Google today officially confirmed that the “Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are the first Android phones to support only 64-bit apps” and detailed the benefits.
By dropping support for 32-bit code and Android applications built that way, Google highlights several tentpoles, starting with how 64-bit apps “run faster because they have access to extra registers and instructions that aren’t available to 32-bit apps.” Newer CPUs operate with 25% better performance “when running 64-bit code or even drop support for 32-bit code altogether.”
By removing 32-bit code, Android saves up to 150MB of RAM that “was used by the OS even when not running 32-bit apps.” This is credited as resulting in fewer background app kills and “less jank.”
On the security front, address space layout randomization (ASLR) becomes more effective as the countermeasure has more space to work with to prevent memory corruption vulnerabilities.
Google touts access to better tools, like HWASan for detecting memory errors, by just targeting 64-bit. The company has been working toward this since 2014 when 64-bit support was first introduced with Google Play requiring apps to support it from 2019 onward. The company recommends that developers “start paying extra attention to testing their apps and updates for 64-bit-only devices” with Play, providing a prelaunch report for that scenario.
Lastly, “64-bit-only device configurations halve the CTS testing time” for faster OEM updates. Google expects more Android devices to go this route, but just provides an “over time” timeline.
So far, some Pixel 7 users have hit the new limitation when trying to install older, nonupdated apps. There’s the Play Console app, for example, though Google wants Android devs to just use the website.
However, Google says it will continue 32-bit support for Android Go, Android TV, and Wear OS: “Please continue supporting 32-bit ABIs; Google Play will continue serving 32-bit apps to 32-bit-only devices.” These form factors often use older chips to meet more affordable price ranges.
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