Google presents a big shift in the way apps run on Android“And while the changes may not be too noticeable for consumers, it’s important to be aware of what’s going on and why, if you’re a user of Google’s mobile operating system.”
Starting in August 2021, developers looking to release new Android apps to the Google Play Store will need to change the way those apps are packaged together: Instead of the traditional APK (Android app suite) format that has been around for years, software vendors will need it instead use the AAB box (Android App Bundle).
We won’t go into detailed technical analysis of how these two standards differ – unless you’re a developer, it won’t change the way you work with your apps – but one of the main reasons for the change is the large number of devices Android runs on.
One of the key benefits of AAB is that it only delivers the parts of the app that you really need for your device. For example, if you’re using a phone, you don’t need larger graphics designed for tablet screens, so the app can be smaller and lighter. Instead of developers having to encode and package separate APKs for separate devices – or put them all together in one pile – they can use the AAB route to automatically manage this.
It also gives developers more flexibility when it comes to delivering specific features (like augmented reality add-ons, perhaps) to certain devices — in other words, users don’t have to download everything at once.
Another way this can be used is with games: Higher levels of the game don’t necessarily have to be downloaded right away, which means users can get started faster with lower levels without being frustrated with long load times. Again, all this turns into a smaller download and a more agile app.
Through the Play Store, Google takes on the job of splitting the main suite of Android apps into a series of APKs specific to each device that requests it. According to Google, on average, these newly optimized APKs are 15 percent smaller than before.
AABs were introduced with Android 9 in 2018, but now Google is insisting that developers switch to it, at least for new apps. Apps already in the Play Store can continue to use APKs for now, although the trend is only going in one direction: Google says most of the top 1,000 apps now use AABs, and there are over a million apps that use the package format.