Android Penetration Testing Tutorial For Beginners

What is Android Open Source Project (AOSP)? Architecture, Framework, Benefits (Tutorial)


Android Open Source Project (AOSP) is an official open-source platform for Android. It is an important part of the Android ecosystem that plays a vital role in the development and evolution of the mobile operating system. In simple words, Android AOSP is an open-source development project maintained by Google. 

In this Android AOSP tutorial, we will explore everything you need to know about it, including what is Android AOSP, how it works, its architecture, its framework, and its role in the Android ecosystem.

To know about what is Android and its history, check the linked write-up.

What is Android Open Source Project (AOSP)?

Android AOSP is an open-source software stack for Android devices, which includes the operating system, middleware, and key applications. It's the foundation upon which the official version of Android is built, and serves as a starting point for developers and device makers looking to build custom variations of Android.

The Android Open Source Project (AOSP) framework is a combination of core libraries and APIs that sets the foundation of the whole android operating system. This set of APIs allows developers to create apps for the Android platform. 

The AOSP framework is written in Java and is designed to be flexible and extensible, allowing developers to build and run a wide range of applications on Android devices.

The framework is a crucial component of the Android ecosystem as this allows various device manufacturers and developers to create custom versions of Android for their devices, or to contribute to the development of Android itself.

Android AOSP Architecture Explained

The Android AOSP architecture is a layered architecture that consists of several components, such as the Linux kernel, system libraries, runtime, etc. As part of our comprehensive Android Penetration Testing Tutorial for beginners, we have covered everything here in detail.

There are 4 main components of AOSP architecture:

  • Linux Kernel

  • Libraries

  • Application Framework

  • System Applications

However, to develop applications, Android developers need to have deep knowledge of the same.

Android AOSP Architecture Explained

Components of Android Architecture

1. Linux Kernel

The Linux kernel is the bottom-most, crucial, and core layer of Android architecture. It provides various features, such as Security, Memory Management, Multitasking, Device Management, and Process Management. 

It is also responsible for maintaining the abstraction levels between device hardware and the upper layers of Android architecture. It consists of drivers like a camera, keypad, audio, Wi-Fi, display, etc.

2. Libraries

This layer in Android AOSP provides the necessary infrastructure for applications to run. It consists of a set of libraries and Android runtime. The Android component is built using native code and native libraries written in C/C++, and most of the libraries are open source. 

This layer also manages the data that is specific to the hardware. Some of the libraries are SSL, SQLite, OpenGL, etc. 

Just like Java uses JVM, Android uses DVM (Dalvik Virtual Machine),  which is responsible for running Android applications, and optimizing battery life, memory, and performance.  

3. Application Framework

The application framework provides the APIs that allow developers to create Android apps, as well as a set of standard app components (such as activities, services, and content providers) that developers can use to build their apps.

The application framework that is built on top of the native libraries provides us with an application programming interface. All the features of the android operating system are available to us through APIs that are written in the form of Java classes. 

The application framework also consists of Hardware Abstraction Layer, also known as HAL, which allows the application framework to communicate with all the hardware-specific drivers. An Android application uses the HAL APIs to receive commands from all the different hardware devices. 

The application framework consists of 5 key services:

  • Activity Manager: The method in this class uses debugging and testing methods.

  • Content Provider: It transfers data from the application to other layers.

  • Resource Manager: It comprises access to non-code resources. 

  • Notification Manager: It provides notifications about all the actions happening in the background to all the users.

  • View System: It is responsible for event handling.

4. Applications

It is the top-most layer of Android AOSP architecture which is the user interface. This layer has native Android applications and third-party installed applications, and it also works around managing user input. 

They are combined together in a package, and all the applications that are to be installed are written in this layer, such as contacts, browsers, settings, messages, games, etc.

What Are Benefits of Android AOSP?

Now a question arises, why do we need to know the architecture of AOSP in the first place?

There is a huge benefit to learning about architecture, especially if you are an Android developer. It becomes easy to add new features if we are aware of the different components of the architecture. 

As part of the Android AOSP tutorial, let’s dive into some of the advantages of Android Open Source Projects:

1. Customization

AOSP allows a high level of customization and can be modified and extended by developers to create custom ROMs. Basically, the user can tweak their devices to meet their specific needs and preferences.  

2. Performance

It can provide a faster and more responsive experience on devices, as it does not include any additional features that can slow down the operating system. 

3. Community Support

The feeling of belongingness for developers who are contributing to such projects is overwhelming. There is a separate community that focuses on and helps each other on a common mission of AOSP.

4. Security

Since it is regularly developed by the android community, it is regularly updated with security patches and fixes. Since there are certain Android security issues that need to be fixed, the AOSP project plays a crucial role. 

5. Up-to-date

All ROMs based on AOSP can be used to update older devices to the latest versions of Android or try out new features that are not available on their current version of Android.

A Fact About Android Open Source Projects

AOSP doesn’t come with Google’s suite of software applications, such as its Google browser, YouTube, and also Google Play Store. It also doesn’t come with Google’s under-the-hood technologies and some APIs that have features like mobile payments, cloud storage, etc. These are licensed separately by Google Mobile Services (GMS).

Summing Up Android AOSP Tutorial

The Android Open Source Project continues to be the strong foundation of Android’s success, all thanks to countless hours of developer input from all around the globe. 

By providing Android as a source code, anyone can use it, unlike some standalone products like Windows. Since it is open-source, anyone is free to review and write code and fixes to the project. However, Google will have the final say in the development. Google wants everyone to win, and that’s what AOSP is aiming for!

In the next sections, we will learn about Android Partitions, Android Boot Process, Android Vulnerabilities, and more.

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