This article compares the application programming interfaces (APIs) and virtual machines (VMs) of the programming language Java and operating system Android.

While most Android applications are written in Java-like language, there are some differences between the Java API and the Android API, and Android does not run Java bytecode by a traditional Java virtual machine (JVM), but instead by a Dalvik virtual machine in older versions of Android, and an Android Runtime (ART) in newer versions, that compile the same code that Dalvik runs to Executable and Linkable Format (ELF) executables containing machine code.

Java bytecode in Java Archive (JAR) files is not executed by Android devices. Instead, Java classes are compiled into a proprietary bytecode format and run on Dalvik (or compiled version thereof with newer ART), a specialized virtual machine (VM) designed for Android. Unlike Java VMs, which are stack machines (stack-based architecture), the Dalvik VM is a register machine (register-based architecture).

Dalvik has some traits that differentiate it from other standard VMs:[1]

Because the bytecode loaded by the Dalvik virtual machine is not Java bytecode and due to the way Dalvik loads classes, it is impossible to load library packages as jar files. A different procedure must be used to load Android libraries, in which the content of the underlying dex file must be copied in the application private internal storage area before it is loaded.[2]

System properties

As is the case for the Java SE class System, the Android System class allows retrieving system properties. However, some mandatory properties defined with the Java virtual machine have no meaning or a different meaning on Android. For example:

Class library

Current versions of Android use the latest Java language and its libraries (but not full graphical user interface (GUI) frameworks), not the Apache Harmony Java implementation, that older versions used. Java 8 source code that works in latest version of Android, can be made to work in older versions of Android.[3]

java.lang package

By default, the default output stream System.out and System.err do not output anything,[4] and developers are encouraged to use the Log class, which logs Strings on the LogCat tool.[5] This has changed at least from HoneyComb, and they now output to the log console also.

Graphics and widget library

Android does not use the Abstract Window Toolkit nor the Swing library. User interfaces are built using View objects. Android uses a framework similar to Swing, based on Views rather than JComponents. However, Android widgets are not JavaBeans: the Android application Context must be provided to the widget at creation.

Look and feel

Android widget library does not support a pluggable look and feel architecture. The look and feel of Android widgets must be embedded in the widgets. However, a limited ability exists to set styles and themes for an application.[6]

Layout manager

Contrary to Swing where layout managers can be applied to any container widget, Android layout behavior is encoded in the containers.[7]

java.beans package

Android includes only a small subset of the java.beans package (PropertyChangeEvent and related classes).

See also


  1. ^ Rose, John (2008-05-31). "with Android and Dalvik at Google I/O". Archived from the original on 2008-06-04. Retrieved 2008-06-08.
  2. ^ Fred Chung (2011-07-28). "Custom Class Loading in Dalvik". Google. Archived from the original on 2014-02-18. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  3. ^ "Use Java 8 language features and APIs". Android Developers. Retrieved 2021-01-23.
  4. ^ "Android Debug Bridge". Google. Retrieved 2009-05-31. By default, the Android system sends stdout and stderr (System.out and System.err) output to /dev/null.
  5. ^ "Reading and Writing Logs". Google. Archived from the original on 2011-11-22. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  6. ^ "Applying Styles and Themes". Google. Archived from the original on 2014-03-28. Retrieved 2011-09-03.
  7. ^ "Common Layout Objects". Google. Retrieved 2011-09-03.