Most of us are content to just use Android on our smartphones; if you’re a developer, though, you know about Google’s Android emulator for home computers. Even if you can’t write a line of code to save your life, you still might have checked out the emulator as a means to explore the early look at Ice Cream Sandwich we got with the release of its SDK. If you have, you likely remember just how sluggish the tool performed, making some tasks quite arduous. That sounds like it’s all about to change, upon Google announcing a new release of the Android emulator with some important speed improvements.
Google addresses speed issues in this release with a number of substantial improvements. Introduction of native execution on x86 processors appears to offer a demonstrable speed improvement with apps relying on heavy number-crunching. For graphics, there’s now hardware support for GPUs, turning the lagging, stuttering UI effects of the past into something that finally approaches the performance you’d see on dedicated Android hardware. As a result of the new GPU hardware layer, the emulator can now run games it previously could not.
Speaking of hardware, the Android emulator now supports input from hardware sensors; you can plug a phone into your computer and use its physical sensors for input with the emulator and its virtual phone. Support for Bluetooth and NFC isn’t quite there yet, but Google’s working on it.