Back in 2017, Google set out to improve Android apps by mandating they target a certain API level and take advantage of the newest platform features. With new and updated applications all targeting Android 8.0 as of November, Google is detailing the Pie support requirement set for later this year.

Starting this August, new apps submitted to the Play Store are required to target API level 28 and above. By November, updates to existing applications will also have to support Android 9. The rolling yearly mandate was established when Google first launched this initiative. Existing apps in the store that do not receive updates are unaffected.

Google notes that enforcement of this rule has resulted in “Android users now enjoy[ing] more apps using modern APIs than ever before.” Over the course of 2018, over 150,000 applications added support for runtime permissions and other features introduced with Oreo.

Besides Google Play, Chinese app stores like Huawei, OPPO, Vivo, Xiaomi, Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent are requiring that developers at least target API level 26 in 2019.

We expect many others to introduce similar requirements – an important step to improve the security of the app ecosystem.

However, Google is taking other steps to protect Android, especially when users install by sideloading. The company notes that over 95% of spyware detected outside the Play Store targets API level 22 or lower to avoid runtime permissions.

To protect users from malware, and support this ecosystem initiative, Google Play Protect will warn users when they attempt to install APKs from any source that do not target a recent API level:

  • August 2019: New apps will receive warnings during installation if they do not target API level 26 or higher.
  • November 2019: New versions of existing apps will receive warnings during installation if they do not target API level 26 or higher.
  • 2020 onwards: The target API level requirement will advance annually.
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