Google to limit outdated apps: What you should know

We all love our apps. Whether you use your phone mainly for work, for gaming, for taking photographs, or for communicating, there are plenty of apps available to help you out.

As tech startups and entrepreneurs began to realize that the app market was big business, many started developing and launching apps that they hoped would be the next big thing. Some of these succeeded and are now regularly used by millions of people in their daily lives. Many others did not.

It wasn’t necessarily due to any major flaws with these apps that they failed. Rather, it’s because the market has just been saturated by apps and it is getting harder and harder to not only be noticed but also to keep the public’s attention.

The latest news to hit the tech press is that Google has announced plans to limit the availability of outdated apps. But what exactly does that mean and how will it impact the average consumer?

What has Google actually said?

Like any big tech story, when the initial announcement comes out, there’s a flurry of attention and many people think that a huge and sudden change is about to happen. The story gets exaggerated and the real news gets a bit lost in all the hubbub. So, what did Google actually say in their announcement this week?

In their blog post, Google announced that as of the 1st of November 2022, “existing apps that don’t target an API level within two years of the latest major Android release version will not be available for discovery or installation for new users.

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In simpler terms, that means that old apps that do not meet the Application Programming Interface (API) standards, won’t be accessible. APIs are essentially the “rules” that allow apps to run and to communicate with each other and with devices. An API is what makes an app work, and as software develops, the APIs become better and more complex.

The current regulations require new apps to be adapted to an Android API level that is within one year of the release of the latest Android OS release. If an app doesn’t meet this standard, it won’t be published on Google Play. This latest policy change will simply bring older apps into line with the current standards.

Why does it matter if an app is updated?

For the average consumer, if an app is still functional it may not seem like a big deal that it isn’t on the most current API level. Most of us hadn’t even heard the term Android API level before Google’s announcement so it’s hard to understand why it’s such a big deal.

The main reason is security. Our devices are constantly under threat from hackers and bots because so much valuable personal information is stored on them. Researchers, developers, and software engineers are constantly working to find and fix tech vulnerabilities.

When we update our software and apps, we are protecting ourselves because updates address all of the recently discovered vulnerabilities. If a developer stops updating their app, however, it can’t communicate with the newest software and is no longer protected by these security updates.

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So for example, if you use a sports betting app to find bookmakers and the best odds that you downloaded from the Google Play store, you expect it to have all of the latest security features and updates. If an app doesn’t reach the latest Android API level, it is less protected and is more likely to be exposed to security issues.

In the case of a betting or shopping app, you most likely have a digital wallet, credit card, or PayPal account linked. Exposing these to hackers is obviously a terrible idea. This new policy will do a lot to protect consumers.

What does it mean for the average consumer?

If you have an Android phone that is up to date, you won’t be able to search for and download any apps that don’t meet the criteria. If you haven’t updated your OS in a few years and still have some old and outdated apps, you will still be able to access them.

This does mean that there is a chance you will lose access to one or two old apps that haven’t been updated in a while. This is likely to only affect apps that either are no longer profitable, or that were written by amateur hobbyists who have decided not to keep their apps up to date. Any professional developers should be willing to invest in bringing their apps into line with the new regulations.

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