Android OS Architecture

Android operating system is a stack of software components which is roughly divided into Six sections and Five main layers as shown below in the architecture diagram.

List of Sections in Android Architecture

  1. The Linux Kernel
  2. Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL)
  3. Android Runtime
  4. Native C/C++ Libraries
  5. Java API Framework
  6. System Apps

1. The Linux Kernel

The foundation of the Android platform is the Linux kernel. For example, the Android Runtime (ART) relies on the Linux kernel for underlying functionalities such as threading and low-level memory management.

Linux Kernel is heart of the android architecture. It manages all the available drivers such as display drivers, camera drivers, Bluetooth drivers, audio drivers, memory drivers, etc. which are required during the runtime.

  • The features of Linux kernel are:
    • Security
    • Memory Management 
    • Process Management
    • Network Stack 
    • Driver Model

2. Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL)

The hardware abstraction layer (HAL) provides standard interfaces that expose device hardware capabilities to the higher-level Java API framework.

The HAL consists of multiple library modules, each of which implements an interface for a specific type of hardware component, such as the camera or Bluetooth module.

When a framework API makes a call to access device hardware, the Android system loads the library module for that hardware component.

3. Android Runtime (ART)

ART is written to run multiple virtual machines on low-memory devices by executing DEX files, a bytecode format. Build toolchains, such as Jack, compiles Java sources into DEX bytecode, which can run on the Android platform.

Like Java Virtual Machine (JVM), Dalvik Virtual Machine (DVM) is a register-based virtual machine and specially designed and optimized for android to ensure that a device can run multiple instances efficiently. It depends on the layer Linux kernel for threading and low-level memory management.

Some of the major features of ART include the following:

  • Ahead-of-time (AOT) and just-in-time (JIT) compilation
  • Optimized garbage collection (GC)
  • On Android 9 (API level 28) and higher, conversion of an app package’s Dalvik Executable format (DEX) files to more compact machine code.
  • Better debugging support, including a dedicated sampling profiler, detailed diagnostic exceptions and crash reporting, and the ability to set watch points to monitor specific fields

For devices running Android version 5.0 (API level 21) or higher, each app runs in its own process and with its own instance of the Android Runtime (ART).

Prior to Android version 5.0 (API level 21), Dalvik was the Android runtime. If your app runs well on ART, then it should work on Dalvik as well, but the reverse may not be true.

4. Native C/C++ Libraries

Many core Android system components and services, such as ART and HAL, are built from native code that require native libraries written in C and C++. The Android platform provides Java framework APIs to expose the functionality of some of these native libraries to apps.

For example, you can access OpenGL ES through the Android framework’s Java OpenGL API to add support for drawing and manipulating 2D and 3D graphics in your app.

If you are developing an app that requires C or C++ code, you can use the Android NDK to access some of these native platform libraries directly from your native code.

5. Java API Framework

Android also includes a set of core runtime libraries that provide most of the functionality of the Java programming language, including some Java 8 language features, that the Java API framework uses.

APIs form the building blocks you need to create Android apps by simplifying the reuse of core, modular system components and services, which include the following:

  • A rich and extensible View System 
  • A Resource Manager
  • A Notification Manager 
  • An Activity Manager
  • Content Providers 

6. System Apps

Android comes with a set of core apps for email, SMS messaging, calendars, internet browsing, contacts, and more. Apps included with the platform have no special status among the apps the user chooses to install.

So a third-party app can become the user’s default web browser, SMS messenger, or even the default keyboard (some exceptions apply, such as the system’s Settings app).


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