All of you Android users out there with iPhone envy may not have to be so envious much longer. That’s because six Columbia University computer science students have developed an operating system compatibility architecture that enables native iOS apps to run on the Android operating system. Which means you may soon be able to play those iOS-only games you’ve been lusting after–like Infinity Blade III–on your Android phone or tablet.
The six computer science PHD-candidates have developed Cider, an operating system compatibility architecture that can run apps built for different OSes–in this case iOS and Android–on the same Android smartphone or tablet.
According to the project page on Columbia University’s Software Systems Lab’s web site, “Cider enhances the domestic operating system, Android, of a device with kernel-managed, per-thread personas to mimic the application binary interface of a foreign operating system, iOS, enabling it to run unmodified foreign binaries.” Basically, Cider fools the iOS apps into thinking they are running on an iOS phone or tablet.
A video demoing the Cider architecture is available on YouTube:
The video, which demonstrates the architecture running on a Google Nexus 7 tablet, shows both Android and iOS apps running side-by-side. It also shows that the project is far from ready for prime time, as the performance is pretty bad. Also, the iOS apps can’t access most hardware, such as a GPS or cellular connection.
In a paper outlining the Cider project, the six Columbia University students admit that while they have not run into any compatibility issues with native iOS apps running on Android, the project does have its limitations.
“In particular, smartphones and tablets incorporate a plethora of devices that apps expect to be able to use, such as GPS, cameras, cell phone radio, Bluetooth, and others,” they note. “Cider will not currently run iOS apps that depend on such devices.”
They cite FaceTime as one of those apps that Cider can’t handle, because it needs to access the device’s camera to function correctly. Other apps such as Yelp–which needs to access GPS and location services–can still function even though Cider can’t access the device’s GPS. The app just assumes the devices location is currently unavailable and operates as it would without a GPS signal.
“Our results demonstrate that Cider has modest performance overhead and runs popular iOS and Android apps together seamlessly on the same Android device,” the students note.