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App Development
7 minutes read

What are Android App Bundles?

By Mario Tatis
Android figurine standing on computer keyboard
By Mario Tatis
App Development
7 minutes read

Android App Bundles are the standard publishing format for the Google Play Store. Formerly, Android app development projects published their apps as Android Application Packages or APK files. Recently, Google made the announcement that all new app submissions to the Google Play Store need to be in Android App Bundle format starting in August of 2021.

The Android App Bundle format was only released back in 2018 to offer developers an alternative to APK files. The new Google Play policies regarding Android app publishing show just how quickly this new format has overtaken the traditional APK file. 

However, APK files won’t be going away anytime soon. Rather, Android app developers and publishers will just be required to submit their apps as Android App Bundles. When Android users download apps from the Google Play Store, they will still be downloading APK files. 

How does that work? We will explain the relationships between Android App Bundles and APK files and how Android App Bundles are making the development, publishing, and user-retention processes better for Android apps. 

The Relationship Between Android App Bundles and APK Files

Just because Android App Bundles are the new standard publishing format on the Google Play Store doesn’t mean APK files are dead. In fact, in many ways, Android App Bundles help make APK files more efficient. To understand how this works, we need to understand APK files. 

What are APK Files?

APK files are a lot like .zip files. Inside an APK file are all of the app’s code and associated files. There is also a signed certificate that identifies the individual app on the Play Store. This certificate must be held onto by the developer for the lifetime of the app because it can only be generated one time. 

When you download an Android App, it comes in the form of a compressed APK file. Installation is basically unpacking the file and turning it into the app that you will use. The issue with APK files is that they are huge

Android developers need to account for a wide variety of devices that vary in screen size and other key performance specs when they are creating their apps. Think about cross-platform development, but instead of iOS that only has one manufacturer, Android devices are created by many different manufacturers. The plethora of devices makes native Android app development more complicated, to say the least.

The trouble with APK files is that developers need to include the asset packs and resources necessary to run the app across the gamut of Android devices in order to ensure that everyone has a great User Experience regardless of their device. Obviously, you can see how inefficient this is, and this is one of the major points Android App Bundles can help with. 

The Introduction of Android App Bundle

Android App Bundle was created to address the inherent inefficiencies in APK files, but this format does not do away with APK. When you are ready to submit your Android app to the Play Store, you need to ensure that you are submitting an Android App Bundle build of your app. This can be done in Android Studio and other development environments. 

The Google Play Store takes your Android App Bundle and generates split APK files that are specific to device configurations. For each device that your app supports, the Play Store generates a separate APK file with the asset packs and resources necessary to run it. 

Now, instead of getting a large APK file full of unnecessary assets and resources, each device only gets the files it needs. This drastically reduces the size of the APK file and improves its efficiency. 

So, in reality, while the Android App Bundle format is a huge improvement to the APK format, it is not replacing APK files in mobile app development but rather optimizing them. 

The Benefits of Android App Bundles

We already know that Android App Bundle files help create smaller, more efficient APK files for user download. However, size improvements are not the only benefits Android app developers get when they use Android App Bundles. Additional benefits of AAB files include: 

  • More users
  • Faster downloads 
  • More efficient development 
  • Dynamically deliver features

More Users 

If everyone had unlimited storage on their Android devices, app size would not be a concern. Unfortunately for developers, this is not the case. There is a direct correlation between app size and download rates. The bigger the Android app, the less downloads it receives. 

Size also plays a big role in uninstallation rates too. Users have short attention spans. If they stop using your app, they may uninstall it from their device. If your Android app is small and efficient, users are less likely to uninstall it when they are done using it for a while. It is much harder to recapture users after they have uninstalled your app. 

It is hardly a stretch to make the argument that Android App Bundle apps attract more users due to their sleek size and efficiency. What could you do with more users? 

Faster Downloads

Since Android App Bundle files deliver device-tailored APK files upon download, these Android apps download faster. Fast download times are not only great for User Experience, but it gives your app more of a chance to be opened and used immediately. 

The longer you have to wait for a download to complete, the less likely you are to use it immediately. Android app developers want to capture the user’s attention immediately before they have a chance to get distracted by something else or even another app. 

More Efficient Development

App development projects take time, especially if you want to create a quality product. Anything that can help streamline the development process is a valuable tool. Thanks to the unity of the Android App Bundle, the entire process of creating an Android app is sped up

The main reason development times are improved so drastically by Android App Bundle is that developers no longer have to build, sign, upload, or manage codes and asset packs for multiple APKs. Efficient development can help your business get your app to market faster, which gives you a chance to be a first mover and capture a larger share of the market. Plus, efficiency saves financial resources that can be invested in application maintenance or other projects. 

Dynamically Deliver Features

Android App Bundle has given developers a new tool to play with called dynamic delivery. Dynamic delivery allows developers to deliver app features based on a number of factors, including device features, user’s country, and device version. What is really cool about dynamic delivery is that it gives users the chance to install features on-demand or even uninstall features they don’t like or need.

Not only does dynamic delivery put the power of customization in the hands of the user, but it also allows Android developers to deliver smaller app sizes and let users choose which features they actually want to use. 

Final Thoughts

Android App Bundles are a major improvement to the Android app development process. They make APK files more efficient and device-specific without creating more work for development teams. If you have an idea for an Android app, but you don’t know how to get started or which direction to go, speak with an app development partner

A development partner can bring valuable insights to your project and work with you to ensure that your Android app is actually going to meet your business goals. Trust the industry experience and technical expertise of a skilled development partner to help you create a great Android app.

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