The future of Android app bundles is here

Posted by Dom Elliott, Product Manager at Google Play

Android app bundles logo

Since we launched the Android application set in May 2018, we saw our developer community embrace this new standard to benefit from streamlined versions and advanced distribution features. There are now over a million apps using app bundles in production, including the majority of the 1,000 most popular apps and games on Google Play, such as Adobe, Duolingo, Gameloft, Netflix, red bus, Riafy, and Twitter.

To bring these benefits to more users and focus on a modern Android distribution that benefits all developers, Google Play will start requiring the release of new apps with Android App Bundle from August 2021. This will replace the APK as the standard post format.

Modern Android distribution

If you haven’t made the switch to app bundles yet, here are some of the benefits you’re missing out on:

  • Android application set: Google Play uses the bundle app to generate and optimize APKs to distribute for different device configurations and languages. This makes your app smaller (on average, 15% smaller than a universal APK) and faster to download, which can lead to more installs and fewer uninstalls.
  • Play app signing: Play App Signing, which is required for app bundles, protects your app signing key from loss using Google’s secure infrastructure and provides the ability to switch to a new app signing key cryptographically more powerful.
  • Delivery of reading features: Used by over 10% of the top apps using app bundles, Play Feature Delivery lets you customize which feature packs ship to which device and when, with delivery methods at install time, conditional, and on demand.
  • Delivery of reading assets: Reduces user wait time by dynamically delivering large assets while reducing delivery costs. Games using Play Asset Delivery can use texture compression format targeting, so your users get only the assets that are right for their device, without wasting space or bandwidth.
  • Future improvements: Soon, Play App Signing will start to roll out APK Signature Scheme v4 to select apps that may allow them to access future performance features available on new devices. Connect to the Google Developer Summit for Games July 12 to find out more.

Recap of what changes from August 2021

As a reminder, the app bundle requirement applies to new apps. Existing apps are currently exempt, as are private apps published for managed users of Google Play. Thanks to the thousands of developers who participated in the app bundle adventure. We look forward to bringing you more improvements and features soon.

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Answers to some frequently asked questions about the Android App Bundle

How much work is required to use an app bundle compared to an APK?

For most applications, very little work is required to create an AAB instead of an APK. It’s mostly a matter of choosing a different option at build time and then testing normally. The app bundle is an open source format supported by major building tools such as Android Studio, Gradle, Bazel, Buck, Cocos Creator, Unity, Unreal Engine and other engines. The Play Core Native and Play Core Java and Kotlin SDKs also make it easy to get started using the advanced features of the optional app set, regardless of your preferred coding environment.

Why are extension files (OBBs) not supported with app bundles? Why should games use Play Asset Delivery?

APKs require separate files (OBBs) to provide additional resources to users. However, since OBBs are unsigned and are stored in the app’s external storage, they are not very secure. With Play Asset Delivery (PAD), games over 150MB can replace OBBs by releasing the entire game as a single set of apps on the Play Store. In addition to offering a smoother release process and flexible delivery methods, PAD has some advantages over legacy extension files: Its asset delta patch is optimized for large applications, which means upgrades day require much less storage on the device than OBBs. As a result, fast tracking results in a higher install rate and store conversion rate. Finally, with ASTC now supported on around 80% of devices, texture compression format targeting allows you to stream ASTC to devices that support it. You can target the widest range of Android devices while making efficient use of available hardware and device storage.

If I use app bundles, can I still publish through multiple distribution channels / app stores?

Yes, there are several ways to achieve this. You can either use the same app signing key everywhere or use unique app signing keys for different channels, including a single app signing key for Google Play. You can either create and sign artifacts for all distribution channels locally, or download distribution APKs from Google Play for use on other channels. Distribution APKs downloaded from Google Play, either via the bundle app explorer in the Play Console or via the Play Developer API, are signed with the same key used by Play App Signing.

I am launching a new application. Can I decide what is my app signing key?

Yes, this option is available in the Play Console. When creating a new app, you can choose one of the options to provide the app signing key used by Google. This allows you to keep a copy of your app signing key locally, for example to generate signed versions to distribute through other channels using the same key as the Play version. Soon, the Play Console will make publishing an app for the first time a little easier by giving you the option to change your app signing key if you make a mistake, as long as you do so before posting to one. track open the first time.

When distributing apps on Google Play, how can I make sure my app is delivered to users the way I want it to?

At any time, you can download and inspect artifacts from the Play Store, from the App Bundle Explorer in the Play Console, and through the Play Developer API to verify your app. More, code transparency for application bundles is a new optional feature that can be used to verify that code running on a device matches code originally created and signed by the developer.

I already have an app published on Google Play. Can I start using Play app signing without providing a copy of my existing app signing key?

To use Play App Signing today, you need to provide a copy of your existing app signing key, as Google Play needs it to sign and deliver updates to your existing users. This is fine for most developers, over 1 million apps use Play App Signing in production. Soon we will be adding an additional option for existing apps to enable Play app signing by performing a key upgrade. Choosing this option means that Play App Signing can use a new unique key for all new installations and their updates. However, for this to work, when you download an app bundle, you must also download an old APK file signed with your old key so that Google Play can continue to provide updates to your existing users.

Can I change my app signing key?

Yes, some apps may require app signing key upgrade for new installations in the Play Console. Google Play will use your new key to sign new installs and app updates while using your old app signing key to sign updates for users who installed your app before upgrading from the key. Soon the Play App Signing key upgrade will also add support for APK Signature Scheme v3 key rotation. This will make upgrading keys a possible option for more applications and will help applications signed with upgraded keys reach more users.

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