Google Extends Support for Linux Kernels on Android Devices


Android, the dominant mobile operating system, has historically relied on a custom version of the Linux kernel designed specifically for mobile devices. This approach ensured a highly optimized and specialized system tailored to the unique requirements of smartphones and tablets. However, it also limited the flexibility and compatibility with other Linux-based platforms.

Linux Kernel Support:

In a notable departure from this previous approach, Google has announced that it will officially support mainline Linux kernels on Android devices. This means that Android devices will now be able to run the same Linux kernel version used by many other Linux distributions, including popular desktop and server operating systems.

Benefits of Mainline Kernel Support:

The adoption of mainline Linux kernels on Android brings several significant advantages:

  • Improved Security and Stability: Mainline Linux kernels are actively developed and maintained by a vast community of contributors, leading to regular updates and security patches. By using the same kernel version as other Linux systems, Android devices can benefit from these enhancements.
  • Enhanced Compatibility: Mainline kernels provide compatibility with a wider range of hardware and software, allowing Android devices to seamlessly integrate with other Linux-based systems.
  • Developer Productivity: The use of a common kernel simplifies development processes and enables developers to easily port applications and drivers between Android and other Linux platforms.
  • Reduced Fragmentation: With a shared Linux kernel base, Android devices can run different versions of Android without significant hardware-level differences, reducing fragmentation and simplifying device management.

Scope of Support:

Google's support for mainline Linux kernels is not a blanket policy for all Android devices. Currently, the focus is on high-end devices and reference platforms, such as the Google Pixel and Android Open Source Project (AOSP) devices. This is because these devices have the hardware capabilities and technical expertise necessary to effectively support mainline kernels.

Technical Details:

The adoption of mainline Linux kernels on Android requires several technical adaptations to ensure compatibility with the existing Android ecosystem. These adaptations include:

  • Modifications to the Android Common Kernel (ACK): ACK, which is the Android-specific layer that sits on top of the Linux kernel, needs to be updated to work with mainline kernels.
  • Upstreaming Android-specific Code: Device-specific drivers, features, and optimizations that were previously part of ACK are being contributed to the mainline Linux kernel project to ensure compatibility across all supported devices.
  • Hardware Bring-up: Device manufacturers need to modify their hardware and drivers to support mainline kernels and ensure optimal performance.

Timeline and Availability:

Google has not provided a specific timeline for the widespread availability of mainline Linux kernels on Android devices. The process is expected to be gradual, with early adopters such as the Google Pixel devices receiving support first. As hardware capabilities improve and technical challenges are overcome, more Android devices are likely to adopt mainline kernels in the future.


Google's decision to support mainline Linux kernels on Android devices marks a significant shift in the Android ecosystem. It promises to enhance security, stability, compatibility, developer productivity, and reduce fragmentation. While the widespread adoption of mainline kernels may take time, it represents a positive step towards a more unified and adaptable Android platform.

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