android

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 14 October 2014 )