Just a few weeks ago, Google and Qualcomm announced their partnership to bring Android to RISC-V. Now, the tech giants are lifting the curtain, revealing a comprehensive plan that could reshape the landscape of Android development and device manufacturing by porting Android features onto RISC-V.
Google has laid out a detailed roadmap for OEMs and app developers to transition to RISC-V. The company aims to provide its partners with comprehensive support, similar to what is currently available.
According to Google’s official blog, RISC-V is a modular ISA with a large number of optional extensions. Google has identified a critical set of features, including the rva22 profile and vector crypto extensions, to ensure high performance on any CPU running RISC-V.
The Android Runtime (ART), the engine that powers Android apps, is already compatible with RISC-V CPUs, thanks to a series of patches. However, Google admits that optimization is still a work in progress. This is particularly true for the backend of ART, which has yet to be fine-tuned for maximum performance.
By the end of this year, Google aims to finalize the Native Development Kit (NDK) binary interface. This will pave the way for initial test builds that can emulate RISC-V Android apps on x86 and ARM host machines. These emulators are slated for a public release in early 2024, allowing for comprehensive app testing across all Android functions and device categories.
Android for RISC-V is already functional in Google’s virtualization solution, Cuttlefish. Furthermore, the rva22 instruction set profile, complete with vector and vector crypto extensions, will be the backbone of Android on RISC-V.
Google is also actively working on RISC-V support tools and the broader software ecosystem through the Rise project. This initiative involves numerous partners from both the hardware and software industries, aiming to accelerate the availability of software for high-performance and power-efficient RISC-V processor cores running high-level operating systems like Android and Linux.
Alibaba T-Head has reported significant progress in porting Android features onto RISC-V-based Xuantie cores. Their efforts have focused on Android 12 and enabling third-party modules to support video, camera, and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth features based on RISC-V. According to RISC-V’s blog, they have also provided insights into building TensorFlow Lite models on RISC-V-based cores.
Google’s meticulous planning and transparent communication signal a new era for Android — one that promises greater efficiency, flexibility, and collaboration.