Android TV will require App Bundles in 2023, expected to reduce app size by 20%

Android TV will be less greedy for storage in the future. Google has announced that Android’s space-saving app file format, Android App Bundles (AAB), will finally be standard on Android TV. By May 2023, which is six months from now, Google will require all Android TV apps to switch to the new file format, which can reduce app storage requirements by 20%.

Storage for Android TV is always difficult because hardware manufacturers want to make smart TV and set-top-box hardware as cheap as possible, and that often means shipping with a minimal amount of storage. Google says that “in 2022, smartphones often have a minimum storage size of 64GB, but smart TVs average just 8GB.” Google itself is actually a big offender here, with Google Chromecast shipping Google TV with just 8GB of storage. That’s nowhere near enough, and many people run out of storage space on their new Chromecast with only the bare minimum of content apps installed. There are 10,000 apps for Android TV, with some of the biggest reaching 10GB+, but most Android TV users can’t install them.

Android App Bundles won’t be a magic wand for poorly designed devices with insufficient storage, but every little bit will help. Android App Bundles were announced with Android 9 in 2018 as a way to save device storage space by breaking up an app into modules, rather than one big monolithic APK (the old Android app format) with as much data as possible . Android apps support tons of different languages, display resolutions, and CPU architectures, but each individual device only needs to select a few of these options to work. Android App Bundles integrate with the Play Store to create a dynamic delivery system for each module. Your phone tells the Play Store what modules it needs, and Google’s servers have bundled an appropriate package and sent it to your device. It’s even possible for developers to move some less-used app features into a package that can be downloaded on the fly if a user needs it.

App bundles basically shift a lot of app packaging responsibilities to the cloud, especially to the Google cloud, which causes quite a lot of Google lock-ins. Developers have to upload the app’s signing keys and code base to Google’s servers, which are now responsible for compiling its apps into more than 100 modules. The Play Store is now responsible for detecting what a phone needs to deliver those modules on the fly. But even if a third-party app store could replicate all of this, there’s a good chance developers aren’t interested in trusting a million different app stores with their signing keys.

Google claims that Android App Bundles average around 20% space savings over a monolithic APK, which will be a big help for these storage-hungry devices. From 2021 they are the required standard for phones and tablets and in six months, TV apps will also have to use them. Developers who don’t get around to it will have their TV apps hidden from search, so they better get to work! Google estimates that “in most cases it will take an engineer about three days to migrate.”

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