Google is preparing to limit the availability of outdated apps in the Play Store, the company has announced† Beginning November 1, all existing apps in the store must target an API level within two years of the latest major Android OS release. If they don’t, Google says it will put limits on the users who can discover or install them.
The changes are intended to ensure that software available on the Play Store uses the latest privacy and security features of Android. Device owners “expect to realize the full potential of all the privacy and security protections Android has to offer,” writes Krish Vitaldevara, director of product management at Google in a blog post† “Extending our API requirements at the target level protects users from installing older apps that may not have these protections.”
There are a few important caveats to make. First, the restrictions only apply when a device is running a version of Android that is more recent than the API level of the app. So anyone using an older version of Android OS can still download apps made with their (old) version of Android in mind. Second, Google says that users can redownload and install any apps they previously downloaded from the Play Store.
Developers can request a six-month extension if their software is not ready in time for the November 1 deadline.
Google already has a similar policy for new and updated apps sent to the Play Store for review. Currently, an app must target an API level within a year of the last major Android OS release to be published. What this new policy does is extend coverage to existing or potentially abandoned apps in the Play Store, rather than just apps that are still receiving updates.
In the past, some surprisingly big names have continued to target old Android APIs in an apparent effort to avoid newer and more restrictive privacy and security policies. 2017, Ars Technica reported that the Facebook app focused on an API that was two years old at the time, while Snapchat focused on an API that was nearly three years old.