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Google Doubles Allowable Size of Android Apps

Google this week announced it was doubling the Android app file size limit from 50MB to 100MB, while warning developers to not use the additional leeway just because it's available, as it could degrade the user experience.

"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," Google said on its Android Developers Blog. "It's a tough balance to strike, especially when you're targeting diverse global audiences."

According to a 2012 study, the average app size then was about 6MB, with games averaging about 40MB -- more recent research doesn't seem to be available. App APK file sizes vary by device -- for example, the No. 1 free Facebook app comes in at about 34MB-36MB for tablet and phone downloads.

Although Google had previously maintained a 50MB size limit for main APK files, developers were allowed to use up to two "Expansion Files" in which to store additional resources on device external storage.

"Developers can publish APKs up to 100MB in size, and users will see a warning only when the app exceeds the 100MB quota and makes use of Expansion Files," Google said in its blog post on Monday. "The default update setting for users will continue to be to auto-updating apps over Wi-Fi only, enabling users to access higher quality apps and games while conserving their data usage."

A May article on crowdsourcedtesting.com addressed the ideal file size question. "So what's the optimal size for an app?" the article asked. "That's up for debate and certain types of apps (for example, gaming) will always be larger than others. That being said, 50MB seems to be a sweet spot since users can usually download apps of this size without a Wi-Fi network."

Google's size limit increase follows a similar move by its main competitor, Apple, which announced in February that it was increasing the app package file size limit from 2GB to 4GB, with a 100MB limit for cellular downloads.

And even though Google is upping the app file size limit, it warned developers against arbitrarily using the extra space. Developers, Google said, should be aware of the following factors:

  • Mobile data connectivity: Users around the world have varying mobile data connectivity speeds. Particularly in developing countries, many people are coming online with connections slower than those of users in countries like the U.S. and Japan. Users on a slow connection are less likely to install an app or game that is going to take a long time to download.
  • Mobile data caps: Many mobile networks around the world give users a limited number of MB that they can download each month without incurring additional charges. Users are often wary of downloading large files for fear of exceeding their limits.
  • App performance: Mobile devices have limited RAM and storage space. The larger your app or game, the slower it may run, particularly on older devices.
  • Install time: People want to start using your app or game as quickly as possible after tapping the install button. Longer wait times increase the risk they'll give up.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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