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What’s an AAB file for Android and the way is it totally different from APK?


For the reason that launch of Android over a decade in the past, APK information have been THE common format for apps. Whether or not builders or customers, whether or not it’s on the Google Play Retailer, APKMirror, or EFNet – it was at all times APKs that had been supplied. For builders, AABs will now turn into necessary and for Android customers, APKs will turn into a extra difficult affair.

AABs will turn into necessary for all new apps beginning August 2021. Updates for present apps can nonetheless be uploaded by builders in APK format, so nothing will change on this division for now.

androidpit Best Apps 2015
APK or nothing: In 2015, it was nonetheless simpler when coping with apps / © NextPit

What’s an AAB file truly?

“AAB” stands for Android App Bundle. The AAB file incorporates your entire program code of the Android app. As quickly as improvement is full, the developer uploads the app to the Google Play Retailer in AAB format, with the person (you) downloading it from there to your smartphone as ordinary.

At first look, nothing modifications. Actually, upon nearer inspection, it actually does appear as if there isn’t a distinction in any respect. It’s because once you click on “Set up” within the Google Play Retailer, your smartphone will nonetheless obtain an APK file. So what is the level of all this furor?

What’s the distinction between AAB and APK information?

AAB information are custom-made

The distinction between APK and AAB information lies in what we name assets. In an app, assets are every part else that isn’t programming code, resembling pictures, language information, or music. If you choose the “Set up” button for an app within the Play Retailer, Google will then ship you an APK file tailor-made from the AAB file on your gadget with the mandatory assets required.

Legacy APK versus Dynamic Delivery
Sooner or later (proper), the downloaded APK file will solely comprise assets that the respective gadget wants. The Netflix app, for instance, could possibly be shrunk by greater than half / © Google

Your smartphone solely has Full HD+ decision? Then you definately’ll obtain an APK with out 4K materials. You have chosen English and German because the gadget language? You in all probability will not want the Swahili language pack. By the best way, with the assistance of Google’s bundletool instrument, AAB information can be domestically transformed into APKs.

Signing by Google as a substitute of the developer

One other huge distinction is within the signing of the apps. Beforehand, it was at all times the developer of an app who signed it with their developer key. This key can be utilized when putting in the app on a smartphone to examine whether or not it has been compromised and, for example, incorporates malware, or whether or not it has been unlocked for options that may in any other case have required fee.

appsigning selfmanagediagram 2x
That is the way it used to work: the developer signed the app with their key, uploaded the app, and Google delivered it. Now the hot button is held by Google / © Google

Sooner or later, it won’t be the developer who indicators the APKs, however Google – specifically when producing APK information from the AABs. Logically, the keys will now not be held by the builders, however by Google.

Are AAB information higher than APKs?

Smaller file sizes than APKs

The primary main benefit of AAB information is due to this fact apparent: The APKs generated on this method are smaller. On common, you need to be capable to see a 35 p.c discount on this method, primarily based on what Google wrote in October 2018. That does not sound like a lot at first look, however when one contains the quite a few updates for apps, it may add up sooner or later.

Higher safety for apps

One other profit that builders will discover helpful can be elevated safety. It is going to in all probability be tougher to change apps sooner or later, and the mod scene may not be very glad about that. Who is aware of, perhaps it will cut back the variety of cheaters at AmongUs, even when I do not actually consider that it’s commonplace to this point.

By the best way, with the AABs, the Lite and Professional app variations within the Play Retailer ought to now not exist. It was attainable to put in a paid Professional model over the Lite model after a purchase order due to the identical signature, so to talk, as an replace. With AABs and Google signing, that is now not attainable. As a substitute, builders must change to in-app purchases.

split apk delivery
Relying on the gadget, Google contains solely the mandatory parts within the APK file. As a result of lack of x86 structure, the Pixel 2 XL can do with out the corresponding modules. / © Google

Simpler updates & improvement

If the APKs are individually assembled relying on the person or its {hardware}, this brings extra benefits for the builders. As NDTV reported, due to the AAB format, updates will be pushed out to particular units at particular instances. This is a bonus, particularly with the big fragmentation of Android and will forestall damaged updates sooner or later or mitigate their results.

The event course of itself can even turn into simpler. Up to now, many builders uploaded a number of APK variations for his or her app to the Play Retailer, which have been tailored to totally different areas, languages, or processor architectures. Sooner or later, builders will solely have to add a single, common AAB file.

Are AAB information worse than APKs?

AAB information and the sideloading confusion

Nonetheless, there are downsides to AABs, particularly because of the beforehand talked about signatures. Do you wish to obtain the brand new WhatsApp beta through APKMirror and check out new options? Neglect about it, as a result of APKMirror makes use of a special signature right here than the Google Play Retailer. Sideloading apps throughout totally different third-party app shops could possibly be a nightmare sooner or later. Good day, Home windows 11 with APK and no AAB help.

Certain, you possibly can simply uninstall the app and reinstall it in your smartphone from one other supply. However you then’ll need to – with kind of effort, relying on the app – again up all of your information after which re-install it. That is just too a lot of a trouble, do not you assume so?

windows 11 android apps
Microsoft has simply introduced APK help for Home windows 11 / © Microsoft

AAB provides extra energy to Google

The truth that in future the signatures might be saved by Google can be considered via a important lens. If the servers had been to be hacked, all apps would find yourself compromised in a single fell swoop. And as XDA-Builders defined: Google additionally has the ability to alter apps by itself via the developer keys. Theoretically, if a authorities had been to position stress on Google, they may construct a backdoor into an in any other case safe on the spot messaging app with out the builders’ data.

Sure, Google cares enormously about safety. And sure, Google would reasonably pull out of a market than bow to the morally doubtful needs of governments. However this stays a truth: Google merely obtains extra energy with the introduction of AAB information. There’s additionally an attention-grabbing dialogue on this matter on StackOverFlow which you’ll be able to comply with if you’re eager about understanding extra.

Bug fixing turns into tougher

One other drawback considerations the app builders themselves and the fixing of bugs, as developer Mark Murphy wrote at Commonsware. If a single person has issues with an app that isn’t reproducible for the developer, there was a easy treatment: modify the app, ship it to the person, let the person replace the app and hope that the error is eliminated. However that was solely attainable as a result of builders may signal the apps themselves.

On, by the best way, Android Developer Advocate Wojtek Kaliciński commented on lots of the above criticisms and extra.

AAB: Yay or Nay?

The underside line is, necessary AAB information should not change a lot for many customers, in any other case, we might have observed one thing about it already. In any case, a big portion of the highest 1,000 apps within the Google Play Retailer are already uploaded as AAB by their builders regardless that there was no requirement to take action in any respect.

However for geeks, hobbyists, and the odd developer, the AAB format may spoil the enjoyable of Android. In any case, Google is not Apple, and it is nonetheless attainable to certify apps exterior of the Play Retailer. Google has not but put a cease to sideloading (for now). It does appear that Mountain View is working onerous to cement the monopolistic place of the Google Play Retailer although.


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