Vulkan isn’t just for gaming — it has real-world benefits in daily phone use.
If it wasn’t clear by now, the Vulkan API is a very big deal when it comes to gaming and graphical performance on mobile devices. Samsung was early to the game when it announced the Galaxy S7 would have Vulkan support, and since then several devices have joined in; and now the Android N Developer Preview includes operating system-level support for Vulkan.
While the gains in terms of gaming performance are very well known, Samsung is also using it in another way. Speaking at SDC 2016, principal engineers demonstrated a new TouchWiz launcher being developed with Vulkan that not only improves performance but offers a notable battery life boost to your phone.
This new so-called “TouchWiz-like” (as in, this is not production-ready) launcher isn’t fully baked and doesn’t yet leverage everything that Vulkan has to offer, but the initial test case is very interesting nonetheless. This new launcher can offer the same performance as the current TouchWiz version (or better, in many cases), but it can do so at a lower power draw. The Vulkan-powered launcher performs normal tasks like scrolling pages and opening the app drawer with a 6% savings in power compared to the current version that uses GL ES.
That 6% savings may not sound like a lot, but when you consider how often the launcher is used throughout the day and how many times those actions are taken, it really adds up. In their internal testing, Samsung’s engineers note that battery life on a 3600 mAh battery — like the one found in the Galaxy S7 edge — could be extended by 40 minutes just by moving to this new launcher built with Vulkan.
Now obviously Samsung isn’t ready to roll this out or turn it into a real app just yet, but it does show that Vulkan can be leveraged for more than just hardcore gaming and graphics. The power savings that Vulkan provides while offering the same or better performance can be applied to multiple areas of the phone experience.