The team at Linaro – an open-source nonprofit organization founded in 2010 by a consortium of hardware and software companies including ARM, Samsung, TI, and Canonical in order to research maximizing the efficiency of Linux on ARM processors and more – has tweaked the vanilla Android 4.0 code with amazing results. A demo at Linaro Connect Q2, 2012 in Hong Kong saw Android engineer at Linaro, Bernhard Rosenkränzer, demonstrate 30%-100% optimization of tweaked code over a stock Android Open Source Project installation on a 3D graphics benchmark. Watch the video here. Rosenkränzer explains that the improvement in performance is largely due to the use of a new compiler version along with tweaks to the operating system. “Another thing is that we’re using the Linaro Android system, which has been optimized a lot,” he said. “Just this week, we replaced all the string operations in Bionic [a BSD-standard C library used by Android] to make sure that we get a better, faster build.” He added that the performance could have been still better if the graphics drivers in the Texas Instruments Pandaboard test modules were open to allow optimization.
Rosenkränzer elaborated further that most of the improvements were possible due to toolchain and code optimization (to be able to build) such as using gcc 4.7 and building Android ICS without -fno-strict-aliasing and with -O3 compiler flag.
Linaro’s results have caught the attention of Google and the teams at, the most popular version of modified Android used on rooted devices. Both teams are working on merging the tweaks with their code; getting it ready to ship out in the next iteration of code.
The code tweaks are also being merged into Android 4.0 stock code officially, as observed on the Android Open Source Project pages. Independent developers are also looking to merge these changes as the tweaks not only show benchmark improvements but also faster app loading and scrolling, and a much smoother UI.
The tweaks will give a huge leg up to Android applications running on the likes of Galaxy Nexus and other mobile devices running Ice Cream Sandwich on ARM processors. It’s conjectured that the next Android version, Jellybean will release with the new tweaks. In the arena of Android app development and Android development itself, Linaro’s contribution is a big breakthrough; one that will bring many changes into the execution and development of mobile applications henceforth.
It will be interesting to see what other Android developers have to contribute towards the changes introduced by Linaro. It can only get better from here. Keep your sights on AOSP.
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