Advice for Middleware Vendors

Distributing middleware built with the NDK imposes some additional problems that app developers do not need to worry about. Prebuilt libraries impose some of their implementation choices on their users.

Choosing API levels and NDK versions

Your users cannot use a minSdkVersion lower than yours. If your users' apps need to run on Android 16, you cannot build for Android 21.

NDK versions are largely compatible with each other, but occasionally there are changes that break compatibility. If you know that all of your users are using the same version of the NDK, it's best to use the same version that they do. Otherwise, use the newest version.

Using the STL

If you're writing C++ and using the STL, your choice between libc++_shared and libc++_static affects your users if you distribute a shared library. If you distribute a shared library, you must either use libc++_shared or ensure that libc++'s symbols are not exposed by your library. The best way to do this is to explicitly declare your ABI surface with a version script (this also helps keep your implementation details private). For example, a simple arithmetic library might have the following version script:

Note: If you distribute a static library, it does not matter whether you choose a static or shared STL because nothing is linked in a static library. The user can link whichever they choose in their application. They must link something, even for C-only consumers, so be sure to document that it is required and which version of the NDK was used to build in case of incompatibility in STL versions.

    # C++ symbols in an extern block will be mangled automatically. See
    # for more examples.
    extern "C++" {
        "pow(int, int)";

A version script should be the preferred option because it is the most robust way to control symbol visibility. Another, less robust option is to use -Wl,--exclude-libs,libc++_static.a -Wl,--exclude-libs,libc++abi.a when linking. This is less robust because it will only hide the symbols in the libraries that are explicitly named, and no diagnostics are reported for libraries that are not used (a typo in the library name is not an error, and the burden is on the user to keep the library list up to date).

For Java Middleware with JNI Libraries

Java libraries that include JNI libraries (i.e. use jniLibs) need to be careful that the JNI libraries they include will not collide with other libraries in the user's app. For example, if the AAR includes, but a different version of than the app uses, only one will be installed to the APK and that may lead to unreliable behavior.

Warning: Bug 141758241: The Android Gradle Plugin does not currently diagnose this error condition. One of the identically named libraries will be arbitrarily chosen for packaging in the APK.

The most reliable solution is for Java libraries to include no more than one JNI library. All dependencies including the STL should be statically linked into the implementation library, and a version script should be used to enforce the ABI surface. For example, a Java library that includes the JNI library should use the following version script:


Note that this example uses registerNatives via JNI_OnLoad as described in JNI Tips to ensure that the minimal ABI surface is exposed and library load time is minimized.