Updating Android applications will likely become a much more convenient process for both end users and developers at some point in the not-too-distant future thanks to a new In-app Updates API introduced at this year’s Google-hosted Android Dev Summit. Set to begin rolling out “soon,” the new API has already been in testing with early access partners and fundamentally changes the way Android apps update. Namely, the company is looking to make updates a true ‘background’ process that happens in-app even if the end user is still using the app in question. There are two possible ways that can be implemented, which Google refers to as either an "immediate" in-app update or a "flexible" in-app update.
For the first of those, the immediate in-app update, a developer can have the new software install all at once, pushing users to a short-lived full-screen message that has to be waited-out while installation happens. However, under another option called “flexible update,” developers can effectively hot-swap code while the app is in use, leading to a more natural update flow wherein changes are incorporated without interruption. In either case, once the installation is completed, the app automatically restarts in a way that’s much more akin to a page refresh than a reset, with users placed within the app right where they left off.
Background: Aside from obvious benefits, the change will help developers incorporate updates so that the process becomes very much a part of their app in a much more integral way. However, that’s not the only new development the Android Dev Summit has brought to the table in terms of letting developers make things more their own. On the hardware side of things, Google also recently announced that it will be helping push the boundaries forward with system-level changes made in support of the expected incoming wave of flexible or foldable smartphones. In summary, Android OS will support two types of folding handsets. That will include those with two or more displays and those with a single panel that can be bent directly.
Fittingly, Samsung’s own Developer Conference event is running in conjunction with Google’s and that company has already revealed its own Infinity Flex display panels. Since the two company worked on the new UI and other API changes together, Samsung is likely to be among the first, but not the only, manufacturer to take advantage of those in the future. In any case, the announcement marks at least one other area where Google is working to help developers across the board create diversity in Android while simultaneously still keeping everything consistent.
Impact: In the meantime, there’s no immediate indication as to how the new API might affect more traditional installations. All installs will likely still be processed through the Google Play store in order to continue the company’s policies taking advantage of its threat scanning tools and Google Play Protect. What’s more, major changes might still require a more traditional update. Bearing that in mind, from a user’s perspective, the changes will undoubtedly seem much larger than that once developers start implementing In-app Updates API. The change will enable updates that almost feel seamless simply because they don’t require the user to leave an application and come back to a brand new app startup just to get new features or to see UI tweaks. In that sense, they’ll act more like server-side updates. At the same time, rather than having the Google Play Store install updates in the background, unseen and often unnoticed, developers will be able to lead end users’ attention first to the fact that an update has actually been installed.