Next-gen Android apps: Google says 64-bit push will boost performance

Google starts preparing app developers for a 64-bit only world, with new requirements for the Google Play Store.

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Google has revealed plans to require Android apps in the Google Play Store to be available as 64-bit software, as part of moves to improve the apps' performance and security.

The requirement will apply to new apps in the Play Store from August 2019, in a shift away from 32-bit software.

"For apps that use native libraries, 64-bit code typically offers significantly better performance, with additional registers and new instructions," Google said on its Android developer blog.

64-bit apps have been supported ever since Android 5.0 Lollipop in 2015, but developers weren't required to create 64-bit versions of their native apps.

Developers can still keep their 32-bit apps after August 2019, but they'll need to have a 64-bit version too. The changes are intended to prepare developers for a time when devices only support 64-bit code.

Currently, around 40 percent of new Android devices have 64-bit support, while still also being 32-bit compatible, according to Google.

Apple dropped support for 32-bit apps in iOS 11 and began requiring developers submit new apps with 64-bit support in 2015.

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The requirement for apps to be available as 64-bit software will come into force on the Google Play Store from August 2019.

Image: iStock

Google also wants developers to build apps aimed at newer versions of Android, in a bid to reduce the fragmentation of the Android user base. By August next year, all new apps will need to target Android Oreo or higher. From November next year, new updates to existing apps also need to target Oreo. From 2019 onwards, Google will bump up the version of Android developers will need to target.

"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," explained Google.

The third key change will be the addition of new security metadata files to Android app packages. The metadata will provide a guarantee that the app truly did come from the Play Store. Google describes the metadata as a "Play badge of authenticity" it will stick to each app.

Separately, Google's trying to push enterprise customers to use newer Android device management APIs. The company wants enterprise to move off the Device Administration API, which arrived in Android 2.2, to the work profile and managed device APIs that came with Android 5.0.

Google will continue to support Device Administration API in future releases of Android, but will gradually remove key functionality, such as the API for password enforcement.

"Device admin API will be supported through Android Oreo and existing functionality will continue to be available in the next major Android release, though device admin APIs for password enforcement will no longer be supported. In the following Android release, expected in 2019, the APIs for password enforcement will no longer be available," Google said.

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