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


Because the launch of Android over a decade in the past, APK recordsdata 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 all the time APKs that had been provided. For builders, AABs will now turn out to be obligatory and for Android customers, APKs will turn out to be a extra difficult affair.

AABs will turn out to be obligatory 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 really?

“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 consumer (you) downloading it from there to your smartphone as typical.

At first look, nothing modifications. In reality, upon nearer inspection, it actually does appear as if there isn’t any distinction in any respect. It is because while 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 recordsdata?

AAB recordsdata are custom-made

The distinction between APK and AAB recordsdata lies in what we name sources. In an app, sources are every thing else that isn’t programming code, resembling photographs, language recordsdata, 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 system with the mandatory sources required.

Legacy APK versus Dynamic Delivery
Sooner or later (proper), the downloaded APK file will solely comprise sources that the respective system wants. The Netflix app, for instance, may very well 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 system language? You in all probability will not want the Swahili language pack. By the best way, with the assistance of Google’s bundletool device, AAB recordsdata will also be regionally 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 all the time 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 verify whether or not it has been compromised and, as an illustration, incorporates malware, or whether or not it has been unlocked for options that will 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 is not going to be the developer who indicators the APKs, however Google – specifically when producing APK recordsdata from the AABs. Logically, the keys will now not be held by the builders, however by Google.

Are AAB recordsdata higher than APKs?

Smaller file sizes than APKs

The primary main benefit of AAB recordsdata is subsequently apparent: The APKs generated on this method are smaller. On common, it is best 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 consists of the quite a few updates for apps, it might add up sooner or later.

Higher safety for apps

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

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

split apk delivery
Relying on the system, Google consists of solely the mandatory elements 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 consumer or its {hardware}, this brings further benefits for the builders. As NDTV reported, because of the AAB format, updates may be pushed out to particular units at particular occasions. This is a bonus, particularly with the big fragmentation of Android and will stop damaged updates sooner or later or mitigate their results.

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

Are AAB recordsdata worse than APKs?

AAB recordsdata and the sideloading confusion

Nevertheless, there are downsides to AABs, particularly because of the beforehand talked about signatures. Do you need to obtain the brand new WhatsApp beta by way of APKMirror and check out new options? Neglect about it, as a result of APKMirror makes use of a unique signature right here than the Google Play Retailer. Sideloading apps throughout completely different third-party app shops may very well be a nightmare sooner or later. Good day, Home windows 11 with APK and no AAB support.

Positive, you possibly can simply uninstall the app and reinstall it in your smartphone from one other supply. However you then’ll must – with kind of effort, relying on the app – again up all of your knowledge 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 assist for Home windows 11 / © Microsoft

AAB offers extra energy to Google

The truth that in future the signatures can be saved by Google will also be seen by 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-Developers explained: Google additionally has the facility to vary apps by itself by the developer keys. Theoretically, if a authorities had been to put stress on Google, they may construct a backdoor into an in any other case safe prompt messaging app with out the builders’ data.

Sure, Google cares enormously about safety. And sure, Google would quite 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 recordsdata. There’s additionally an interesting discussion on this subject on StackOverFlow which you’ll observe if you’re all in favour of figuring out extra.

Bug fixing turns into tougher

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

On Medium.com, 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, obligatory AAB recordsdata should not change a lot for many customers, in any other case, we’d have seen 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 despite the fact 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 potential to certify apps outdoors 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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