Google I/O is coming next week. With it is the likely release of Android 4.5, a release that sources say will potentially speed up Android apps, but may also bloat their installation size. The speed comes from replacing Dalvik with a new technology called ART.
Dalvik and ART serve as the part of Android that compiles Android apps so they will run on phones or tablets. When a user taps the Netflix icon on their smartphone or tablet, the person unknowingly uses Dalvik in Android 4.4 Kitkat. The technology takes the code an app developer writes and makes it work with the phone’s hardware and the Android Operating system.
A new technology called ART, which stands for Android Runtime, will replace Dalvik. Its chief benefit will come when a user taps to open Netflix: ART will already have prepared the app to run. Dalvik uses something called a “Just In Time” compiler, which compiles or converts the code to run on Android every time the user taps the app icon. This happens pretty swiftly, so most of us don’t notice. But who doesn’t like more speed?
In Android 4.5 Google will swap out Dalvik with ART, which uses an “Ahead of Time” compiler. This makes the app code ready to run the moment the user installs the app on their phone or tablet, instead of waiting until the user taps on the app icon. Removing that step of compiling the app each time someone taps the icon will save some time, speeding things up in a noticeable way.
The speed increase comes at an expense. Apps already compiled with ART will take up more space, as the process of compiling the code makes the installed app larger.
We learned of the change from XDA Developers writer Will Verdure, who perused the AOSP Code Review site and found a couple of posts about the changes. AOSP stands for Android Open Source Project. It’s where the people involved with creating Android hangout and discuss their work. One comment, and another, at AOSP said the new ART code merged into Android in time for Android 4.5, which Google will release at Google I/O next week.
This change won’t bring smiles to all Android users. First, people using a phone or tablet with a limited amount of storage will experience cramped storage just by upgrading to the new version of Android 4.5. Apps will need to get an update to take advantage of the speed increases, but this will increase their storage size too.
Moving apps to an external memory card might not help, either. Android doesn’t play well with external micro-SD cards for storing anything other than media, unless the user roots their device and hacks the system into using the card for apps. Even then the apps sometimes become unstable as a result of moving them over.
Second, not many devices will get Android 4.5 for a long time. Google Nexus devices will likely get the upgrade within a few weeks. Phones bought in the Google Play Store, like the Google Play Editions of the HTC One, LG G Pad 8.3 or Samsung Galaxy S4, should get the update next after the Nexus devices. All other devices won’t see Android 4.5 for months, if they ever get the update at all.
Device manufacturers will need time to develop their launcher software to work with it first. Samsung Touchwiz and HTC Sense sit on top of Android and control the phone’s user-interface. Samsung devices probably won’t update any of their phones until they release an Android 4.5 version of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 expected this fall. Samsung probably won’t update anything other than the Samsung Galaxy S5 and maybe their new Galaxy Tab S tablets this year.
HTC may update the HTC One M8, and we’ve seen rumors that they might build the next Nexus tablet, so we might see 4.5 on their devices sooner than Samsung if past experience helps predict what will happen this time.
After the device makers release 4.5 for their phones, then AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile and other mobile carriers will work with the update to make it compatible on their networks and with the apps they pre-install on phones. Some Wi-Fi-only tablets might receive an update sooner than LTE versions since they don’t need to go through the carrier testing phase.
As always, GottaBeMobile will stay on top of updates when we learn news of which devices get which versions. Check back after Google I/O when the news will become clearer. Hopefully device manufacturers and wireless carriers will announce when their devices will get updated and which ones will get it. Some older devices will not see the update at all.