A summary in advance of what you need to know
- Google will starting hiding outdated apps on Play Store this November in the name of security.
- You can still access the apps if you have used them previously.
- New Android users and others who haven’t used outdated apps before will be unable to search for or download them from Play Store.
Google is preparing to clear its Play Store of outdated apps. Based on an official blog statement released Wednesday evening, the search engine has informed Android app developers that starting November 1st 2022, it’s going to hide and block downloads of apps that are not updated and do not support the latest Android Operating System from Play Store.
What happens to folks still using apps with outdated software?
Here’s the thing, if you like a particular app that hasn’t been updated in years, don’t worry, you’ll still be able to use it. As a matter of fact, you’ll still be able to see it on Play Store and even re-install it should you reset your phone or install it afresh if you switch to a new device.
However, if you’ve never used an app that Google considers to be outdated, it won’t appear anywhere on Play Store if you go searching for it.
There are a total 2,594,471 apps on Play Store as of April 7th, 2022 according to AppBrain and chances are high that a huge chunk of these apps are way out of date.
What apps does Google consider to be outdated?
Every new version of Android OS increases what is called an API level (Android Programming Interface).
New API levels naturally bring additional features and bug fixes to apps, but they might also drop previously existing features from time to time. Google recommends that developers target a minimum API level that goes up after every Android software release. Any app that falls behind that recommendation is considered outdated.
API level requirements for existing apps on Play Store
Its worth noting that Google’s new set of rules specifically applies to existing Android apps that don’t target an Android API version within two years of the latest Android OS.
When the new policy goes into effect later in the year, Android 13 will have already been released so, only apps that support Android 11, 12 and above will meet those requirements. When new versions of Android launch in future, the two year requirement window will move forward accordingly.
All of this means, any application that targets Android 10 or lower today will be hidden/blocked from finding its way to new users. For example, an app optimized for Android 9 will no longer work with Android 12 come November.
API level requirements for new apps to be published on Play Store
Google currently requires brand new apps and app updates to target an Android API level within one year of the latest major Android OS version release if they’re to be published. New apps and app updates that don’t meet these requirements cannot be uploaded to Play Store.
Why is Google making this change?
It’s to ensure users with new Android devices or those who normally keep up with the latest software updates are not subjected to outdated apps that don’t come with the latest security features, thus protecting them from anything malicious.
In most cases, outdated apps posses little to no harm to your phone or tablet. In some cases however, it might cause you serious problems.
The Mountain View, California based-tech company says a vast majority of apps on Google Play are already in line (compliant) with the new standards so most developers don’t need to panic about the upcoming changes.
Google is offering aid to developers to enable them attain required API levels for their apps
The search engine says it’s notifying developers in advance and providing a technical guide to aid in the transition towards the required API levels to avoid being left out in the cold once the deadline hits.
Secondly, is a published Help Center documentation where the API level requirements for apps and the timelines for when changes come into effect can be accessed.
Lastly, its offering app makers the ability to request a 6 month extension if they need more time to configure their apps to the required standards through a form that’ll be made available on the Developers Google Play Console later this year.
Hiding apps from view is not enough to solve potential security issues
What’s the point of Google hiding old apps when it can simply yank them off its ecosystem like Apple has done in recent years, ejecting hundreds of apps from its Apple Store for violating its security and privacy guidelines.
In my opinion all outdated programs should be removed from Play Store before they become a ticking time bomb for possible cyber crimes and other security breaches in future.