Google releases tool for developers to test 64-bit Android L apps

Android developers can begin putting their 64-bit Android L apps through their paces courtesy of a new emulator.

Ahead of the release of Android L, Google has released tools for developers to begin testing 64-bit apps supported by the new OS.

Following Apple's 64-bit push towards the desktop with iOS 7 and its A7 processor in the iPhone 5s, Google's next OS will also support 64-bit apps.

Android L may be released later this month and is expected to be announced alongside a successor to the Nexus 5. In preparation for the launch, Google yesterday released an x86 64-bit Android L developer preview emulator image for developers to begin testing their apps.

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"With the release of the x86 64-bit emulator, you can start testing your 64-bit apps today," Google said in a update to Android developers today.

According to Google, building 64-bit apps on Android L will offer them increased addressable memory space, a larger number of registers, and new instruction sets.

The company introduced support for 64-bit systems in the Android L Developer Preview released this June, which bulked up available address space and improved performance while still supporting 32-bit apps. 64-bit support also comes with a shift from the default Dalvik runtime environment to the new Android equivlanet known as ART, which was introduced as an optional runtime in KitKat.

With the release of Android L, consumers can expect see more devices pitched with 64-bit processors, the first of which was announced last month by HTC with the release of the Desire 510, thanks to its Snapdragon 410 processor. As AnandTech noted at the time, its processor used the ARMv8 architecture which first appeared Apple's A7 processor last year. HTC's second device with 64-bit processor was the Desire 820 .

While Apple too boasted about improved performance afforded by 64-bit, as CNET's Steven Shankland noted at the time, the shift had less to do with performance than preparing for the day when mobile devices can handle more than 4GB of RAM. 

Shankland also notes that the ARMv8 architecture also brings worthy benefits, including the larger number of registers mentioned by Google, "which are tiny on-chip storage areas where the processor stores data for very fast access. ARMv8 roughly doubles general-purpose registers from 16 to 31, which means the chip needn't fritter away as many cycles swapping things into and out of memory."

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