Android will soon support the low-level graphics API, called Vulkan, according to Google. The company also promised it will continue to work on OpenGL ES, so developers will be able to choose the "simplicity of OpenGL ES, or the explicit control of Vulkan."
A few years ago, AMD announced Mantle, a low-level graphics API that would compete with DirectX and OpenGL. AMD rethought everything from the ground up to ensure more direct control of the hardware, as it was already possible on consoles. On PCs, the graphics drivers had too much overhead, the CPU calls were inefficient, and the old APIs such as OpenGL weren't optimized for multi-threaded performance.
To boost adoption of its standard, AMD gave it away to Khronos, which took the best parts of it and then continued to improve on it with many others from the industry. Vulkan is meant to fully replace OpenGL one day, although for the next few years the two will likely coexist. Vulkan will be compatible with any hardware that already supports OpenGL ES 3.1 in mobile, or OpenGL 4.5 on the desktop.
Google announced that it will be one of the early adopters of Vulkan on the platform side of things. Apple has been pushing its Vulkan-like API, Metal, on the Mac OS X as well, while Microsoft will likely never support it in Windows. However, the GPU makers will probably have Vulkan drivers for Windows alongside their DirectX drivers soon after the specification is finished (which Khronos said will happen "later this year").
According to Google, Android Lollipop received 50,000 new tests for OpenGL ES in the Compatibility Test Suite (CTS), which is used to ensure all drivers in all devices are as standardized as possible in order to reduce the number of problems developers may encounter. The company said that it will make similar tests for Vulkan as well and submit them to Khronos' own open source Conformance Test Suite.
Vulkan will offer developers more direct control over the GPU, which may or may not be used by individual developers, but it is a definite boon for game engine developers. The higher level of optimization will allow them to extract higher performance from hardware, which in turn will help game developers build better-looking games on a wider variety of hardware.
As a universal API for both mobile and PC, it should also lead to more games that can be played on both mobile and desktop, and even on the Web once the Vulkan variation of WebGL is ready.
As the specification is still not finished, Vulkan will likely not be available in Android M, and we may have to wait at least until Android N to see it, if not longer. Some companies, such as Imagination, have already built preliminary drivers and demos for Vulkan.