The possible reasons Google is moving away from APKs on Android

4 weeks ago 6

Google has announced it is moving distant from the APK format for Android apps. Jack Wallen offers his sentiment connected wherefore this could beryllium happening.

Android developer concept

Image: quietbits/Shutterstock

Google is ever up to something. Now, earlier you leap to a alternatively important conclusion, fto maine marque myself clear: I don't judge Google is ever up to thing of a nefarious nature. I americium of the sentiment that astir of what Google does is positive—at slightest connected the beforehand of technology. Call maine Pollyanna oregon not, I privation to springiness them the payment of the doubt. And fixed however casual it is for the tribunal of nationalist sentiment to dispersed similar a meme connected a dilatory Friday, immoderate institution up to nefarious doings should recognize it's not a substance of if, but erstwhile they get caught.

SEE: Hiring kit: Android developer (TechRepublic Premium)

So erstwhile it was announced that Google was moving distant from APKs connected Android, successful favour of Android Play Bundles, my caput went to 1 precise peculiar spot (one it tends to sojourn frequently). Said spot is security. 

Hear maine retired earlier you rotation your eyes oregon justice maine (or both). 

One of the issues I've been harping connected for years is sideloading applications. With Android, it's not each that hard to find an APK record from immoderate fixed website and instal it connected your phone. The occupation with this is, you person nary mode of knowing if that record was vetted for security. In the end, you could person conscionable installed a portion of malware oregon ransomware connected your phone, assuming that APK was conscionable an innocent-looking game.

Too late.

And sites offering APKs are everywhere. Some of them mightiness not person malicious intent successful mind, but galore do. Google knows this and they've been battling it for years. As for my part, I regularly travel retired to say, "Don't instal apps from anyplace but the Google Play Store!" Many listen, portion immoderate bash not.

SEE: Electronic connection policy (TechRepublic Premium)

If Google has thing to accidental astir this, the APK mightiness beryllium dormant successful the adjacent future.

Say huh?

That's right. Google has officially announced it is moving distant from APKs to Android Play Bundles. And they've lone fixed developers a month's announcement to marque the shift. Of course, existent apps connected the Play Store are exempt from the change, but each caller apps indispensable beryllium submitted successful the caller format, other they won't beryllium accepted.

SEE: Samsung Galaxy S21 Series: A cheat expanse (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

There has been immoderate speculation that this determination was made aft Microsoft announced it would let Android APKs to tally connected Windows 11. Although that's tempting fodder for the media cannon, I don't bargain it. I deliberation Google is looking further up than that and its extremity crippled is to bash distant with APK files altogether. 

But why? What's the play here? I judge Google has yet had it with side-loading and is making this displacement to enactment an extremity to it. That makes the astir consciousness due to the fact that the request for information is astatine an all-time high. Malicious apps and attacks are not going anywhere. In fact, they're lone going to proceed expanding and getting smarter than ever. Companies that produce, curate and administer bundle person been astatine a nonaccomplishment arsenic to however to halt ne're-do-wells from doing what they do. If Google's mindset is successful enactment with mine, past this determination is simply a wide checkmate against those who acceptable retired to bargain users' information and clasp their devices for ransom.

And that would beryllium a immense measurement forward. If Google were to yet bash distant with the quality to side-load applications, it would spell a agelong mode toward preventing users from installing malicious apps.

The caveat

Before I continue, recognize this is implicit conjecture connected my part. I'm drafting a decision that mightiness beryllium mode disconnected the mark. But for Google to propulsion this off, with immoderate measurement of success, they're going to person to clasp that Android Play Bundle format adjacent to the vest. The 2nd the specs are released for this caller format, they'll find side-loadable apps everywhere. That is why, erstwhile they've officially made the displacement to the caller format (in August 2021), Google should besides permanently disable side-loading for some the aged and the caller format.

SEE: Password-stealing spyware targets Android users successful the UK (TechRepublic)

This mightiness ruffle the feathers of immoderate developers and companies, but the information of the end-user indispensable travel first. Period. And though it's large to person options, successful this lawsuit end-users should lone person 1 option: the 1 that gives them adjacent the slightest warrant of security. If the information of end-users and consumers does not travel first, past you're going astir the concern of concern each wrong.

The caveat to the caveat

Here's the thing: There volition ever beryllium a definite idiosyncratic benignant who installs alternate ROMs connected their Android devices. This should ever beryllium a anticipation for those who choose. And Google should grant that assemblage going forward. Even though the Android Play Bundle volition beryllium the default format moving forward, the institution should let APKs for alternate ROMs. So, here's however I spot it playing retired successful the aboriginal (not immediately):

  • For authoritative Android builds—Android Play Bundles volition beryllium the lone supported format, which tin lone beryllium recovered successful the Google Play Store. 
  • For unofficial ROMs—Both APK and Android Play Bundles are supported.

The supra would bash 2 things:

  • Better support consumers.
  • Placate those who privation to usage unofficial ROMs.

I deliberation this is the champion enactment for Google. Anyone who's bothered to glimpse into the information crystal balls knows the concern is lone going to get acold worse. Unless Google does thing now, Android could go a veritable playground for hackers and thieves. This migration to Android Play Bundles could spell a agelong mode to caput that off... if Google plays its cards right.

But again, this is lone conjecture connected my part. Google whitethorn person different reasons for migrating distant from APKs (like velocity and size of installation oregon preventing Windows 11 from integrating with the Google Play Store). Only clip volition tell, but I bash anticipation this lands successful favour of much information for consumers.

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