Note: If there‘s anything you want to see done in the NDK, file a bug! Nothing here is set in stone, and if there’s something that we haven‘t thought of that would be of more use, we’d be happy to adjust our plans for that.
Disclaimer: Everything here is subject to change. The further the plans are in the future, the less stable they will be. Things in the upcoming release are fairly certain, and the second release is quite likely. Beyond that, anything written here is what we would like to accomplish in that release assuming things have gone according to plan until then.
Note: For release timing, see our release schedule on our wiki.
Estimated release: Q1 2018
If NDK r16 shows that libc++ with the refreshed
libandroid_support is working well, the NDK will begin defaulting to using libc++. This means
ndk-build, CMake, the Gradle plugin, and standalone toolchains. We don't have any control over other build systems :)
With all the systemic NDK issues now solved (or at least pending feedback on the attempted fixes), we should take a look through our bug backlog and start fixing all the non-critical and nice-to-have issues.
Estimated release: Q2 2018
libc++ has been the default for a release and has proven to be stable. It is a strict improvement over the other STLs (more features, better Clang compatibility, Apache licensed, most reliable). The fact that the NDK supports multiple STLs is a common pain point for users (it's confusing for newcomers, and it makes sharing libraries difficult because they must all use the same STL).
Now that we have a good choice for a single STL, we‘ll remove the others. We’ll most likely move the source we have for these along with building instructions to a separate project so that people that need these for ABI compatibility reasons can continue using them, but support for these will end completely.
GCC is still in the NDK today because some of gnustl's C++11 features were written such that they do not work with Clang (threading and atomics, mostly). Now that libc++ is the best choice of STL, this is no longer blocking, so GCC can be removed.
The r17 release cycle alone probably won't be enough to burn down enough of these issues.
Estimated release: Q3 2018
Now that the NDK is down to a single compiler and STL, if we just taught the Clang driver to emit
-D__ANDROID_API__=foo and to link libc.so.18 instead of libc.so, standalone toolchains would be obsolete because the compiler would already be a standalone toolchain. The NDK toolchain would Just Work regardless of build system, and the logic contained in each build system could be greatly reduced.
Related to this (but maybe occurring in a later release), we'll want to switch from
libcompiler-rt and our own unwinder.
Estimated release: Q4 2018
The NDK has long included
gtest and clang supports various sanitiziers, but there are things we can do to improve the state of testing/code quality:
There are several well-known pain points for NDK users that we should address.
The samples are low-quality and don't necessarily cover interesting/difficult topics.
For serious i18n,
icu4c is too big too bundle, and non-trivial to use the platform. We have a C API wrapper prototype, but we need to make it easily available for NDK users.
There are many other commonly-used libraries (such as BoringSSL) that are currently difficult to build/package, let alone keep updated. We should investigate using cdep to simplify this.
NDK APIs are C-only for ABI stability reasons. We should offer header-only C++ wrappers for NDK APIs, even if only to offer the benefits of RAII.
CMake added their own NDK support about the same time we added our toolchain file. The two often conflict with each other, and a toolchain file is a messy way to implement this support. However, fully switching to the integrated support puts NDK policy deicisions (default options, NDK layout, etc) fully into the hands of CMake, which makes them impossible to update without the user also updating their CMake version.
We should send patches to the CMake implementation that will load as much information about the NDK as possible from tables we provide in the NDK.
Full history is available, but this section summarizes major changes in recent releases.
Fixed libandroid_support, libc++ now the recommended STL (but still not the default).
Removed non-unified headers.
Defaulted to unified headers (opt-out).
Removed support for API levels lower than 14 (Android 4.0).
Added unified headers (opt-in).
Removed support for API levels lower than 9 (Android 2.3).