Digital Foundry
Supporter Program
Get access to   exclusive content unlimited 4K videos Discord Server Retro Corner Support us on Patreon Join now

Android 4.0 coming to Raspberry Pi

Ice Cream Sandwich arrives next month.

Android 4.0 is coming to the Raspberry Pi, giving the ultra-cheap credit-card sized computer a powerful, easy-to-use alternative to the current Linux distribution recommended for use with the system. The news was revealed last night by project director Eben Upton, writing on the Raspberry Pi blog.

The port has been in progress for some time, with the Raspberry Pi foundation confirming that graphics and video acceleration have been fully implemented - which should hopefully allow for Android games and apps to make use of the powerful GPU at the heart of the device. According to the developer, all that is missing from the OS as it stands right now is support for the AudioFlinger sub-system, which explains why there is no sound in the demonstration video we've embedded below.

Previous attempts to bring various flavours of Android to the Raspi haven't been particularly successful - the 4.0 port boots, but has been deemed "unusable", while the 2.3 variant only gets a slightly higher "barely usable" ranking. Conversely, the video appears to demonstrate Ice Cream Sandwich working quite nicely indeed, particularly in how it handles media playback functions.

A couple of photos from the Raspberry Pi blog demonstrating the new Android port running on the Raspberry Pi hardware.

Overall impressions are promising, even though other crucial elements of the OS don't get much of a look-in during the demo - we're particularly interested in seeing how well the browser performs overall bearing in mind how slow the experience is on the Linux distribution.

Based on our experiences with other Android 4.0 devices, general OS navigation does appear to be noticeably slower, but it's worth remembering that the Pi only has a single, older ARM core clocked at just 700MHz - it's not really in the same class as current smartphones in this regard. However, playback both from the YouTube app (running in HD no less) and the media player looks flawless - as you would expect from a Broadcom chipset designed to decode Blu-ray quality video.

The Android 4.0 port is in the final stages of development and according to the Foundation's Liz Upton, a release candidate should be available to download and try out on your Pi in around a month's time. In response to developers looking to tinker with the existing build in the here and now, Eben Upton added that a version will be released "once we have something we're happy shows off the Pi's capabilities in the best light".

We'll be taking another look at the Raspberry Pi once the Android port has been released, and also testing the latest "Raspian" Linux distribution, a version of the OS revised to take advantage of the Pi's specific hardware.

Will you support the Digital Foundry team?

Digital Foundry specialises in technical analysis of gaming hardware and software, using state-of-the-art capture systems and bespoke software to show you how well games and hardware run, visualising precisely what they're capable of. In order to show you what 4K gaming actually looks like we needed to build our own platform to supply high quality 4K video for offline viewing. So we did.

Our videos are multi-gigabyte files and we've chosen a high quality provider to ensure fast downloads. However, that bandwidth isn't free and so we charge a small monthly subscription fee of $5. We think it's a small price to pay for unlimited access to top-tier quality encodes of our content. Thank you.

Support Digital Foundry

Find out more about the benefits of our Patreon

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our policy.

Jump to comments (30)

About the author

Richard Leadbetter

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry  |  digitalfoundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.


You may also enjoy...

Comments (30)

Comments for this article are now closed. Thanks for taking part!

Hide low-scoring comments

Buy things with globes on them

And other lovely Eurogamer merch in our official store!

Eurogamer Merch