updated 08:55 pm EST, Mon December 5, 2011
Search giant aims to correct misinformation
Aiming to clear up confusion and alleged misinformation surrounding Android's graphics handling, Google engineer Dianne Hackborn has provided a deeper look into the mobile platform's hardware acceleration and rendering methods. "Full" hardware acceleration is said to have been added with Android 3.0 and higher, however the software has implemented some hardware accelerated drawing since before version 1.0.
Animations that have always been hardware accelerated include sliding notification shades, transitions between activities, menu presentation, pop-ups and dialog presentation, among other interface elements.
Android 3.0 began to provide more options, enabling developers to choose to have all of an app's windows handled by the GPU. Hackborn suggests hardware acceleration in Android 4.0 "is not any more full than in 3.0," as the implementation is merely enabled by default for apps that are specifically geared for Ice Cream Sandwich.
"Hardware accelerated drawing is not all full of win," she says in a blog post. "[RAM required for OpenGL] takes away from other things, such as the number of background processes that can be kept running, potentially slowing down things like app switching."
The Android framework engineer explains that hardware acceleration is not a "magical silver bullet" to achieve a smooth interface. The company has worked to optimize a variety of systems to achieve fluid performance on a range of devices.
Hackborn acknowledges that maintaining a 60fps UI on the latest high-resolution displays requires a fast GPU and memory bus. "In fact, if you want to get an idea of the performance of a piece of hardware, always pay attention to the memory bus bandwidth," she concludes.