December 21, 2017 // 11:14 a.m.
Advertising giant Google has warned developers targeting its Linux-based Android mobile platform that they will need to start building 64-bit binaries as part of a move towards devices which exclusively execute 64-bit code.
Launched in 2014, Android 5.0 'Lollipop' was the first version of Google's mobile platform to include support for 64-bit devices. The vast majority of mobile system-on-chips (SoCs) driving smartphones, tablets, and the like were at the time 32-bit, but in the years since manufacturers have begun to ship 64-bit products. As in the PC world, 64-bit mobile chips are easily capable of running 32-bit code leaving developers with the option of doing nothing and continuing to provide exclusively 32-bit programs - an option Google is to take away.
'Platform support for 64-bit architectures was introduced in Android 5.0. Today, over 40 percent of Android devices coming online have 64-bit support, while still maintaining 32-bit compatibility,' explains Google's Edward Cunningham in the company's announcement. 'For apps that use native libraries, 64-bit code typically offers significantly better performance, with additional registers and new instructions. In anticipation of future Android devices that support 64-bit code only, the Play Console will require that new apps and app updates are able to run on devices without 32-bit support. Apps that include a 32-bit library will need to have a 64-bit alternative – either within the same APK or as one of the multiple APKs published. Apps that do not include native code are unaffected.'
Developers have time to get their house in order, though: Google is targeting an August 2019 launch for the 64-bit requirement, suggesting that the first 64-bit-only Android devices wouldn't hit the market until early 2020 at the earliest.