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Is OpenGL on Android a battery killer?

Posted by: admin June 15, 2020 Leave a comment


I’m currently implementing a software keyboard ( using some sophisticated prediction ), and drawing it using canvas is insufficient in terms of perfomance. I’m getting frame drawing times well above 100ms, which is clearly unacceptable.

The keyboard itself consists of about 33 keys, each of them drawn using drawRoundRect and a simple Text above that. No widgets whatsoever are used, so it’s the plain perfomance. Also, almost all of Googles perfomance tips are in use, so thats not the reason for the speed either.

I’ve now reached a point where switching to opengl actually would make sense, but I’m still sceptical considering the impact an opengl-based keyboard might have on battery life.

As I’ve found no sufficient documentation on that topic, I hope someone here can point me to the right direction.

How to&Answers:

Regardless of how much it drains the battery, you probably don’t want to do this because most existing devices don’t support multiple OpenGL contexts at the same time, so your soft keyboard would be incompatible with any application that is using OpenGL for its own drawing. On these devices the OpenGL context is owned only by the foreground application; it can not be used in secondary parts of the UI like the soft keyboard.

Also as the previous poster said, you would probably be best off looking how to optimize your regular drawing. Drawing vectors is quite slow, so pre-rendering them into a bitmap to just do bitmap blits would help a lot. Also be careful to only draw the parts of the window that have changed. 100ms is a pretty insane amount of time to take to draw the UI, so there are almost certainly significant optimizations you can make. You might want to look at the KeyboardView code in the platform (which is used by the standard soft keyboard and sample IME); this already contains many similar drawing optimizations.


An aside: Have you considered rendering the keys once and then grabbing them as sprites and blitting these? It should be vastly superior to rendering vector graphics.

I cannot give you hard numbers (and as apphacker pointed out, this is device-specific), but even if OpenGL is hardware-accelerated and hence might use more battery, the operation should complete much faster and so use less power in total.
If it is not hardware-accelerated, it seems logical that it should only use more power if it takes longer to complete the operation, as you are only exchanging one drawing API for another.
All in all, as you only have to draw when external events happen it shouldn’t matter much in the long run, as people are probably tiping only a few keys per minute.

You’ll probably just have to implement it (maybe in a simplified test case) and make measurements.