Google has slowly been grooming Android developers for a 64-bit world for the past couple of years, and will continue to do up through the latter half of 2021. Nothing has really changed in that regard, though Google is now providing app developers with a more detailed timeline so they can plan their switchover accordingly, if they haven't already.
The benefit of moving to 64-bit code is that it can provide faster performance overall and make way for future innovations, like machine learning and artificial intelligence schemes. Generally speaking, 64-bit apps can make better use of your hardware, assuming you own a relatively modern handset.
"We want to help you get ready and know you need time to plan. We’ve supported 64-bit CPUs since Android 5.0 Lollipop and in 2017 we first announced that apps using native code must provide a 64-bit version (in addition to the 32-bit version). Today we’re providing more detailed information and timelines to make it as easy as possible to transition in 2019," Google stated in a blog post.
Starting on August 1, 2019, all new apps and app updates that include native code will be required to provide 64-bit versions alongside 32-bit versions, when publishing to Google Play. However, Google Play will continue to accept 32-bit only updates to existing games that use Unity 5.6 or older until its final cut-off date.
On August 1, 2021, Google Play will no longer host apps without 64-bit versions on 64-bit capable devices. That includes games built with Unity 5.6 or older. There are some exceptions—AKPs or app bundles that specifically target Wear OS or Android TV are exempt, as those form factors do not currently support 64-bit code.
"We are not making changes to our policy on 32-bit support. Play will continue to deliver apps to 32-bit devices. This requirement means that apps with 32-bit native code will need to have an additional 64-bit version as well," Google added.
Google expects this will be a straightforward transition for the majority of app developers. The company also points out that the three most widely used game engines all support 64-bit code, so it shouldn't be a problem for games.
"For those that already support 64-bit—thank you and great work! If you haven’t yet, we encourage you to begin any work for the 64-bit requirement as soon as possible," Google said.