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Google set to replace APK with Android App Bundles (AAB)

Google appears to be making a significant change in the file formats of Android apps. Although apps have previously used the APK (Android Package) file format, Google has now announced that all apps will now be transitioned to the AAB (Android App Bundle) file format. The decision will empower developers to grasp how this improves their apps – reports indicate that all apps on the Google Android eco-system can now have up to 15 percent reduced file sizes. Large apps available at much smaller file sizes can be beneficial for users who are still on limited data networks, and this will result in faster downloads and lower storage requirements for end-users.

The AAB (Android App Bundle) file format was first introduced by Google in 2018, and more than a million apps on the Play Store, including Adobe, Netflix, Twitter, and Duolingo, use app bundles rather than APKs, as claimed by the company. Moreover, the company will make it standard for all app developers to submit in the newer AAB format on Play Store from August 2021.

APK, Google Play, AAB logos

Image Source: Google | Image Background: TechStory

For efficient delivery, the new format generally requires all apps to be under 150MB in size. Developers need to use the new Play Asset Delivery (PAD) technology to provide external resources to users for apps and games that are larger than 150MB. OBBs files were currently used by apps and games to provide users with additional resources. The PAD system, on the other hand, is designed for faster data compression and dynamic delivery algorithms to enable faster downloads, even when a game or app is already running.

Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks to AABs. The first is that AABs aren’t supported by other app stores, including the Amazon App Store or the Huawei App Gallery. Developers who publish their Android apps on these platforms will still need to manually export APK packages. This means that developers who make the transition to AAB will be unable to provide the same bundle to other app stores and repositories. This prevents the possibility of apps being sideloaded unless the developers maintain a distinct APK version of their apps.

Google’s announcement comes just after when Microsoft is welcoming Android into its Windows ecosystem. As we know the upcoming Windows 11 operating system will natively support Android Apps via Amazon Appstore, which also implies that any Android app can be executed through APK installation on Windows 11. Google’s instruction to developers to ditch APK may result in fewer apps on Windows 11.

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