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Google Play Store Changes On The Horizon

Technology Web & Mobile

Isadora Teich wrote this article


Google is making some major changes.

To consumers, they might not seem that noticeable, but it is critical that those of us in the business of apps understand what’s coming.

Let’s take a look.

Changes Coming Now

Starting this month, developers who want to publish new Android apps on the Google Play Store will have to make changes to how these apps are packaged together.

For years, the traditional APK, Android Application Package, format has been in place. Now, software creators will have to use the AAB, Android App Bundle, framework instead.

Some users will not likely notice anything new, however. So, why exactly is Android making the switch? One of the biggest reasons is that Android runs on a wide variety of devices and they want to ensure a smooth user experience across all of them.

The Benefits of AAB

One of the biggest benefits of AAB is that it only delivers the parts of an app that you need for your device.

For example, say you are trying to access an app on your phone. In that case, you would not really need the larger graphics designed for tablet or desktop screens. So, the app can be smaller and more lightweight, meaning it’s less of a drain on your phone.

Traditionally, developers would have to code the same app multiple times for different devices.

However, AAB allows them to have this handled automatically. On top of this, it also gives developers more flexibility concerning delivering specific features to specific devices. This means that users do not have to download everything at once, if things would not apply to their devices or needs.

AAB In Action

So, what exactly can more flexibility and a smaller app do for users? One way it could be applied is to improve the mobile gaming experience. For example, say you are playing a mobile game with hundreds of levels. Using this route, all 100+ levels wouldn’t need to be downloaded immediately.

Data shows that over half of mobile game players stick to casual, simple games. These often help them unwind. Also, only 30% of mobile gamers play daily. It’s reasonable to assume that in general, many people are not mobile gaming in a hypercompetitive race to the top, and may never reach level 500 anything anyway.

When users only download the first few levels of something, rather than all of them at once, it means they don’t have an app taking up a lot of space on their phone.

They also don’t have to wait through long loading times. This leads to a better overall user experience.

Do You Have To Change Your App?

AABs actually are not a new thing. They were introduced with Android 9 about 4 years ago.

However, Google’s push to them is new. It is important to note that they are not suddenly outlawing APK use. Apps that are already on the app store which use them can continue to do so.

The push is only for new apps.

However, AABs are definitely the future of the Google Play Store. Google says that the majority of their top 1000 apps already use AABs. Also, a million of their other apps do too.

AABs Benefit Many Global Users

Here is where we see a sharp difference between Apple and Google.

Apple banks on luxury, quality, exclusivity, and speaking directly to a very specific audience. They don’t attempt to be price competitive and offer a slick aesthetic and prestige to professionals. There is no denying that Apple products are a status symbol. They endlessly update and never backtrack.

However, 72% of mobile users on earth use Android phones.

There are over 2.5 billion active Android users in more than 100 countries. While Apple products dominate the market in countries like the US and Japan, Android dominates in most of the world. In many countries, where there is less wealth, people use Android devices, and likely not even the newest devices or updates. In fact, in 2020, the majority of global Android users were using the Android Pie 9 operating system update, which was initially released in  2018.

This AAB update will have the most profound effect on those who have cheap or old phones, that likely do not have the storage space or processing power to handle the less streamlined APK well.

Some Difficulties Surrounding The Switch

So far, only the Google Play Store uses AAB. So, while they are demanding developers change for them, they will still have to do other things for all other app stores. Essentially, they will need to create with AAB just for the Google Play Store. That might seem quite inconvenient.

Also, while the AAB standard is open source, that doesn’t mean this switch comes with zero strings attached. Since it is open source, other app libraries can adopt the format without too much extraneous effort.

However, part of the AAB packaging process relies on using Google’s cloud computing power to verify apps. This gives Google even more control over the way that apps are distributed.

What About Sideloading?

So far, no one is exactly sure how AAB will affect sideloading. Sideloading is when users download apps without going through official app stores. While this is not a huge concern for most phone users, it is one for those who like to tinker with and personalize their devices.

One big reason that some tech enthusiasts may choose Android devices over Apple ones is that there is room to experiment in ways that Apple’s strict hold makes impossible.

While sideloading opens up a whole world of interesting apps to users, it can also open them up to security and stability problems. Unless you can verify that a source is reliable, they could potentially harm your device if you open it up to them.

Increased Security

No one knows yet if sideloading will still be possible with this update. However, theoretically, it will offer some new security benefits to users. According to Google, this will make it harder for bad actors to rip packages from the Google Play Store, load them up with malware, and try to push them on unsuspecting people.

This is important, as scam apps are taking millions from people around the world.

Both the Apple and Google Playstore have big problems with malicious apps harming their users. For example, this summer, a scam victim made headlines for losing over $300,000 to a malicious crypto app. The FTC reports a record breaking amont of scam losses too, particularly when it comes to cryptocurrency.

Final Thoughts

If you are an Android user and non-developer who only uses the Google Playstore, there are really no  downsides to the AAB switch. You will likely have an improved user experience from more streamlined apps, as well as increased security.

However, for developers, tech hobbyists, and those in the business of apps, some things are definitely up in the air.

We can only wait and see how they play out.

About Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.


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