Android 5.0 “Lollipop” debuts the OpenGL-ES 3.1 API

lollipopAndroid 5.0 – LollipopĀ  – Arrives. And it’s got lot’s of developer goodies in it.

ART Runtime

Google has replaced “Dalvik” (the Java-esqe runtime, which was a Just-In-Time compiling virtual machine) with ART – the new “Ahead-Of-Time RunTime” compiling virtual machine. This should make apps faster, but also brings 64-bit support in automatically for Java apps. Native code will need to be recompiled, but the new NDK adds support for 64-bit for all platforms. 64-bit is important because it frees you from a 3 Gig memory limit on devices.

OpenGL-ES 3.1 and Android Extension Pack

The Android 5.0 SDK is what devs will use to develop for Android Lollipop, and there’s a new “Expansion Pack” that will help game devs take advantage of things that are in OpenGL-ES 3.1, like new shader models, and has support for new hardware platforms as well (like PC’s). Out of the box you’ll get support for compute shaders, much better instancing support, new compressed texture formats, better texture sizes support andĀ  more render buffer formats.

With the AEP you’ll get access to the newer features of the underlying graphics hardware supports that aren’t in the 3.1 OpenGL-ES spec. Intel HD graphics, Ardeno 420, Mali T6xx, PowerVR Series 6, Nvidia Tegra K1, should all have some extensions supported, so you might find support for tessellation and geometry shaders (likely on most), ASTC texture formats, new interpolation models, etc.

This brings Android graphics on-par with the capabilities of PC’s and consoles – it’s now nearly the same API, just not as fast (yet). This will change.


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