Apple has repeatedly purged apps from the App Store that aren’t built for the latest iPhone models or newer versions of iOS, which is usually beneficial for the overall software experience but has made the preservation of old apps and games much more difficult. Google has been hesitant to make the same moves with the Google Play Store, but that’s changing soon.
Google announced in a blog post, “starting on November 1, 2022, existing apps that don’t target an API level within two years of the latest major Android release version will not be available for discovery or installation for new users with devices running Android OS versions higher than apps’ target API level. As new Android OS versions launch in the future, the requirement window will adjust accordingly.”
Timeline for new target API requirements (Source: Google)
Android applications and games are built with two different Android versions in mind: the minimum API level and the ‘target’ API level. The former is the oldest version of Android an app is intended to work with, while the latter is the most recent Android version the app is built for. Developers are supposed to keep the target API level close to the most recent Android release, which allows an app to use the latest APIs and development features. However, newer API levels also usually introduce more restrictions on permissions, which is why some apps stay on older API levels for as long as possible. Snapchat is perhaps the most famous example here, which stuck to API level 22 (Android 5.1) for years to avoid the runtime permissions model that was introduced in Android 6.0.
Google already requires new apps and updates to existing apps to target a recent Android release, which is currently set at Android 11 (API level 30) and will be increased to Android 12 (API level 31) in August 2022. However, that requirement only applies to apps still under development — old and abandoned apps and games were left alone, as long as they still complied with other Play Store policies.
This move will likely improve privacy and security, as applications will have to keep up with Android’s evolving permissions and security changes if they want to remain accessible on the Play Store. However, it will result in many older apps becoming more difficult (or impossible) to access, especially after the first purge on November 1. Thankfully, it’s easier to backup and preserve old apps and games on Android than on iOS.Continue Reading