25 June 2009

Introducing Android 1.5 NDK, Release 1

Many of you have been asking for the ability to call into native code from your Android applications. I'm glad to announce that developers can now download the Android Native Development Kit from the Android developer site.

As you know, Android applications run in the Dalvik virtual machine. The NDK allows developers to implement parts of these applications using native-code languages such as C and C++. This can provide benefits to certain kinds of applications.

The NDK provides:

  • a set of tools and build files used to generate native code libraries from C and C++ sources
  • a way to embed the corresponding native libraries into application packages files (.apks) that can be deployed on Android devices
  • a set of native system headers and libraries that will be supported in all future releases of the Android platform, starting from Android 1.5 documentation, samples and tutorials

This release of the NDK supports the ARMv5TE machine instruction set and provides stable headers for:

  • libc, the standard C library
  • libm, the standard math library
  • the JNI interface
  • libz, the common ZLib compression library
  • liblog, used to send logcat messages to the kernel

Keep in mind that using the NDK will not be relevant for all Android applications. As a developer, you will need to balance its benefits against its drawbacks, which are numerous! Your application will be more complicated, have reduced compatibility, have no access to framework APIs, and be harder to debug. That said, some applications that have self-contained, CPU-intensive operations that don't allocate much memory may still benefit from increased performance and the ability to reuse existing code. Some examples are signal processing, intensive physics simulations, and some kinds of data processing.

For any questions on the NDK, please join the Android NDK forum.

Have fun.