One of the changes that Android has been confirmed to receive several months ago was the addition of a brand new runtime, and it seems that the platform is finally ready to take this step.Android’s runtime, Dalvik, is currently seen as very old, and the platform has been long said to need a refresh, one that arrives in the form of ART (or Android Runtime).
ART has been included in Android 4.4 KitKat last year, but Google hasn’t made the switch to the newer runtime compiler as of now.
However, it appears that the next flavor of Android will make this change, as new commits made to the AOSP master branch have already confirmed that Dalvik has been officially replaced with ART as the default runtime in Android.
Two merged commits in AOSP point in this direction, namely 98553 and 98618, and the former appears to be the one responsible for killing Dalvik in the AOSP master branch.
Moreover, the latter is the one that makes the switch to ART as the default runtime compiler in the mobile operating system, as a post on XDA-Developers points out. Here’s what commit 98553 reads:
“Dalvik is dead, long live Dalvik!
repo start dalvik-is-dead-long-live-dalvik .
repo sync -c .
git rm -r libdvm
git add JavaLibrary.mk (after removing libdvm references, adding explict core-libart references)
git add Docs.mk (after replacing references to libdvm with libart)
git add benchmarks/Android.mk (after adding explict core-libart references)
git add Android.mk (after removing dalvik-host target)
git commit -a -m 'Dalvik is dead, long live Dalvik! DO NOT MERGE'”
As for the second commit that confirms the change, namely 98618, it reads the following: “Switch from core to core-libart.”
What these changes mean is the fact that the next version of Android will arrive on devices with the aforementioned ART runtime packed inside, though no specific info on what version of Android that would be has emerged as of now.
There will be a great deal of benefits coming from this change, as applications are expected to perform much faster than before on all devices running under the new platforms of Android.
As PhoneArena notes, the older Dalvik runtime uses Just-In-Time (JIT) code compiling, which means that code is processed when the application needs it. ART, however, uses Ahead-Of-Time (AOT) compiling, which means that code is run before it is needed.
ART will indeed provide users with improved performance capabilities, but it appears that all depends on whether developers have built their apps so as to take advantage of the new runtime or not.
To try out ART at the moment, all you need is a smartphone that runs under Android 4.4 KitKat or higher platform iterations. However, it seems that custom OEM flavors of Android (such as Samsung TouchWiz, HTC Sense) are not compatible with ART.