Port Android application to Anbox Cloud

When porting an Android application to Anbox Cloud usually in the form of APK, there are a few issues that can cause an application to not function properly, they are:

  • Missing Dependency
  • Missing Runtime Permissions
  • Mismatched Architecture
  • Strict Watchdog Restriction
  • Support OBB Files

Missing Dependency

Google Play services are not supported by Anbox Cloud. If an application requires Google Play services to run, then it can not be ported to Anbox Cloud.

Missing Runtime Permissions

An application can not automatically grant themselves permissions upon its creation.
When creating an application in AMS, you have to specify the runtime permissions that are required by an application to run in the Anbox Cloud.

To list all required runtime permissions of an application, you can use the AAPT2 to find out:

$ aapt2 dump permissions <path to apk>

Then add the required permissions to top-level key [required-permissions]
in the application manifest.yaml, for example:

  - android.permission.WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE
  - android.permission.READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE
  - android.permission.INTERNET

A convenient way of granting all required runtime permissions to an application is following:

required-permissions:  ['*']

Anbox will grant all permissions automatically when creating an application in AMS.

Mismatched Architecture

In most cases, an Android application is not distributed as a universal APK.
If the application contains native libraries, the ABI split approach is used to produce different APK files for the different architectures. Before creating an application in AMS, you need to know the supported architecture by the APK which is used for AMS application creation.
There are quite a few ways to detect what architecture an APK’s native libraries are built for.
Since an APK file is no more than a zip file, one straight forward way to check that is to unzip the APK file and see the subfolders inside the libs folder. Typically they are:

  • armeabi-v7a: native code compiled for the ARMv7 architecture CPUs (32-bit)
  • arm64-v8a: native code compiled for the ARMv8 architecture CPUs (64-bit)
  • x86: native code compiled for the x86 architecture CPUs (32-bit)
  • x86_64: native code compiled for x86-64 architecture CPUs (64-bit)

Depends on your Anbox Cloud deployment architecture, if the container layer is running on 64-bit x86 hardware, The APKs that support x86 and x86_64 architectures can be used to create an AMS application. If the container layer is running on 64-bit Arm hardware, only armeabi-v7a and arm64-v8a based APKs can.

Support OBB Files

Android has a 100MB limit on applications.
Applications under that limit can be created using the regular method.
Larger applications however need to be split up into the main part as an APK file and the expansion part as an OBB file.

  • APK - Contains the executables and native libraries(*.so files), plug-ins, basic assets, and data required by the application to load for the first time.
  • OBB - Contains the remaining assets (high-fidelity graphics, media files, or other large resource files) for full application user experience.

Creating this type of application in AMS is supported but requires a few more steps.

Let’s assume that you have an application which consists of APK file and an OBB file separately, they are:

├── com.foo.bar.apk
└── main.203779.com.foo.bar.obb

Rename com.foo.bar.apk to app.apk and create a sub-folder named extra-data where you need to move the .obb file. Declare the obb file as an extra data in the application manifest.

The final application folder should look like the following:

├── app.apk
├── extra-data
│   └── main.203779.com.foo.bar.obb
├── manifest.yaml

And its manifest.yaml like this:

name: com.foo.bar
instance-type: a2.3
required-permissions: ['*']
    target: /sdcard/Android/obb/com.foo.bar/

Then create the application:

$ amc application create .

Upon application installation, the .obb file will be copied to the destination folder as defined in manifest.yaml. Then when launching a regular container from the created application, the .obb file will be automatically loaded on startup.

The destination location of .obb file may vary depending on the applications. Some applications load the obb file from the SD card /sdcard/Android/obb/, but some load it from device internal storage /data/media/obb. If an obb file is not properly installed in the container, an application may not function as expected. Some applications exit immediately once the required obb file is not found, which triggers the watchdog in the end and cause the container to end up in an error state.

Strict Watchdog Restriction

The watchdog is enabled by default upon application creation. It’s tricky to identify a problem or debug a porting issue when a watchdog is enabled since a container will be terminated when a watchdog is triggered.

To overcome the problem introduced by watchdog and facilitate application porting, it’s recommended to disable the watchdog settings for the time being upon application creation.
This can be done with the top-level key watchdog in the application manifest.yaml:

  disabled: true

If the application porting is complete, please enable watchdog again so that Anbox can collect tombstones or ANR once a crash happens during the application runtime and terminate the container in time.

Some applications require to interact with other apps for something like account setup or permission grants in Android settings application. Calling another application from the boot application would move the running application to the background and cause a watchdog to trigger.
In this case, you can extend the allowed packages list for watchdog by specifying allowed-packages under the top-level key watchdog in the application manifest.yaml, For example:

  disabled: false
    - com.android.settings

This will allow boot application to launch Android setting application during its runtime but not triggering a watchdog.