Google wants to ensure a greater percentage of apps have 64-bit versions for newer devices. That's why Google recently revealed a revised set of deadlines for developers, who will need to update their apps if they want to continue distributing them via the Play Store. Here's what you need to know.
Google added support for 64-bit CPUs to Android 5.0 Lollipop in 2014. These processors are faster and offer people better experiences on their phones and tablets. While Android continues to support older 32-bit CPUs and apps, Google has steadily been pushing developers to upgrade their apps. The new series of timelines gives developers plenty of time to conform to the 64-bit architecture.
Beginning August 1, 2019, Google says all new apps and app updates that contain native Android code are required to include both 64-bit and 32-bit versions in order to reach the Play Store. An exception is being made for 32-bit upgrades to existing games that are based on version 5.6 of the Unity Engine. This exception will remain in place until August 2021.
Starting August 1, 2021, Google says the Play Store will stop serving apps without 64-bit versions on 64-bit devices. In other words, apps only published in 32-bit will no longer be available in the Play Store to the newest devices. This change will also impact games based on Unity 5.6.
Some exceptions remain in place. For example, Wear OS and Android TV don't yet support 64-bit code. APKs or apps that only target these two platforms will allowed in the Play Store. The exception also applies to APKs or apps that aren't distributed to devices running Android 9 Pie or later.
"We are not making changes to our policy on 32-bit support," said Google's Vlad Radu and Diane Wong in a blog post. "Play will continue to deliver apps to 32-bit devices. This requirement means that apps with 32-bit native code will need to have an additional 64-bit version as well."
Google's isn't expecting this schedule to be a problem for the majority of developers. Apps written wholly in non-native code, Kotlin or Java for example, will not require updates.
For developers who do need to adopt 64-bit code, Google suggests to start by inspecting the APK and/or app bundle for native code. Google's APK Analyzer should help sort apps between those built from scratch and those built with an SDK or imported library. Once this step is complete, it should be straightforward to enable 64-bit architecture and rebuild native code. Developers will need to upgrade any SDKs and libraries to 64-bit compliant versions. Google is already in touch with library owners to ensure they are updated. After developers rebuilt their app and test for issues, they can roll it out to the Play Store via the beta program.
If you're a game writer, Google notes that the three most-used engines (Unreal, Unity, Cocos2d) have all been 64-bit compliant for some time. Each engine has its own guide for the process of upgrading.
Those those with questions, there's no end of documentation available.