Google May Switch To Vulkan API For UI Rendering From Android Q

Google may switch to the Vulkan API for user interface rendering starting with the 2019 edition of Android, i.e. Android Q. The possibility that Skia's Vulkan backend will soon be fully implemented into Android was raised by a comment one of Google's software engineers made as part of one bug discussion on Chromium Gerrit boards. The bug itself is related to the implementation of the Vulkan API into the Android version of Google Chrome and the engineer explicitly states that support for the application programming interface in question will eventually "be a requirement" for the Android WebView system as a whole.

As such a major change would have already been communicated to third-party developers by Google if it was to debut with Android P later this quarter, the main takeaway from the comment is that the new UI rendering method won't be introduced prior to Android 10.0 Q, or however the 2019 iteration of the world's most popular operating system ends up being code-named and numbered. The source also outright states that the framework of the OS will eventually use the Vulkan API for UI rendering but doesn't elaborate on the matter. The chances of that change going live as early as next year are somewhat bigger by virtue of the fact that Skia's Vulkan backend can already be tested on any device running the latest developer preview version of Android P through a debut parameter that overrides the default UI rendering settings of the OS.

The transition to Vulkan-powered UI rendering would theoretically lead to smoother animations and menu transitions, as well as improved battery life, depending on the exact implementation of the technology. Android P and other recent versions of Google's OS handle UI rendering with OpenGL, which is still the only standard supported by many entry-level mobile hardware that's still used in new products, though it likely won't be by this time next year, which is the earliest realistic timeframe for Google to make the switch. Even if the company opts to embrace the Vulkan API with Android Q, it would likely continue supporting OpenGL for several more OS generations so as to provide OEMs with enough time to make the switch.

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Dominik Bosnjak

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Dominik started at AndroidHeadlines in 2016 and is the Head Editor of the site today. He’s approaching his first full decade in the media industry, with his background being primarily in technology, gaming, and entertainment. These days, his focus is more on the political side of the tech game, as well as data privacy issues, with him looking at both of those through the prism of Android. Contact him at [email protected]
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