Friday, 6 December 2013

Android Kitkat 4.4 - Experience experimental ART Runtime Feature on SGS I9000

Android 4.4 brings experimental support for ART(Android Run Time) the alternative for Dalvik runtime. For curious novice, Dalvik is the VM that powers the android app, which are basically written in Java. The compiled byte code is interpreted by the Dalvik VM. A good background on Android Runtime Dalvik VM can be found here.

Dalvik VM has its own limitation, executing interpreted code is slower than native compiled code, it takes additional CPU power and in turn consumes more battery. Although with today modern processors, the difference is not all that striking but on a mobile platform it still counts a lot.

The future replacement of Dalvik, i.e. Android Runtime(ART) is included in Android 4.4 as an experimental feature. Dalvik is still the default runtime and the new ART runtime can be selected from the developer options.

To enable ART runtime, follow below steps:


Enable Developer Options(if not enabled)
Settings > About Phone > taps 7 times on build number

Enable Android Developers Options
Enable Android Developers Options

Settings > Developer Options > Select runtime > Use ART

Developer Options
Developer Options

select runtime
select runtime


reboot prompt
reboot prompt

Once the runtime is changed, it will prompt to reboot. Initial boot will be a lot longer as the application will be compiled again with the new runtime (libart.so).

After the first boot it takes some to adjust with the new settings. Depending on the number of apps installed on the phone, your experience may vary. I feel it tends to take up more memory after some time of use. Some random restart also happen, but it's acceptable considering ART Runtime an experimental feature. It will definitely get better with future release and ART-compatible apps will utilize its full potential. 

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