Google Enables Smaller Android Apps with App Bundle Updates

Google announced enhancements to its new Android App Bundle publishing format that shrinks the size of app downloads, which have steadily grown to the point they inhibit device installations.

The Android App Bundle format lets developers upload all resources for an app to the Google Play store, which then takes care of delivering just the resources that are needed by a specific user and device. That shrinks the size of APK downloads, whose large size caused many users to not install an app or remove a big app when space is needed for a new one.

Google unveiled Android App Bundle in May and last month released Android Studio 3.2, encouraging all Android developers to use the updated IDE to transition to the new publishing format.

Now, Google has announced a new Android Studio 3.3 beta release that further simplifies the process.

"We're now using the Android App Bundle to solve one of the primary pain points of building instant apps," Matt Henderson, product manager, Google Play, said in a post last week. "Previously, you needed to publish both an instant app and an installable app. With Android Studio 3.2, you could publish instant-enabled bundles but you were still required to publish a primary app bundle.

"Now, you don't have to maintain separate code. With the Android Studio 3.3 beta release, a developer can publish a single app bundle and classify it or a particular module to be instant enabled. The unified app bundle is the future of instant app experiences and we hope you will try it out."

He reported that thousands of app bundles are in production use, resulting in an average reduction in size of 35 percent. He also announced updates to enhance the service:

  • More size savings: app bundles will now be on average 8 percent smaller on download and 16 percent smaller on device on M+ devices with no additional developer work. These new savings come from supporting uncompressed native libraries, which eliminates the need to store multiple copies on the device.
  • Easier to switch: developers can now build app bundles in the Android Studio 3.2 stable release and in Unity 2018.3 beta.
  • Improved support for large apps: you can now upload large app bundles with installed APK sizes of up to 500MB without needing to use expansion files. This feature is in early access and we will roll it out to all developers in the future.

Dom Elliott, another Google Play product manager, outlined the history of app publishing, the advent of Android App Bundle, its effect on developers and what the new publishing format means for the future of Android in an extensive post on Medium.

One thing on the horizon is a new In-app Updates API that will let developers detect when there's an update available and integrate a customizable, in-line update flow that looks and feels like part of an app.

"Google Chrome is testing the In-app Updates API today and we'll be rolling it out to more developers soon," he said. "It works for any app so you'll be able to start using it while you're still switching to the app bundle."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.