Google has just pushed changes to the master branch of AOSP that remove the aging Dalvik virtual machine and replace it with ART.
It’s been a long way coming, but ART is finally taking the reins from the venerable Dalvik as Android’s default virtual machine. Standing for Android Runtime, ART was introduced in Android 4.4 KitKat as an experimental feature that users could activate from Developer Options. At the time, Google made it clear that ART was still a work in progress and that issues with various apps were to be expected.
One of the biggest differences between ART and Dalvik is that ART pre-compiles bytecode when the app is installed, unlike Dalvik, which requires Just-in-Time compilation, which happens when an app is launched. Through Ahead-of-Time compilation, ART cuts down app launch time in half, according to Google, though users are not likely to notice a huge effect on performance. More about ART vs Dalvik here.
Now it looks as ART is finally ready for primetime. As spotted by XDA Portal, two commits made to the Android Open Source Project (the open source base of Android) remove Dalvik and replace it with ART. The two changes were made by Google senior software engineer Brian Carlstrom to the master branch of AOSP.
The first signs that Google was readying to switch to ART emerged in January, when the new runtime was made the default option. Back then, Dalvik was kept as a fallback option, but following today’s commits that’s no longer the case.
So, what does that mean for the average user? Changes in AOSP are added to stock Android (and later to OEM implementations) through system updates. While we can’t speculate when it will happen, the next version of Android will definitely make the move to ART. With Google I/O next week, it’s tempting to see the switch as a sign of something new coming, but that may be just wishful thinking.
ART still poses problems to a few apps, most notably the Xposed framework. However, developers will have plenty of time to get their apps up to snuff before the change finally begins trickling down to users.