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Android

Google Play changes aim to take Android app security and performance to the next level

By Adrian Diaconescu December 21, 2017, 6:19 am

The very open and free nature of the Android ecosystem has proven both a blessing and a curse for the world’s most popular mobile platform, leading to a largely praised hardware diversity but also oft-criticized software fragmentation and weak overall security against some pretty basic threats.

To its credit, Google has begun to focus a lot more on under-the-hood enhancements than visual changes in recent OS updates, while taking small steps to help OEMs roll out fresh Android flavors faster, and making big leaps in the malware protection department.

A series of new Google Play policy revisions are meant to further advance the war on sluggish, corrupt and phony apps, aiming to improve your mobile devices’ overall security and performance in the background without getting as much attention as Project Treble or monthly patches.

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For starters, app authenticity will be easily verifiable very soon, as a “small amount” of security metadata shall be automatically added on top of each APK distributed by Google Play from “early 2018.” Kind of like a digital “Play badge of authenticity” for every Android app out there.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, new apps and app updates will be required to “target a recent Android API level” beginning in August and November 2018 respectively. The goal there is to “ensure apps are built on the latest APIs optimized for security and performance”, although devs will still be allowed to create apps for older Android versions. And of course, backwards compatibility “as far as reasonably possible” is encouraged.

But “future Android versions” will lose access to apps that don’t target a recent API level and are thus deemed a performance or security risk. New apps released in August 2018 and later will need to be specifically optimized for Android 8.0 Oreo, and the same goes for updates to existing apps from November of next year.

Google’s third and last important Play Store policy change announced earlier this week will introduce a 64-bit support requirement in 2019 for new apps and app updates, setting the stage for 32-bit obsolescence. After all, Android devices with 64-bit compatibility only will come sooner or later.

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