Google is preparing to remove old apps from the Play Store. The company has warned Android app developers that from November 1, 2022, it will hide apps and block their installation on users’ devices if developers do not keep up with the latest version of the Android OS. Specifically, Google stated that apps that do not target the Android API within two years of the release of the latest major version of Android can no longer be discovered or installed by new users whose devices are running a version of the Android OS greater than the target. API level.
In a nutshell, this means that Android users who are on the lookout for the latest software or have just bought new Android phones will no longer be able to find or download old, outdated apps.
This should not be a major change for active developers using Android, as Google already requires new apps and app updates to reach the Android API level within a year of the last major release of the Android OS. Any application updates submitted that do not meet this requirement may not be published to Google Play.
But the change will affect completely abandoned apps, or apps whose developer is still serving their users but no longer keeping up with the latest Android API updates.
Because apps weren’t completely removed from Google Play, it couldn’t compare to the big App Store purges in recent years, when Apple removed thousands of old, abandoned apps. In fact, Google says that existing users of older apps that are covered by the new policy will still be able to find, reinstall, and use them on any version of the Android OS that supports that app. This is probably more convenient for customers than copying an app from the App Store like Apple did.
However, Google’s goal was similar to Apple’s, in that older apps are not only a nuisance but also a potential security risk.
As Google explained in its new policy announcement, each update to the Android OS brings “improvements to privacy, security, and user experience.”
“Users of the latest devices or fully affected by the Android update look forward to realizing the full potential of all Android privacy and security protections. Extending our target-level API requirements will help protect users from installing legacy applications that may not have such protection,” the company said.
While there have been ongoing problems with Andorid malware recently, including Russian state-backed spies, these malware are not always found in older applications. Instead, they often ask the user for permission to use the necessary higher level permissions, and the user agrees.
Google notes that the “vast majority” of Google Play apps already comply with the new requirements and will not be affected by the policy change. For other applications, this notification gives respected developers time to make necessary updates.
To help developers with this change, Google has published a technical guide to help move applications to target API levels, as well as documentation detailing the exact timing of changes in the Help Center. It will also allow developers to request a six-month extension if they need more time to transition through a form available on the Play Console later this year.
Google has strengthened its app market over the past few days as regulation focuses more on the mobile app ecosystem. Starting this month, the new Google Play billing policy also came into effect. Earlier in 2020, the company announced that developers must comply with Google’s policy that requires apps that sell digital goods and services to use Google Play’s own billing system. If developers are not approved for extensions after April 1, 2022, they will not be able to submit app updates until they are in compliance, except for critical security vulnerabilities. On June 1, 2022, incompatible apps will be removed from Google Play.
With this partial cleanup of older apps, the Play Store is likely to lose a lot of apps in the coming months.