Google is giving Android developers a heads up that in the not-too-distant future, they will be required to offer 64-bit versions of their apps alongside 32-bit versions. When the restriction goes into effect, it will apply both to new apps, and existing ones that are updated. This is one of three measures Google is taking to improve app security and performance "to ensure everyone has a positive experience."
For developers, the change in policy should not come as a shock to the system. Android has supported 64-bit apps since Android 5.0 Lollipop started rolling out to users in late 2014. Developers who have not been releasing 64-bit versions of their apps still have ample time to make the switch—the policy goes into effect in August 2019, eight months from now. They will still be able to release 32-bit versions, just not exclusively.
"Today, over 40 percent of Android devices coming online have 64-bit support, while still maintaining 32-bit compatibility. For apps that use native libraries, 64-bit code typically offers significantly better performance, with additional registers and new instructions," Google stated on its Android Developers Blog.
Google is not leading the charge here. Rival Apple has been requiring 64-bit app releases for iOS apps since February 2015. More recently, iOS 11 released in September marked the end of 32-bit app support in iOS altogether. Google is following suit, though it has not said when it will drop 32-bit app support from Android.
Beyond moving to a 64-bit landscape, other changes in the Android ecosystem are afoot as well.
"In the second half of 2018, Play will require that new apps and app updates target a recent Android API level. This will be required for new apps in August 2018, and for updates to existing apps in November 2018. This is to ensure apps are built on the latest APIs optimized for security and performance," Google added.
Additionally, the Play Store will start adding a small amount of security metadata on top of each APK, starting early next year. This is to further verify the authenticity of apps, and will happen without any action on the part of developers.