Make room: Android apps get bigger as Google doubles file sizes for developers

Google increases APK file size limit to 100MB but warns developers that bigger apps could turn off consumers limited to cellular connections.

Google Play apps can reach 100MB before users receive a warning. Image: ZDNet

Google has doubled the limit it places on Android Package (APK) files for apps in Google Play to better support richer apps and games.

Previously, users would see a warning when installing an app that exceeded 50MB but that warning will now only occur when an app breaches the 100MB mark.

The APK file size limit is different to the app size limit which has been 4GB for a few years. Google makes this possible via two 2GB expansion files that it hosts on Google Play at no additional cost to developers, allowing them to use larger assets such as HD graphic files or media files. Those files are saved to an SD card or removable storage rather than internal storage on Android devices.

The new 100MB APK file limit applies to Android versions 4.0 and above, which currently covers 95 percent of all devices that connect to Google Play.

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While the new restriction doesn't change the actual limit on the size of apps, Google cautioned on its developer blog against developers using the additional space just because it was available, due to user behaviour on mobile networks, which in some parts of the world is their only connection to the internet.

Some considerations developers should make include remembering that potential new users, in particular in emerging markets, may have access to slower mobile-only internet connections, while even in developed markets users may face tight mobile data caps. Larger apps may also carry a performance overhead on low RAM devices and users may give up on an app if it takes too long to install, Google noted.

According to Google, users will now only see a warning when an APK file exceeds 100MB and makes use of expansion files. In addition, by default apps are set to auto-update only over wifi.

"We understand that developers are challenged with delivering a delightful user experience that maximizes the hardware of the device, while also ensuring that their users can download, install, and open the app as quickly as possible. It's a tough balance to strike, especially when you're targeting diverse global audiences," Google noted.

Apple earlier this raised the the maximum size of apps distributed through the App Store from 2GB to 4GB, though it retained a 100MB cap on the size of files delivered over a mobile network. Apple is tackling app sizes in its own way with a method it calls app thinning, however it delayed a key feature for iOS 9 dubbed "app slicing" that would have allowed developers to serve the only the necessary resources for each each device model.

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