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What is Android MultiDex?

Posted by: admin March 11, 2020 Leave a comment


There are many posts about MultiDex. I have experienced, sometimes, errors solved including multiDexEnabled true in the defaultConfig section of my build.gradle.

But, what exactly is this feature? What are the scenarios for using it?

How to&Answers:

Quoting the documentation:

Android application (APK) files contain executable bytecode files in the form of Dalvik Executable (DEX) files, which contain the compiled code used to run your app. The Dalvik Executable specification limits the total number of methods that can be referenced within a single DEX file to 65,536, including Android framework methods, library methods, and methods in your own code. Getting past this limit requires that you configure your app build process to generate more than one DEX file, known as a multidex configuration.

So, the feature is: it allows your complex app to compile. The scenarios for using it are when your app fails to compile due to hitting the 64K DEX method reference limit. This appears as a build error, such as:

Conversion to Dalvik format failed: Unable to execute dex: method ID not in [0, 0xffff]: 65536


It’s as simple as this

A single .dex file can have 65,536 methods(references) so if the number of references exceeds 65,536, you go with multidex.

More Explanation!

An android application program is compiled into a .dex file which in turn zipped to a single .apk file.
DVM (Dalvik Virtual Machine) uses .dex file/files to execute bytecodes.

What causes the number of references to exceed 65,536 limits?
Methods written by you + Android Framework methods + Third party library(eg Volley,Retrofit, Facebook SDK etc) methods.
I have read “somewhere”
App Compat 24.2.1 contains 16.5k methods
Google Play Services GCM 9.6.1 contains 16.7k methods
So if you have created a simple Hello world application which has App Compat 24.2.1, you are already 1/4 way to cross the single dex methods limit


What is MultiDex in Android?

Dex stands for Dalvik Executable, which is what Google’s virtual machine processor (Dalvik) uses to handle Android Applications. Android was built with small and simple apps in mind and the constraints on one single Dalvik Executable pinned the roof of code references at 65,536 methods. Because of this issue and the way the Dalvik machine handles code execution there were some compiling and invocation issues, until the Monkey Patch or MultiDex integration. MultiDex integration in Android Studio allows Android Developers the ability to compile and execute a code-base with over 65,536 methods!


What it also allows is, for google (and others) to apply DRM, say.. widevine, in pieces of code where it causes problems for most non-developers..