The biggest reason why many people prefer Android over iOS is the ability to install anything on the device outside of the app store. While Apple has labelled this privilege as a doorway to malware, Android has flourished over years to dominate the smartphone market like today.
Android users can install the APK file of any app to start using it on their phone, tablet, or even TV. But Google is going to change that. It has asked developers to stop using APKs to publish new apps to Google Play Store. Instead, they are supposed to use the Android App Bundle, and that could change the entire Android ecosystem.
Google has mentioned on its Android developers’ website that starting this August, anyone who wants to publish apps on Google Play Store will need to do that with Android App Bundles. Dom Elliott, Product Manager at Google Play, said in a post:
“This will replace the APK as the standard publishing format.”
The Android App Bundle was introduced back in May 2018 and it, according to Google, brings a gamut of improvements over the conventional APK method. The app sizes will go down while one bundle will support different device configurations and languages. However, the Android App Bundle will complicate app distribution on Android and that is not good news for people who like sideloading apps.
That is because the Android App Bundle uses Google Play signing and can be used by the Google Play store only. Android is not going to lose support for APK after the Android App Bundle system kicks in, which means you will still be able to sideload apps. However, because developers will eventually move to create App Bundles, they will shift focus from providing public versions of APKs. Besides, extracting the APK from an app is not going to be easy. If you are worried about sharing apps with your friends, which currently involves sending APK files through file transfer apps, Google Play Store supports sending and receiving apps, so you are covered.
Google has listed a number of benefits that developers will receive after switching to Android App Bundles in August, but there is more at play here. Google’s plan to shift the Android ecosystem’s integral part from APK to Android App Bundles will prevent other platforms from running apps without a controlled distribution system. In simple terms, brands that use Android as a platform for their devices will not be able to run many Android apps because of the lack of APK files. Developers will need to publish their apps separately for these platforms.
Google’s announcement comes at a time when Microsoft is opening its arms to embrace Android in its Windows ecosystem. The upcoming Windows 11 supports Android through Amazon Appstore, but that also means that this operating system can run any Android app through APK installation. Google’s directive to developers to move away from APK will mean fewer apps on Windows 11.
Existing apps do not need to be available through the Android App Bundle, as well as private apps that are meant for managing Google Play users.