APK vs AAB (Android App Bundles): All You Need to Know!

APK vs AAB (Android App Bundles): All You Need to Know!
As we inch nearer to the steady Android 12 launch, Google is making some foundational modifications to app supply and distribution on Android units. From August 2021, all the brand new apps on the Play Store shall be printed within the Android App Bundles (.aab) format as an alternative of the prevailing APK format. So what are the most important variations between an APK and Android App Bundles (AAB)? Can we sideload AABs similar to APKs? To reply all of your questions, we now have provide you with this detailed information on APK vs AAB. So with out losing any time, let’s dive proper in.

APK vs AAB (Android App Bundles): A Comprehensive Comparison

Here, we now have defined each AAB and APK codecs in layman phrases in order that anybody can perceive the idea with ease. We have additionally detailed set up AAB recordsdata, extract APKs from AABs, and extra. You can increase the desk under to maneuver to any related part rapidly.

APK vs AAB: Understanding the Basics

First, we have to grasp some fundamentals to correctly perceive what are the variations between an APK and an Android App Bundle.

APK has been the go-to distribution app bundle on Android since its inception. An APK primarily consists of app codes, heavy sources reminiscent of picture, audio, and many others., and an app signing key generated by the developer. Note that Android units are available in numerous type elements and specs. For instance, the units can have a various diploma of display density (320dpi, 480dpi, and many others.), processor sort (ARM, ARM64, x86), and extra. Also, primarily based on the consumer’s area, the app must have a language pack (en, fr, ger, and many others.).

APK vs Android App Bundles (AAB): Everything You Need to Know

In a great scenario, a developer has to construct and add a number of APKs on the Play Store primarily based on the consumer’s area, processor sort, and display density. When a consumer faucets on the “Install” button within the Play Store, the right and most-suited APK is then put in on their system. However, all of this places an infinite job within the developer’s arms. They not simply need to develop apps but additionally handle a number of APKs to help a boatload of units.

To keep away from this advanced and time-intensive work, most builders construct a Universal APK that comes with all of the sources (language packs, codes, and extra) though you could not require most of it on that particular system. This leads to a cumbersome APK with a bigger app measurement that requires longer set up time and eats up extra bandwidth.

Google desires to unravel this downside and shoulder most of this burden for builders with Android App Bundles (AAB). That, in flip, will assist scale back the app measurement, set up time, and bandwidth consumption. The firm launched AAB at Google I/O 2018, and now, practically two years later, Google is mandating that you have to submit new apps within the AAB format on the Play Store.

android app bundle - how it works

In comparability to APK, the AAB format will not be a very new distribution bundle. In reality, AAB is a container that hosts a base APK and a number of split-APKs. Basically, AAB is a publishing format {that a} developer submits to the Play Store whereas APK is the packaging format for Android apps that you just set up in your system.

So what actually modifications right here? Starting August 2021, builders don’t need to deal with and handle a complete bunch of APKs for a wide selection of units. With AAB, builders hand over all the things to Google – the app code, belongings, heavy sources, all language packs, and most significantly, the personal app signing key. Now, Google can generate and serve optimized APKs to customers primarily based on their system’s configuration. It can create a a lot smaller AAB bundle, one which’s compact in measurement, installs in a jiffy, and eats lesser information for low-end units. That’s the principle proposition of AAB vs APK, however there’s extra to unpack.

The Sharing of Private Signing Key with Google

Looking at what AAB brings to the desk, it looks like an amazing various to APK. The AAB format reduces the app measurement, and builders don’t need to construct a number of APKs. However, many builders have expressed concern concerning the sharing of personal signing key with Google.

As I discussed above, the signing secret is a very powerful data to confirm the integrity of the APK. Even in the event you sideload an APK from a third-party supply, the Google Play Store checks the signing key to determine that nothing has been tampered with.

With AAB, Google mandates that builders should share the personal signing key in order that Google can generate the app bundle and signal the AAB with the identical personal key. When customers set up the app or replace to a brand new model, Play Services will match the signing key, and the set up will happen with no key mismatch or signature failure points. With that mentioned, builders say that it doubtlessly opens the door for code injection. Google says that each one “signing keys are saved on the identical infrastructure that Google makes use of to retailer its personal keys.” So relaxation assured, all your personal signing keys are guarded with ironclad safety.

The Sharing of Private Signing Key
Source: Google

Moreover, to assuage builders’ issues, Google introduced Code Transparency that permits builders to generate a separate personal key that can solely be accessible by them. From the separate personal key, builders can then create an additional signature that can be utilized to confirm app integrity. However, there’s a limitation to this methodology. Code Transparency solely offers with the code and never with belongings, sources, or manifest. Also, that is an optionally available function that will depart many builders out of the loop.

Is AAB Going to Make Things Harder for Third-party App Stores?

Another situation arising out of sharing the personal key with Google is that it would make issues more durable for third-party app shops. For instance, in the event you set up an app from the Play Store however need to replace to the newest model from one other Play Store various (say the Amazon App Store or Aptoide Store), then the set up may fail resulting from a signature mismatch.

It is as a result of Google is now managing the personal signing key, so you possibly can’t use the identical key whereas importing your app to a third-party Android app retailer. You must use one other personal key, and that can trigger the personal key mismatch error. Will this be an issue for Android app help on Windows 11? We must wait and discover out.

Android apps on Microsoft Store
Android apps coming to Microsoft Store

Other than that, the presumption that AAB will hinder builders from importing APKs to third-party app shops seems incorrect. Google has already made an open-source device known as bundletool that permits builders to create APKs from AAB bundles. The solely situation, for now, is the sharing of the personal signing key will have an effect on Android energy customers.

Can We Sideload AABs Just Like APKs?

From what we all know, it looks like sideloading AABs on Android units shall be potential, however it won’t be as handy as sideloading APKs. Android’s bundle installer at the moment doesn’t help AAB packaging format, that means on-device AAB set up gained’t be potential natively. However, you need to use third-party installer apps to put in an AAB bundle on-device.

For instance, at the moment, APKMirror Installer (Free, provides in-app buy) lets you set up APKM bundles (Base APK + Split APKs) with its installer app. We will quickly publish an in depth information on set up Android App Bundles in your telephone, so preserve your eyes peeled.

play store aab vs apk

Apart from that, you gained’t be capable to adb sideload your approach into putting in AABs. You must use the open-source bundletool to get the right APK that’s suitable along with your system. As AABs turn into extra mainstream, new and handy strategies of sideloading may come up. Keep in thoughts, simply sideloading the Base APK will crash in your system.

APK vs AAB: Advantages and Disadvantages

After going by all of the factors, you possibly can inform that AABs gained’t make a lot distinction by way of consumer expertise for many customers. Yes, it will scale back the app measurement, which shall be useful for many customers. For occasion – Airbnb lowered its app measurement by 22% after switching from APK to AAB, whereas Netflix toned down its app measurement by 57%. That is a substantial distinction in app measurement. Apart from that, the deserted Instant app function will get a brand new lease of life with AAB on Android units.

However, for energy customers who need to sideload AABs, issues will turn into a bit tough and inconvenient. You might have to make use of bundletool to extract APKs on your system or use a third-party installer. One factor to notice is that AAB will transfer away from OBB (Opaque binary blob) to obtain massive belongings and sources. Instead, it is going to use Play Asset Delivery or Play Feature Delivery to obtain heavy sources with a obtain measurement of 150MB or greater. We must see how that impacts sideloading video games like Battlegrounds Mobile India, PUBG Mobile, FAU-G, and extra.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Android App Bundles Over APKs

As for builders most affected by this transformation, they don’t must refactor their code, which is nice. AABs additionally convey modularity in tow, that means they will change a code snippet and merge it with the core base with out dealing with many merging conflicts. One massive benefit of AAB is that it brings customization choices to builders. They can select which API stage to focus on or which system sort to help. Developers may resolve what all options to ship on a selected system sort or smartphones working on a minimal SDK model.

As for the disadvantages, the coronary heart of the difficulty is sharing the personal key, which can now be managed by Google. Incompatibility with third-party app shops is perhaps one other massive situation, and the builders must go an additional mile to publish and handle APKs (similar to the Play Store proper now) on different app shops.

APK vs AAB (Android App Bundles): What Do You Think?

For me, the largest situation with this transformation is the over-reliance on Google. With this transformation, the Mountain View big is ensuring that Play Store stays the de-facto app retailer on Android units. From internet hosting apps to managing personal keys, Google now controls all features of app publishing and distribution on Android. Developers is perhaps proud of the brand new modifications as they not need to handle a number of APKs, however how will it fare for the customers in the long term? We don’t know but. With builders handing over management to Google, will it convey a few good change? We must wait and see. Anyway, that’s all from us. But do inform us what you consider this APK vs AAB debate within the remark part under.

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