Google is seemingly making a major shift in terms of file formats of apps on Android. While apps have so far worked in the APK file format (standing for Android Package), Google has now officially announced that all apps will now be moved to the AAB file format – which stands for Android App Bundle. The change is one that developers may appreciate in terms of how this will affect apps – reports state that all apps on Google’s Android ecosystem can now be smaller in file size by up to 15 percent. It is this that can be the biggest impact for users right now – having large apps downloadable at much smaller file sizes can be great for users who are still on limited data networks.
However, the move may also attract more regulatory oversight for Google, in terms of how this move works for developers publishing on Android. While Google has not withdrawn APK support from Android entirely, this also puts the onus on developers to push AAB app files primarily. This, in turn, means that more developers may be compelled to use their resources to publish their apps in AAB on the Google Play Store. Indirectly, this might compel more app developers with limited resources to only publish AAB app files, and skip manually exporting separate APK versions of their apps. This also makes it more difficult for smaller developers to maintain their apps on platforms outside the Play Store, since they would have to publish each update in both AAB and APK file formats.
For users, this in turn might mean fewer choices to download apps from outside of the Google Play Store. While Apple has been extensively criticised in terms of giving users no choice outside its own app store to download apps from, AAB might have a similar effect without explicitly making it so. For smaller, independent app developers with limited resources, this certainly means a more difficult umbrella environment for publishing apps.
Whether this has such a drastic impact on apps in the Android ecosystem or otherwise remains to be seen in due time. For now, the way apps work on Android won’t fundamentally change as long as they rely primarily on the Play Store.
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