On Android, it is more than normal to install applications in APK format (Android TOpplication Package). The format has been ubiquitous on Android for years and now it’s time to say goodbye to it. Why? Because from August all application developers will have to adopt the AAB (Android App Bundle).
¿And what does that mean exactly? For the user of a foot, little thing. The apps will weigh a little less, but the experience will be the same. For app developers already on the market, either, as existing updates are exempt from the change (for now).
However, for new app developers it will mean a change, since the app will have to be packaged in this format. It will also mean it for illegitimate copies of applications, since the new format will not allow to extract a complete copy of the app, but a limited copy and probably not functional on all mobiles.
AAB, APK … what’s this about?
But first of all, what is the AAB format and how is it different from the APK format? Within a conventional APK are all resources available in the application, that is, all languages, layouts and texts, for example. Let’s suppose that the app has graphics in ten languages (there are more resources, but this way we simplify the explanation).
If we install the conventional APK, we install all the resources of the app, including the graphics in ten languages. What do we want the ten languages for? Not really at all, since most likely we only need the Spanish language to use the app. If the developer uploads the app in APK format to Google Play, when we install it we will install all the resources, including those we don’t need.
Schematic of an App Bundle.
That’s where the AAB format comes in. App Bundle is a container with all application resources (in our case, the graphics in ten languages), but it is “modular”. The container has the base app (in APK) and all the resources (also in APK). Each of these resources is called Split APK.
When we download an app uploaded to Google Play in AAB format, Google creates an APK that includes only the resources we need. That is, instead of creating an APK with the ten languages, it includes only Spanish because it is the one we are going to use.
Apps in AAB format cannot be installed per se. It is not like downloading an APK and installing it, but it has more bustle due, precisely, to its modularity. Let’s stay with the idea that we will continue installing the applications in APK format from Google Play, but the developer will have to upload them in AAB format.
And what does this translate into?
As we can see, at a basic user level this only translates into one thing: lighter applications (15% on average, according to Google). The reason is, as we said before, that we will download the app optimized for our device (according to its processor, screen, language, etc.). Fewer downloaded resources, lighter applications. At the developer level there are many other reasons.
One of the most peculiar is related to illegitimate copies of apps. Extracting an APK is not difficult at all, there are applications that do it in a moment. This is why non-legitimate paid applications can be found with a simple internet search.
The problem with the conventional APK format is that if someone makes a copy of the APK, extract the complete APK with all the resources. Basically, it is an illegitimate copy compatible with any mobile. With the AAB format this is not going to go away, but it will be greatly limited.
Why? Just go back to the previous explanation. If when we download an app uploaded to Google Play in AAB format what we install is an APK with optimized resources for our mobile, when extracting that APK we will be extracting a limited and functional APK only on those mobiles that are similar to ours, and not with all of them.
As we can see, saving this particular case the thing does not change at all. Users will continue to install the apps from Google Play as before, only that they will be more optimized and lighter apps. We can also continue to install apps in APK format manually if the developer decides to publish them outside of Google Play (as is the case with WhatsApp). However, everything that passes through the Google Play Store from August will have to do so in AAB format.