Google is Replacing Android APK with AAB

Posted on June 30, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Dev, Android with 17 Comments

Google announced today that it is replacing the Android Package (APK) application package format for Android with the Android App Bundle (AAB) effective this August and in tandem with the release of Android 12.

“Since we launched the Android App Bundle in May 2018, we’ve seen our developer community embrace this new standard to benefit from streamlined releases and advanced distribution features,” Google’s Dom Elliott explains. “There are now over one million apps using app bundles in production, including the majority of the top 1,000 apps and games on Google Play such as Adobe, Duolingo, Gameloft, Netflix, redBus, Riafy, and Twitter.”

Google cites the following benefits to this format:

It’s more efficient. AABs are 15 percent smaller, on average, than APKs and are thus faster to download.

Play App Signing. AABs require Play App Signing, which protects app signing keys from loss by using Google’s secure infrastructure and offers the option of upgrading to a new, cryptographically stronger app signing key.

Play Feature Delivery. AABs can take advantage of Play Feature Delivery, which is used by over 10 percent of the top AAB apps. Play Feature Delivery gives developers the ability to customize which feature modules are delivered to which devices and when, with install-time, conditional, and on-demand delivery modes, Google says.

Play Asset Delivery. Another AAB-only feature, this reduces user waiting time by dynamically delivering large assets while cutting delivery costs. Games that use Play Asset Delivery can use texture compression format targeting so that users only get the assets suitable for their devices with no wasted space or bandwidth, Google notes.

Existing apps don’t need to make the shift to AAB at this time.  But starting in August, Google Play will require developers publishing new apps in the Store to use the newer AAB format.

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Comments (17)

17 responses to “Google is Replacing Android APK with AAB”

  1. ben lee

    Be interesting to see the effect of this on the Amazon App Store. Developers don't support it that well as it is, but having to bundle and target different binaries will only discourage them further. The fact that Fire OS is still on android version 9 doesn't help either.

  2. scottcc

    How will this affect stuff like APK Mirror, which hosts most of the major Android apps in standalone APK format, so you can can access/install them standalone w/o the need for a Google Account? I wonder if the new signing requirement will effectively kill that (maybe you can't verify it's trustworthy or checksum stuff isn't enough anymore).

    • ben lee

      They already support them, started supporting them March 2020. You need the APK Mirror app installed to use them.

  3. peterc

    Well google are inundated with various legal challenges across the world of one sort or another, Huawei installed Harmony OS on over 18 million devices in 15 days in June and they're just getting started, Microsoft announce Win 11 and android apps capability and new search engines appear to each eat a little bit into googles market share.

    Take your pick really, but google are entering a time when they are going to have to fight on every front.... googles decade ahead looks very different than the one behind it.

    • locust_infested_orchard_inc.

      peterc's quote, "googles decade ahead looks very different than the one behind it"

      With the passage of time, it should not be unexpected that things change, however there is one immutable constant that persists with Adoogle – its insatiable lust for users' data.

  4. Pratyush Nalam

    I wonder if this is just an excuse to kneecap Windows's Android support along with non-Google stores in one shot.

    • mefree

      Not only is it an 'added benefit' but the August timeline is absolutely a shot at Windows 11 support.

    • ben lee

      Yes something Google planned and launched in 2019 was intended to kneecap a feature Microsoft announced two years later.

      • sscywong

        Google obviously was targeting all those other Android store not Windows... But the announcement of Win11 being able to support .apk could have accelerated Google's decision to push .aab

        • ben lee

          No they weren't. It's fully open source and can be used by any Android store. All laid out in the original announcement years ago. The reason it will affect Amazon App is because Amazon are so far behind with their Android development, they have yet to move beyond Android 9.

    • qaelith2112

      It can't just be because it brings the long list of advantages listed which seem to me to be enough? Why does somebody have to assume every action by a large company always has to be so that it can somehow screw somebody else over?

  5. igor engelen

    I hope Microsoft was for something like this. Thinking about W11 and sideloading

    • qaelith2112

      Same thought here. I haven't checked my new installation of Windows 11 to see if they've enabled Android apps yet, but I know the Android support in Windows 11 is via apps installed from the Amazon Store. I have wondered if it will be possible to do something with that subsystem similar to what is possible with the Kindle tablets, to sideload a few select APKs in order to get Google Play services into it so that the Google Play Store's stuff will work. I have zero purchases so far on the Amazon App Store but I have a bunch of them on Google's.

    • igor engelen

      was prepared*

      (couldn't edit)

  6. waethorn

    So what about AOSP and other variants like the Amazon AppStore and other non-Google Play versions?

  7. jason_e

    This is just Google moving from a fenced garden to a walled garden. Android slowly closing up.