Much like Apple did with iOS, Google is set to demand all Android apps support more recent APIs, and is making the move to 64-bit.
Starting in August 2018, Google is mandating that new app submissions support API level 26 (Android 8.0) or better. By November 2018, all apps must be updated to support the same API. Past that point, apps that have not been updated can no longer target Android 8.0 or later. Developers are free to leave their apps in the Play Store, but they can’t update them without supporting API level 26.
Google also says each year will bring new API targets. “Within one year following each Android dessert release, new apps and app updates will need to target the corresponding API level or higher,” says Google in its blog post, adding: “Future Android versions will also restrict apps that don’t target a recent API level and adversely impact performance or security. We want to proactively reduce fragmentation in the app ecosystem and ensure apps are secure and performant while providing developers with a long window and plenty of notice in order to plan ahead.”
One year later, in August 2019, Google will require 64-bit support for all apps. From Google:
In anticipation of future Android devices that support 64-bit code only, the Play Console will require that new apps and app updates are able to run on devices without 32-bit support. Apps that include a 32-bit library will need to have a 64-bit alternative – either within the same APK or as one of the multiple APKs published. Apps that do not include native code are unaffected.
This change will come into effect in August 2019. We’re providing advance notice today to allow plenty of time for developers who don’t yet support 64-bit to plan the transition.
In an odd twist, fragmentation is beneficial here. Developers can allow older apps to linger on legacy hardware if they choose. It’s not preferred, obviously, but optional.
All told, it’s a timely move by Google. Android tends to trail iOS on several fronts, security and updates being two. It will be interesting to see how partners such as Samsung and LG (which have their own skinned versions of Android) and carriers react. If there’s a bogeyman with regard to Android fragmentation, it’s the latter, and the security implications and ongoing API support requisitions may snap them into shape.