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Google is ditching the APK format; What it means for users

While APKs are still supported for older apps, newer applications will have to stick to the AAB (Android App Bundle) format starting from August this year.

Google, Google Play Store, Android,The AAB format offers benefits like smaller package sizes compared to the APK format. (Express Photo)

The APK format that has been the sole format of apps on the Google Play Store and also synonymous with sideloading on Android devices is coming to an end. The format will be replaced with Google’s more recent AAB format (Android App Bundles). Google officially announced the decision to switch to AABs today.

Starting August this year, all apps will be required to submitted in the newer AAB format. First introduced in 2018, the AAB format is set to bring smaller file sizes to new apps and make other aspects easier to control.

Many apps on the Google Play Store are already using the newer format. Meanwhile, apps that are in the APK section can stay that way for now. However, Google could pull the plug on that too in subsequent years, although the company has not revealed anything on that front yet.

What does this mean for consumers?

For the average consumer, the switch from APKs to AABs should come as a good news, as AABs offer small file sizes, 15 per cent smaller than APKs to be specific. It is also good news for developers, who will now have more control and flexibility over their apps, resulting in faster and more efficient updates too.

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However, there are also a few cons with AABs. The first of these is that AABs are not supported across other app stores like the Amazon App Store or the Huawei’s App Gallery. Developers who are also publishing their Android apps on these stores will need to manually export APK versions anyway.

The move could also be seen as a way to keep Android apps exclusively available on the Google Play Store. As far as sideloading is considered, APK sideloading should still be supported in current Android versions as the format is not entirely banned and the decision only applies to newer apps for now.

First published on: 01-07-2021 at 14:57 IST
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