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Google to sweep outdated Play Store apps under the rug in the name of security

Google Play Store home page on Android and Chrome OS
(Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Android apps more than two years behind the latest Android OS release will be hidden on the Google Play Store.
  • Google already requires new apps and updates to remain one OS release behind, so this will target defunct apps.
  • Outdated apps you've previously downloaded will remain visible to you but not to other users.
  • These changes will take place starting November 1, 2022.

Google's Android developers team has announced (opens in new tab) a new policy that hides any Android app that has fallen too far behind recent OS releases. Apps that fall more than two years behind the current Android OS will become invisible in Play Store search results, meaning new users won't be able to download them.

Krish Vitaldevara, Google's Director of Product Management, says this will "protect users from installing apps that may not have the latest privacy and security features."

The new rule will be enforced starting on November 1, when Android 13 will presumably be available on Pixel phones. That means apps must target Android 11 or better by that date, or else they'll essentially vanish from the public eye until an update brings them back into compliance.

Devs struggling to hit this deadline can request a six-month extension.

Target API Level requirements for existing apps on Play Store, starting November 1

(Image credit: Android Developers / Google)

Google also plans to require any new app or update work with either the current or previous OS. So by November 1, they'll have to target an Android API level of Android 12 or better. Once this system is in place, an app would have to remain defunct for a year or two before it fell afoul of the new restrictions.

If you like a particular app that hasn't been updated in years, don't worry. You'll be able to "discover, re-install, and use the app" via the Play Store. You just have to accept the risks that go with using outdated software.

Vitaldevara's post says that the "vast majority of apps on Google Play already abide by these standards," as most of them receive regular updates to stay relevant and profitable. But in theory, this will cut down on irrelevant Play Store search results of apps that you likely wouldn't want to use.

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.