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App makers on deadline as Google drops 32-bit support

Google has given app developers six months to get 64-bit compliant or be kicked out of the Play Store, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Google’s Play Store will no longer accept 32-bit-only apps from August 2019, and will require developers to submit 64-bit versions of all apps. 

In a statement sent to developers, Google advised them that they may continue to submit 32-bit apps, on condition that it is alongside an identical 64-bit version.

What does it mean for the consumer?

The company made it clear that it will not cut support for 32-bit devices outright, but would rather deliver optimised apps to 64-bit devices. Most high-end and some mid-range smartphones released after 2014 are likely to be 64-bit devices.

Apps that are optimised for 64-bit devices are likely to start up faster, run smoother, and provide better battery efficiency than their 32-bit counterparts. This is possible through the processor’s design — 64-bit processors handle more “instructions” at once, which uses less power and reduces the number of times the processor needs to go back to memory. 

Apple made a similar move in 2015 when it announced to developers that late 2017 would mark the end for 32-bit apps on its App Store. With the release of iOS 11, it cut support for new 32-bit apps on the App Store, and removed the ability to install or run legacy 32-bit apps. The company was safe to make this move because all iPhones and iPads that ran iOS 11 had embedded 64-bit chips, which made that the iOS app ecosystem 64-bit optimised with a major version release.

This isn’t as easy for Android, because it covers a much larger range of devices, and old devices are not updated to new versions of Android. Hardware makers need to optimise, skin and/or brand every major Android release for the hardware on their devices, which means major version release timelines are variable.

The Android Developers Blog reported in December 2017 that “over 40% of Android devices coming online had 64-bit support, while still maintaining 32-bit compatibility”. Major app makers like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Uber have been releasing 64-bit versions since the Android Development platform introduced it in 2014. 

Click here to read about Google’s timeline for phasing out 32-bit apps.

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