Coming from Apple’s iOS ecosystem, one of the things that struck me the most was the overall jerkiness of Android’s user interface. Despite powerful dual-core processors and more than capable GPUs, Android lacking the iOS’s smooth presentation was hard to swallow. Not so with Ice Cream Sandwich though.
Google’s impressive presentation left me believing that Android 4.0 will become the first major Android revision to close the gap with iOS in terms of smoothly animated interface Apple is known for. Google today wrote at the official Android Developers blog that hardware acceleration is on by default for all applications, for the first time:
With this new pipeline, all drawing operations performed by the UI toolkit are carried out using the GPU. You’ll be happy to hear that Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, brings an improved version of the hardware-accelerated 2D rendering pipeline to phones, starting with Galaxy Nexus.
App developers who use API levels lower than 14 will still have to turn on this capability manually, but it’s a simple matter of updating the AndroidManifest.xml file. There is also a new view available to apps which plays nice with fading edges and allows for hardware-accelerated transformations such as moving, scaling, rotating, animating, scrolling and more. It works with any content, including video, and in real-time. Google says it’s not done yet perfecting Android’s graphics subsystem, hinting at enhancements in future versions of the platform.
Of course, Google began rolling out GPU acceleration with Android 3.0, which brought us a new hardware accelerated 2D rendering pipeline. Developers were asked to take advantage of the new APIs a their disposal to make their apps prettier and polished without taxing the CPU. Android 4.0 expands on these APIs with API Level 14 calls, which is now enabled system-wide for all apps utilizing the new APIs. Put simply, most new Ice Cream Sandwich apps will get hardware-accelerated graphics for free. Embedded below is the Android Hardware Accelerated Rendering talk the company gave at Google I/O 2010.