Android App Changes Coming in 2018 and 2019 Including 64-Bit Requirements

Google has laid out a three stage process that Android developers will need to pay attention to going forward.  With the goal of improving performance and security, the company to to the Android Developers Blog yesterday to outline their requirements for apps starting next year.  This will lead to the ultimate end of apps being 64-bit enabled by August of 2019.

The first step in the process starts next year with the requirement that development of new apps be around the latest APIs in the platform.  Come August 2018, app developers will be required to code against API 26, or as we end users know it, Android 8.0.  If developers have an existing app, that app has to be updated to API 26 by November of 2018.  Going forward, as you would expect, the API requirements will go up as new version of Android are release.

Readers should not that this require does not mean that the apps will only run on Oreo 8.0.  It means that developers have to develop, using the Oreo API level, in the assumption that everyone is using Oreo.  Developers are encouraged, and will, be backwards compatible to a few API levels back.

Second, and the headliner for most readers, is the requirement of 64-bit apps in Android APKs starting in August 2019.  Apps will still have 32-bit support, at least for now, but developers starting in August 2019 will have to have their 64-bit versions run completely independent of the 32-bit code.  Today, some developers will have a 64-bit app but will leverage some of the 32-bit code to simplify their lives and cut down on coding time.  It works but it isn’t as efficient from a process perspective nor is it as secure.

Developers are being encouraged to assume that, at some point, Android will only support 64-bit apps and should develop their apps where the 64-bit code in their app is independent of the 32-bit code.  64-bit support came to Android in Lollipop 5.0 and Google states that 40% of the apps in the Play Store are running 64-bit code.  It isn’t new but Google is giving developers plenty of time to sort their apps out to be 64-bit only.

Finally, another change that will come into play in 2018, is secure metadata on top of each app.  Starting early next year, Google will add a small amount of security metadata on top of each APK.  This is to assure that it was officially distributed by Google Play.  The idea here is to give apps an “official label” that they have come from the Play Store and are authentic.  Essentially this is a Play badge that will be added to the app which, as you can imagine, can be used in the future by administrators to allow only officially labeled apps installed on devices.  This is another security feature.

The good news for developers is that they don’t really have to do anything to their apps.  Google will be adding this secure metadata on top of the existing APK.

For those reading this (and kudos to you for making it this far!), these are all developer changes that really won’t impact your world.  At least, not yet.  If you are running an older device (KitKat or earlier), it is seriously time to consider updating your device.


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