Starting in August 2021, developers will have to upload new Android apps to the Google Play Store in the AAB file format. The question is what is the difference between AAB and APK? How is AAB better than APK that Google has to change?
Since the launch of Android more than 10 years ago, the APK file has been the common format for applications. Google Play, APKMirror or EFNet stores all provide this same standard. For developers, AAB will now become mandatory, and for Android users, things look set to be more complicated.
AAB will become a required format for all new apps starting August 2021. Updates to existing apps can still be uploaded in APK format by developers, because So, temporarily it will affect new applications.
What are AAB files?
“AAB” stands for Android App Bundle. The AAB file contains the entire program code of the Android application.
As soon as the development is complete, the game or app developer uploads the file to the Google Play Store in AAB format, the user (you) downloads the app from there to your smartphone as usual .
At a glance, nothing seems to have changed. So what’s the difference in this change?
What is the difference between an AAB file and an APK file?
Custom generated AAB files
The difference between APK and AAB files lies in what we call resources. In an application, resources are something other than programming code, such as images, language files, or music.
If you install an app in the Play Store, Google will send you an APK file adapted from the AAB file for your device with the required required resources.
For example, does your smartphone only have Full HD+ resolution? You will get APK without 4K resources. Have you selected English and German as device languages? You will download the installation file that does not include other languages. With the help of Google’s packtool, AAB files can also be converted locally into APKs.
Signed by Google instead of developer
Another big difference is in application signing. In the past, it was always the app developer who signed the app with their developer key. You can use this key when installing an app on your smartphone to check if it has been compromised, such as malware, or unlocked for features that require payment. .
In the future, developers will not sign APK files, but Google will sign themselves when generating APK files from AAB. Logically, the keys will no longer be held by the developers, but by Google.
Are AAB files better than APKs?
Smaller file size compared to APK
With the above information, you can easily see that the AAB file will definitely be smaller than the APK file. On average, you can see a 35% reduction in size based on what Google wrote in October 2018.
Better protection for apps
Another benefit that developers will find useful will be increased security. It will probably be harder to modify the app in the future, and mods will be harder to survive. Examples of hacks in Among Us are popular today.
One more problem that will solve is that with AAB, Lite and Pro versions of apps in the Play Store will no longer exist. Previously, it was possible to install the paid Pro version instead of the Lite version after purchase thanks to the same signature, so to speak as an update. With AABs and Google signing, that’s no longer possible. Instead, developers will have to switch to in-app purchases.
Easier to update and develop
Individual AAB files depending on the user or the hardware used provide an additional advantage for developers. Thanks to the AAB format, updates can be pushed to specific devices at specific times.
This is an advantage, especially given the massive fragmentation of Android, and can prevent future broken updates or minimize their effects.
The application or game development itself will also become easier. In the past, many developers have uploaded multiple versions of APKs for their apps to the Play Store, which have been tailored for different regions, languages, or processor architectures. . In the future, developers will only need to upload a single generic AAB file.
Is AAB worse than APK?
If there are advantages, there are definitely disadvantages. There are downsides to AAB, especially because of the signatures mentioned earlier.
Do you want to download the new WhatsApp beta via APKMirror and try the new features? Forget that, because APKMirror here uses a different signature than the Google Play Store.
Sure, you can just uninstall the app and reinstall it on your smartphone from another source. But then you will have to backup all your data and then reinstall. This is also a problem.
In addition, AAB will give more power to Google. In fact, in the future, the signatures will be stored by Google. If the servers are hacked, all applications will be affected. At the same time, Google also has the right to change the application itself through the developer keys. Theoretically, if the government put pressure on Google, they could build a backdoor into a secure instant messaging app without the developer’s knowledge.
Another disadvantage concerns the application developers themselves and debugging. If a user had a problem with the application, in the past there was a simple fix to modify the application, send it to the user, let the user update the application and hope that the error would be eliminated . But that’s only possible because developers can sign apps themselves. And now not.
After all, Google is not Apple and you can still certify external apps for now. It looks like Google is working hard to strengthen the exclusive position of the Google Play Store. And start with AAB.