First SDK update of 2012

Google updates Android SDK with Revision 17

Chris Mayer

Google upgrades the Android SDK – but the newest addition isn’t even from them, with native x86 emulator support brought in

The lull for Android developers is over, now that Google has updated the Android SDK with Revision 17. There’s the obligatory bug fixes (mostly for Lint) but also Android lauding the native x86 emulator support for Windows and Mac OS X.

We’re not exactly sure why, when most of the work was done by Intel to radically renovate a broken mess. It’s already been available to Ice Cream Sandwich devices since December and this ‘added support’ merely makes the emulator go from being very sluggish and unusable to working at a snail’s pace, according to some early updaters. Still, it’s a step towards making it available to all and given how fragmented Android is, that’s not a bad thing. 

Further improvements to the emulator include better support for hardware-accelerated graphics rendering. This feature requires an API Level 15, Revision 3 or later system image, which isn’t yet available. Android have also added experimental (and we emphasise the word experimental there) support for multi-touch input by enabing the emulator to receive touch input from a USB-tethered physical Android device. Which should make the whole thing a bit more realistic for mobile developers.

Other than that, it’s fairly rudimentary. ProGuard, the bundled build tool, has been updated to version 4.7 and there’s a boost for custom views with custom attributes in libraries.

As for the aforementioned bug-hunter Lint, its method of investigation has been changed. It now checks Android application code – previously it had performed pattern-based searches in the application code but now uses the more accurate Java-style parse trees. 20 new Lint rules, including checks for performance, XML layouts, manifest and file handling have also been added.

Overall, a much-needed update for Android SDK, but the x86 emulator is a difficult beast to tame. At the moment, it may well be better than it was, but needs more work to be fully implemented as an option.

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