Google today released the x86 64-bit Android L developer preview emulator image, allowing developers to start testing their 64-bit apps. You can download the emulator image now from the Android SDK Manager.
As Google notes, building 64-bit apps on Android enables developers to access more addressable memory space, a larger number of registers, and new instruction sets. The company elaborates:
Apps built in Java will automatically gain these benefits, with no changes to existing code. Apps built on other languages, built with the Android NDK r10b, can compile for 64-bit architectures to access the features listed above. 64-bit apps can be built by including x86_64 in the build target or use the catch all APP_ABI=all64 in your Application.mk.
While one can certainly expect security and performance benefits for the user, it’s way too early to say just how much of an impact 64-bit apps will have.
Android L, the successor to KitKat that doesn’t yet have a full dessert name, will be able to run apps on the new ART runtime, which replaces the Dalvik virtual machine Android currently relies on. ART should let apps run faster and smoother and is designed to handle more processor types, including ARM, x86, and MIPS chips. Most importantly for today’s news, it can take advantage of 64-bit chips.
Google first launched the developer preview for Android L back in June and said the final release is slated for “this fall.” The company also revealed its new Material design language, which spans not only Android, but anywhere Google offers its apps and services.