RISC-V Will Be Supported By Android in Future Versions

Posted on Wednesday, Jan 11, 2023 by Ned Bellavance

Featured in this episode of Chaos Lever

I’ll see myself out.

At the recent RISC-V summit, Android’s director of Engineering, Lars Bergstrom got on stage and clarified Google’s position on RISC-V adoption for Android. And that position is 100% in favor, with a detailed checklist of what needs to happen for the OS to be ported over to the alternative architecture and the availability of a 64-bit branch for RISC-V in the AOSP repository.

But why? Android and ARM are like peas and carrots right? Why would Google spend the money on supporting an alternate compute architecture? Choice. The answer is one of choice.

ARM licenses its technology out to designers and chip makers, and at this point mobile chipmakers don’t have much of a choice. Either pay the licensing fee or GTFO. ARM is a for-profit company, so they are incentivized to keep prices up, as long as those prices are less than x86 designs from Intel and AMD.

RISC-V, on the other hand, is an open-standard managed by the non-profit RISC-V Foundation. Anyone can use their standards to build out a chip design, without worrying about licensing, or more importantly for the Chinese, potential trade embargos from the West.

Now, you won’t be holding a RISC-V Android phone tomorrow, the development process is likely to take several years, plus the need for someone to develop the hardware. But RISC-V has seen some serious uptake recently, and I wouldn’t be surprised to have a RISC-V based phone hit the market in 2026. Add that to the predictions sheet, assuming we’re still here.