Android L will be the first pure 64-bit version of Android which in some ways is great for Android users and device manufacturers, but what does this mean for users?
The first thing that you’ll probably notice is that the current selection of devices only have a maximum of 4GB of RAM, the reason for this is a limitation of 32-bit processors. 32-bit only has enough address space for 4GB of RAM, due to this you could in theory have 4GB or more RAM in the device but the software will only be able to see 4GB of it, or more accurately around 3.5GB.
There are ways to get around this in 32-bit systems, which is using a technology call PAE (page address extension). PAE uses a clever way to expand the maximum amount of addressable RAM as the address space will usually top out at the maximum value of a 32-bit integer, hence the maximum of around 3.5GB
With more RAM applications will have access to more RAM and therefore the Apps and Android will have more space in which to store temporary data and you should see quite a performance boost for Applications and across the whole of Android. This means there should be no more hanging or stuttering on Apps and the system.
Storage will also be improves as with 64-bit systems we can send twice as much data down a pipe than before and therefore anything which is I/O intensive will see noticeable performance boosts.
While the change to 64-bit will be great for most users, people with older devices will be feeling left out. The reason for this is that people with older devices will tend to have 32-bit processors in them and as 32-bit processors don’t have the ability to run 64-bit instructions this means that android versions L and anything after will not run on these devices.
This means that the usually activities for porting newer versions of Android to older devices will have a lot of road blocks in order to get Android L running on older devices. Android L could be ported to older devices if someone replaces the 64-bit Linux kernel with a 32-bit version.
You may be thinking that all the Android components will have to be recompiled for 32-bit systems if this was to happen, but with Linux that is not the case, as if the Kernel is 32-bit the system will be able to run 64-bit user space code using a feature of Linux called multi-arch. This practice is very popular on Desktop Linux for older machines in order to allow them to run the newest apps.
All in all we should see a good performance gain on Android L due to the 64-bit change over and the quality of apps will also see an improvement. The place where we will see the greatest improvement, will be Games on Android as due to 64-bit the developers will have more resources to make use of and we should start seeing some pretty impressive games and visuals, which a couple of years ago would not be possible.
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