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Google bracing for 64-bit only ecosystem: Here’s how it affects you, developers

After Apple, Google is ending support for new 32-bit applications. Here’s how it will affect you.

tech Updated: Dec 21, 2017 17:06 IST
Kul Bhushan
Google to end support for new 32-bit apps from August, 2019.
Google to end support for new 32-bit apps from August, 2019.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Google on Wednesday made a major announcement that is going to have an impact on millions of applications on its Play Store. Starting August 2019, Google will end support for 32-bit applications and will transition to a 64-bit ecosystem.

Google believes that this upgradation will improve the performance of smartphones.

“Platform support for 64-bit architectures was introduced in Android 5.0. Today, over 40% of Android devices coming online have 64-bit support, while still maintaining 32-bit compatibility. For apps that use native libraries, 64-bit code typically offers significantly better performance, with additional registers and new instructions,” said Google in a blog post.

“In anticipation of future Android devices that support 64-bit code only, the Play Console will require that new apps and app updates are able to run on devices without 32-bit support. Apps that include a 32-bit library will need to have a 64-bit alternative – either within the same APK or as one of the multiple APKs published. Apps that do not include native code are unaffected.”

Google is also asking developers to no longer target older versions of Android.

“Future Android versions will also restrict apps that don’t target a recent API level and adversely impact performance or security. We want to proactively reduce fragmentation in the app ecosystem and ensure apps are secure and perform well while providing developers with a long window and plenty of notice in order to plan ahead,” said Google while pointing out its performance focused Project Treble platforms.

A 64 bit Deadline

There are two key takeaways from Google’s decision. One that 64-bit is clearly the future of mobile ecosystem, and second that Google’s intensifying its effort to reduce fragmentation within its Android ecosystem.

Google is fortunately giving enough bandwidth and time for Android developers to make the switch. And let’s not forget, Apple has already made the jump with its latest iOS 11 operating system that covers most of its handsets. Apple, too, set a similar deadline as the formal announcement was made way back in September 2015..

Android is running on a wide range of devices that are powered by different chipsets. While most of these phones support both 32-bit and 64-bit architecture, Google’s new move will bring uniformity to its platform – a key thing missing on the Android platform and a key strength of Apple.

But what does Google’s 64-bit move mean to you? For starters, you are getting future ready. While most of the new Android devices come with 64-bit compatibility, it will be a good time you move to a device that runs one.

One of the ways to find out whether your application is running on 32-bit or 64-bit is to head to APK Mirror website. When you get there > search for the application > check info if it has ARM 64. If it has an ARM64 variant, it should be a 64-bit app, but if it is an X86 variant only, it’s probably 32 bit app. It’s a fairly complex process, but nonetheless helps get the job done.

Harsha Halvi, a Bangalore-based developer, said, “Switching to the 64-bit framework means apps will work efficiently and increases the bandwidth in the given resources as well as allow the apps to utilise full potential of the chipsets.

According to Harsha, developers should take this move positively. “Transition to 64-bit provides more control, high bus bandwidth, better memory allocation and usage. Also, it exposes more low-level APIs to empower them to deliver applications and high-end games.”