Google Sets New API Level Rules For Play Store Apps & Outside APKs

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Google unveiled the 2019 API level requirements for applications hitting the Play Store this year as well as for existing apps planned for future updates. Starting with August 2019, the Google Play Console will require new applications published on the platform to target API level 28 (Android 9 Pie) or higher, while updates for existing applications will have to target the same API level starting with November.

Same as before, applications that already exist in the Play Store and target a lower API level but won't receive new software updates will remain available for download. But as previously mentioned, if a new update will be scheduled for release after November 2019 then the app will have to target the Android 9 Pie API level or higher following the new app version's release.

In addition to the 2019 requirements for apps in the Google Play Store, the tech giant also revealed new requirements for apps distributed through other app stores such as those used by OEMs and platform holders in China including OPPO, Huawei, Xiaomi, Tencent etc.

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According to the recent blog post, more than 95-percent of spyware detected by Google outside its own storefront attempt to avoid runtime permissions by targeting API level 22 (Android 5.1 Lollipop) or lower. To prevent this type of behavior, Google Play Protect will start warning users when they attempt to install APKs from sources, whenever these APKs won't target a recent API level.

Specifically, beginning with August 2019 new apps from other sources targeting an API level lower than level 26 (Android 8.0 Oreo) will trigger warnings during the installation process in order to inform the users of the potential risks they might face if they continue the installation. Furthermore, updates to existing apps outside of Google's ecosystem will also trigger installation warnings if they will not target API level 26 or higher.

These warnings will only be shown if the application's API level is lower than the smartphone's API level, for example, a smartphone running Android 6 Marshmallow or Android 7 Nougat will only display warnings for applications targeting API levels 22 (Android 5 Lollipop) and API level 23 (Android 6 Marshmallow), respectively. In other words, the warnings will not be triggered for apps targeting an older API level as long as it matches the smartphone's API level.

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Android smartphone users who have their Developer Options enabled on their devices will start receiving Play Protect warnings before August 2019 as a way to be notified of the upcoming changes, and prepare their applications accordingly before the new requirements will be set in place across the board.

Google first announced it will set API level requirements in place for new and existing apps in late 2017. These new changes represent Google's continuous efforts to keep the Android ecosystem safe and clean of malicious applications, and new API level requirements can be expected to be set in place next year after Android OS will jump to a newer version.

Earlier this month Google also revealed that it's looking to set new and advanced machine learning algorithms in place in order to improve the detection system of malicious developers who tend to acquire developer accounts via black markets after being banned. Likewise, additional user data and privacy policies are expected to be set in place this year.

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