Google is moving away from APKs in the Play Store this August

Google Play Store
Google Play Store (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google seems to want to move away from Android app formatted as APKs in the Play Store.
  • It's now started mandating that new apps entering the store from August should use its new AAB format.
  • The move is likely to harm third-party app stores as Google remains the only store that uses the AAB format.

Google this week announced that it would be mandating the adoption of the Android App Bundle (AAB) over Android Packages (APKs) for new apps submitted from August 2021. The company had previously introduced the Android App Bundle as a new way of formatting apps for publication to the Play Store in 2018. It had seen adoption from developers as high-profile as Netflix and Adobe.

Android App Bundles offered benefits for users in the form of smaller downloads. To put it simply, an APK install would have to be compatible with all supported device configurations and languages, while an AAB-packaged app would download only what was needed for your device and language combination. For developers, Google pitches them as more efficient and resulting in fewer uninstalls from users. They are also more secure via Google's Play App Signing, preventing apps from being compromised.

While developers had the option to choose between APKs and AABs in the past, new apps submitted to the Play Store won't have that option anymore. Existing apps are exempt, though the use of the word "currently" means that Google is likely to change this requirement in the future.

As always, the issue for developers is that if they want to target the Amazon App Store for Fire tablets and Windows 11 PCs, Huawei's AppGallery for HarmonyOS, and the Google Play Store, they'll have to have completely separate code bases for each platform, and only Google's benefits from these changes. Developers already face hurdles because each app store has its own set of common APIs, and this may cause even more friction that may discourage some from supporting third-party app stores.

Michael Allison
  • All hale the might of Google!
  • Do no evil, eh Google? Sure it makes sense from a corporate standpoint, but it won't look good from an antitrust standpoint (unless everyone else, including Microsoft, change as well). Oh well, as long as the people who want to be able to sideload APKs or AABs or LMNOPs can still sideload whatever they want to (ya hear that unhacked iOS, we like to install what we want and break/brick our phones if we want) Android life will still be good. 🙂
  • Likely to harm 3rd party app developers?
    Not one bit. More likely to hasten the already inevitable flood to the Amazon App Store and Billions of more machines via Windows 11.. If I were Google I'd backtrack on this immediately and get invited to Windows 11 as quick as possible so they can keep their marketshare. Not sure why I am saying this for them to read, but they never seem to listen to me anyway. Lol
  • That's what I think. If I were a developer, I'd want maximum exposure...and profit. Plus, what will become of apps like YouTube Vanced and NewPipe, among others?
  • Thank you Google, you've just killed Microsoft's stupid Android apps on Windows 1 1 and I'm happy about that because it was a stupid idea in the first place as the Amazon app store is vastly inferior to the Play Store, and Google should give the people like the EU the middle finger if the try to slap Google with a anti trust sanctions, Google should be free to make changes to the way apps are formatted on the Play Store and I think it's a great move by Google that I fully support.
  • Just pushed developers toward it you mean. Should I learn a new way to make Android apps, or should I keep doing it the same way, but have them available on twice the machines, AND keep a bigger cut of sales? Hmmm... this is an easier choice by the day for developers, and Google is shooting themselves in the foot. You have to see this.
  • All I see is Google ready to outwit both Amazon and Microsoft yet again. Bravo Google, bravo.
  • I wouldn't want you managing my money if you're that blind to the future.
  • By becoming a walled garden, Google is basically making the EU's case, no?
  • But Google isn't a walled garden that would be Apple and Amazon.
  • He's talking about converting from apk to their new proprietary app system not now. As usual you're stuck talking about today. Can't you read the article and see where things are headed like everybody else? By making it even harder to cross develop for multiple stores and making Google services more and more critical to basic functions they are producing something of a walled garden. Or trying to. Thankfully Micriooft and Amazon are giving developers more than twice the reason to develop for them money wise.
  • You underestimate Google at your peril.
  • My peril? Lol
  • This is what happens when one company has such an unchecked and unsupervised amount of power and influence. I'm just waiting for all these tech overlords and their companies to make the jump to "sci-fi" status, where they end up existing just like they are described by author William Gibson in his de-facto states unto themselves, with their own armies, policies, rules and regulations etc. "Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation." William Gibson, Neuromancer
  • Pretty sure you can check off "have their own rules"
  • Not seeing that this is much more than changing a few settings at compile time. For giant apps, there's increased QA costs when you have to test both versions, but I suspect smaller developers will just trust that the compiler did its thing. In reality, people will probably develop and test for Google, then once they're happy, recompile the APK for the other marketplaces.