Google to Start Requiring Developers to Produce 64-Bit Android Apps

UPDATED: Over the next 18 months, Android developers need to ensure their apps are 64-bit and support latest versions of Google's mobile operating system, company says.

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Google will require Android developers to start providing 64-bit versions of their applications starting August 2019 as part of a broader effort to improve the performance and safety of Android apps.

Starting in the second half of 2018, Google will also require Android developers to ensure that any new applications they write are designed for the latest versions of the operating system. Furthermore, beginning early 2018, Google will start adding what it described as a small amount of security metadata on top of Android application kits to verify application authenticity.

Android product manager Edward Cunningham announced the impending changes in a blog Dec. 19 that said Google was releasing the information so developers have enough time to comply with them.

Google updated the blog on Dec. 21 to clarify that it is not ending support for 32-bit apps and devices, but it will require developers to provide 64-bit versions of their apps by August 2019.

"We relentlessly focus on security and performance to ensure everyone has a positive experience discovering and installing apps and games they love," Cunningham said. The three changes announced this week are designed to help advance that goal, he wrote in the blog.

For instance, getting Android developers to write for the latest versions of the operating system ensures that new applications can take advantage of the new security and performance-enhancing features that Google is building into the operating system Cunningham noted.

As an example, Cunningham noted how apps written for Android 6.0 and above give users more control over what private data the application could access during runtime.

Other enhancements in recent Android versions include those that prevent applications from accidentally overusing system resources such as memory and battery power and those that ensure that user-added digital certificates are not automatically trusted for secure connections.

In order to ensure that users get the full benefits of such enhancements, Google will require developers to target their apps for Android version 8.0 or higher starting August 2018.

All updates to existing apps will need to meet the same requirement starting November 2018. Android app developers will need to make sure any new apps they release are written for the most recent versions of the OS starting in 2019, Cunningham said.

The 64-bit requirement is designed to ensure that new Android applications can take better advantage of the performance enhancements offered by 64-bit technology he said. Google introduced support for 64-bit architectures with Android 5.0 and currently more than 40 percent of Android devices support 64-bit applications and software while maintaining backward compatibility with 32-bit systems.

Effective in August 2019, Google's Play Console will require that all new Android applications are 64-bit only and can run on systems without 32-bit support. "We're providing advance notice today to allow plenty of time for developers who don't yet support 64-bit to plan the transition."

Meanwhile, the metadata that Google will begin to add to Android apps starting early 2018 is designed to confirm the authenticity of apps that are available on Google's Play app store.

Cunningham likened the metadata to the official code or badge that often signifies a physical product's authenticity. The metadata will not affect the application's functionality and developers will not need to do anything to accommodate the change, he said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated to include Google's clarification in its blog that the company will continue to support 32-bit Android applications and devices.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.