Google today announced a number of new changes and policies for Android developers to improve app security and performance on Google Play. Coming into effect throughout 2018 and 2019, these policies cover what API levels to target and a new 64-bit requirement

Security metadata

Beginning in early 2018, Google will automatically insert security metadata in each APK to verify that it was officially distributed by Google Play. The company harkens this Play badge to labels on physical products that signify authenticity.

No action is required on the part of developers or end users. This metadata is small with the maximum APK size being adjusted to account for the addition, while app functionality will not be altered. Google notes that besides security, “this metadata will enable new distribution opportunities for developers in the future and help more people keep their apps up to date.”

Target API level requirement

In late 2018, the Google Play Console will require that new apps and updates target a recent API level:

  • August 2018: New apps required to target API level 26 (Android 8.0) or higher.
  • November 2018: Updates to existing apps required to target API level 26 or higher.
  • 2019 onwards: Each year the targetSdkVersion requirement will advance. Within one year following each Android dessert release, new apps and app updates will need to target the corresponding API level or higher.

As such, within a year of a major release, apps must be updated to support features introduced in that version. This should be a tremendous boon that spurs developers to add the latest user-facing features, as well as under-the-hood performance and security enhancements.

Meanwhile, future Android versions will restrict apps that don’t target a recent API level and adversely impact performance or security. Google notes that it want to “proactively reduce fragmentation in the app ecosystem.”

64-bit support requirement

The last change is meant to address Android devices in the near future that will only support 64-bit code. Support for the higher architecture was introduced in Android 5.0 Lollipop. Over 40 percent of devices today support 64-bit, as well as maintaining 32-bit compatibility.

Beginning August 2019, the Play Console will require that apps and new updates can run without the need of 32-bit support. This should result in “significantly better performance, with additional registers and new instructions.”

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Abner Li

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