Intel's progress into the Android ecosystem hasn't exactly been earth-shattering. The number of high-end and mid-range smartphones equipped with an ATOM CPU still number in the single digits, making the x86 architecture a fairly low priority for app developers. In addition, Intel's emulator images have always lacked support for the Google APIs, leaving developers without the ability to test common staples like Google Maps or push messaging. Fortunately, that issue was recently rectified with KitKat as Google and Intel have finally shipped an x86 system image with Google API support.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 12.23.25 AM

Ok, so testing Android apps with Google-specific features on an ATOM emulator probably doesn't sound terribly exciting, but there's a major upshot: developers can finally use HAXM without making sacrifices! If you're not familiar with Intel's Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager (HAXM), it's a small piece of software that enables the emulator to use the built-in virtualization and hardware acceleration features of most modern Intel processors. In other words, the unbearably slow Android emulator can be made fairly speedy.

HAXM has been around for a long time, but the lack of a system image with Google API support made it nearly unusable given the dependence many apps have on Google's services. Now it will be possible to speed up development and automated testing considerably.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 2.32.55 AM

If you're interested in setting up HAXM, take a look at Intel's instructions or one of the several tutorials on the subject. The process involves little more than running the installer package for your operating system and creating an Android Virtual Device (AVD) with the correct settings. Keep in mind, this will only work on Intel-based CPUs.

Enjoy the speed boost, folks!

Thanks, TheManii.

Cody Toombs
Cody is a Software Engineer and Writer with a mildly overwhelming obsession with smartphones and the mobile world. If he’s been pulled away from the computer for any length of time, you might find him talking about cocktails and movies, sometimes resulting in the consumption of both.

  • Roberto Giunta

    Conspiracy Theory of the Day:

    Intel will be out faster with 64-bit CPUs than Qualcomm (because not a Samsung tablet) and we will get a Nexus 8 in June/July with an 64-bit Intel CPU, possibly with support for it in 4.5 - or being 'future-proof' for 4.6/5.0/whatever comes after that.

    • http://www.anivision.org/ Christopher Bailey (Xcom923)

      Sounds very plausible given the timing of it all.

    • Justin Swanson

      Where do I go for these "Conspiracy Theory of Day" so I can read them each day?

    • Copatone

      Once Android OS goes 64-bit I'm sure Samsung will quickly release their 'Galaxy S5 64-bit edition' ;)

      • http://twitter.com/anishbhalerao Anish Bhalerao

        You forgot to mention the proper name:
        Galaxy S5 Neo Grand Lite Pro Mini 64-bit DUOS...

    • Christopher Mason

      But how are they going to make sure all apps and games run? They have libhoudini.so, but I've heard people say that not all apps and games run on that.

  • Changa Sjudi

    No 64 bit no care. A for Apple

    • Henry Green

      64-bit is not going to be relevant for a good 3 years until apps make use of more than 3GB of ram, and any improvements from 32 to 64-bit excluding that are not hugely groundbreaking.
      Apple only went with 64-bit to encourage developers to move to it as a new standard.

      • Matthew Fry

        Which works because when Apple says jump everyone says "How high?"

        • Henry Green

          True but it would be nice to see people knowing why they are using x or y feature. People going ZOMG 64BIT FINGERPRINTSCANNERZ, UNOHAVTHIS IDONTCARE (elaborating a bit) without justifying is irritating. Know your facts and explain before going on about it.

    • Gabernasher

      Dual core? ZOMG SO SLOW!!

    • Jobs

      Yup, we are all tired with current 32-bit smartphones.. right ? right ?

    • HellG

      Apple fans be like
      Much bandwidth
      Many bits
      So fast

  • http://www.plutoneld.se Martin Karlsson

    I tried this a while back (it might have lacked the Google APIs then), but I went with Genymotion instead. It uses Virtualbox on the backend instead of KVM, so it was an easier setup under Linux. I'm very happy with the speed, compared to the original AVDs I used! Dunno what the status of Google APIs in Genymotions VDs are, but I bet they'll be updated soon.

    • PhineasJW

      This. ^^

      Their emulator boots in under 10 seconds on my Mac, and runs faster than my Nexus 5.

    • Robert Castles

      "Finally!", Intel. This genymotion sounds interesting. First I've heard of it.

  • Bradley Ruiz

    Now if i could find a portable version of HAXM to use at my work pc :-P

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

    Wait, so does this bring Android one step closer to desktop full-time? I know about Android x86 project, but my experience with that stuff was unrecognized resolution, constant crashes, freezes and awful perfomance

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

      Nope, this really has nothing to do with that. Intel has been shipping system images since Gingerbread (2.3.3, if I recall). This is important because it's the first time that there was a system image with Google APIs.

      That's not to say there aren't inroads being made to run Android on more processors. For example, Jelly Bean 4.2 (I think) added significant support for x86 processors to the Dalvik runtime. Intel is responsible for a lot of the development, thus far. Google is surely on board because it's in the best interest of Android to have Intel and ARM competing.

      • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

        Which means that this system image benefits only devs for ATOM-based devices only?

        How about ATOM-equipped Chromebooks? Was there ever a chance of running Android? Or will be>?

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

          Not exactly. This system image is testing apps to ensure they run properly on an ATOM-based processor, but it can also benefit anybody doing Android development on an Intel-based processor, regardless of what device the app is headed for.

          As for Chromebooks, there are already a few different projects that have put Android onto them. Just search and you'll find 'em.

    • Mike Reid

      I think it DOES help move us closer to Android on x86 desktops. Even if Google and Intel didn't care and don't want, independent devs and companies might make inroads. I run Linux on my desktops, and it'd be cool (if nothing else) to see my apps (and others) running on my PCs.

      As for x86 Android smart devices, as a dev, I really don't care about x86 as long as it remains a tiny fraction of ARM. I added some x86 support to my apps for the Razr I, but for my apps, it was WAY too much work for a few measly sales and due to other problems, I ended up removing the support.

      The x86 issues are an important example of fragmentation causing devs much trouble, particularly those of us with apps that by necessity must do low level JNI/C/NDK stuff and make sure it works well on many different devices. Arguments that Java should be exclusively used for portability fall mute when Java is incapable of various things, such as high performance low latency audio.

      • bitbank

        I thought the same thing until I discovered that Intel's Houdini ships with every x86 Android device. Intel does install-time binary translation from ARM to x86 and it works quite well. An x86 optimized native app will perform better, but an app with native ARM code runs just fine on x86 devices after being translated by Houdini.

  • Paito Anderson
  • PhineasJW

    Guys, if you're still not satisfied with official emulator, have a look at Genymotion http://www.genymotion.com/, which uses VirtualBox.

    It is so damn fast that Google should be *ashamed*. Ashamed -- that a 3rd party pulled this off before they did. On my Macbook it runs faster than a regular PHONE. Yes, you read that right.

    Google should just buy the damn company and make it the official emulator.

    • Yuku Sugianto

      Like when Google realized that IntelliJ was better than Eclipse to be the "official" IDE for Android development.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

      I would certainly approve of this. As it stands, I just do all of my testing on real devices so I don't have to run an emulator, but I would love it if Google packaged something decent for those times when I need to test something I don't have a device for.

      When you think about it, the last 18 months have been dedicated to replacing major chunks of the OS and development platform, so it's not at all implausible that Google will look to buying or teaming up with Gennymotion.

    • wolfkabal

      Another alternative is to simply use compiled x86 builds of Android and run them directly in your favorite visualization software (VirtualBox, VMWare, etc). Been doing this for a while for testing, that or real devices.

      • Bradley Ruiz

        Could you link me to some of those builds :)

      • PhineasJW

        I believe that's more or less what Genymotion has done. Their emulator uses VirtualBox.

  • Andrew

    And there was much rejoicing... except for the first time, the emulator crashed on me trying to open google maps :/