There’s another side to Android 7.0 Nougat that could – in my head, at least – prove as important as advanced app interaction. This is a graphics API that developers use to exploit a device’s hardware when coding an app or game.
Until Nougat, Android had used Open GL ES – a rival API.
The big difference between it and Vulkan is that the latter is a lower-overhead API, providing more direct control over the hardware.
This should result in better performance and less reliance on the need for optimisation for specific GPU types.
Apple has made the same move with the Metal API, introduced during WWDC 2015.
Vulkan isn’t a single-platform API such as Metal, though.
It will be used across Android, Windows, Linux, and Steam OS too.
Valve is a major backer of Vulkan, which is potentially great news for those keen on seeing a greater number of ports of high-performance and indie-style games we’ll see on Steam OS. As with any back-end change of this type, the direction that developers choose to take will be important.
The issue will be Direct X 12, the rival API used by Windows 10 and Xbox One exclusively.
Microsoft wants game developers to use Direct X 12; Valve wants them to use Vulkan.
No matter which dominates, we’ll have to wait and see how this affects future Android ports.
Android device hardware has to support Vulkan too, but this has already started because Vulkan and Google’s support for it were announced in 2015. That So C is used in the Samsung Galaxy S7, LG G5 and Sony Xperia XZ.