We’re at Google I/O 2018, where the Mountain View company is challenging our imagination with all the great plans it has in store for the future. Those plans include new changes for Google Play and everything in it.
What big changes are coming to Google Play this year?
It appears Google Play won’t be getting many user-facing changes in the here and now, with Google’s latest updates serving developers. That’s okay, because it’ll make it easier for those developers to create better apps, and users from all over will feel the benefits in time.
Google Play Instant gets even better
Any developer who wants to offer their app up in instant form can do so starting today. While most developers could create Instant apps since 2017, it was only recently that game developers could get in on the fun, and now Google is looking to make life even easier for them.
With today’s announcements, developers will be able to offer Instant apps and games with up to 10MB worth of assets, which means they can offer more rich functionality and deeper gameplay without requiring a download. Other changes include a Unity plugin, support for progressive downloads, and the ability to tap into Android’s NDK to offer smooth, fluid games in an instant.
Google is also adding support for augmented reality features for Instant apps, so it’ll be a quick affair for someone without the Ikea app to check out some new furniture in their home.
For the uninitiated, Google Play Instant makes it possible to use these apps for one-off fringe scenarios, such as if you want to read exclusive stories, check out a recipe while you’re whipping up dinner, try out a game you saw in a Facebook ad, or if you just want to try out a new app without having to go through the hassle of downloading it.
Improved beta testing
One of Google Play’s best features is support for alpha and beta testing, but the company seems to think simplification is necessary. Instead of being able to create both open and closed tests for alpha and beta versions of an app, there are now just three stages:
- Internal: This is meant for the developers’ own use with employees or a predefined group of dedicated testers.
- Closed Alpha: These are now invitation-only tests for users who want to be on the cutting edge.
- Open Beta: Users can download beta versions freely.
This streamlined approach will make life easier for both developers and users to understand not only what they’re getting into but how they treat each stage of the testing process.
Reduced download sizes with Dynamic Delivery
Developers can now upload their apps and games as a new APK model called “App Bundles.” With this process, it’s possible to include all assets for all device configurations in a single APK in such a way that allows Google Play to then offer these downloads up in an abstract manner.
For instance, an app that has support for 30 languages can include strings for all 30 of those languages in one file, but when the user goes to download it, they can choose to only download it in their language of choice and save bandwidth on the other 29 they won’t use. This can also apply to other assets found within an APK, such as multiple versions of identical images which are included to accommodate different display resolutions.
This results in the smallest possible file size for any given user. It’s a boon for those who may not have a ton of internal storage on their phones, those who don’t have much data to play around with, or for those who just appreciate sheer optimization.
When can I expect these updates to roll out?
Here’s when developers can expect to get their hands on these new tools:
- Google Play Instant: Developers can look forward to Unity support and the heightened APK filesize limits later this week.
- New testing schemes: These changes are already live on the Google Play developer console.
- Dynamic Delivery: Those interested in testing this out can do so today using Android Studio 3.2’s Canary release and through their developer console.
As for users, while you may not see the benefits of all these cool changes right away, history has shown us that developers will eventually use them to make the process of downloading and using their apps better. Be patient and the goods will come!