The Android Runtime (ART) is responsible for literally running applications on the OS and has been updated via Google Play system updates since Android 12. Google today shared the latest on ART and upcoming enhancements.
ART is the engine behind the Android operating system (OS). It provides the runtime and core APIs that all apps and most OS services rely on. Both Java and Kotlin are compiled down to bytecode executed by ART.
ART updates result in faster app startup times, execution speed, improved memory usage, and more efficient bytecode compilation, as well as security fixes. With the latest ART 13 update, runtime and compiler optimizations resulted in app startup time “improvements of up to 30% on some devices.”
Behind the scenes, “ART is the same for all devices” and:
The ART APEX module is a complex piece of software with an order of magnitude more APIs than any other APEX module. It also backs a quarter of the developer APIs available in the Android SDK. In addition, ART has a compiler that aims to make the most of the underlying hardware by generating chipset-specific instructions, such as Arm SVE.
The testing process for Android Runtime updates involves “compiling over 18 million APKs and running app compatibility tests, and startup, performance, and memory benchmarks on a variety of Android devices that replicate the diversity of our ecosystem as closely as possible.” There’s then a very gradual rollout process.
Google also notes developer improvements with every update “like OpenJDK improvements and compiler optimisations that benefit both Java and Kotlin,” with ART 13 resulting in the “fastest-ever adoption of a new OpenJDK  release on Android devices.”
ART 14 is rolling out “in the coming months” with “new compiler and runtime optimizations that improve performance while reducing code size,” as well as OpenJDK 17. Additionally:
Recently, for Android 14, we refactored the interface between the Package Manager, the service that determines how to install and update apps, and ART. This moves the OS boundary from the ART dex2oat command line to a well-defined interface that enables future optimizations, such as finer-grained control over the compilation mode.
ART updates via Google Play system updates are available on Android 12 and newer. Google today mentioned that these updates will “soon” be available for Android Go.
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