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Thursday, May 12, 2011

"More Than One APK" Support Coming to Android Market

This post is part of our ReadWriteMobile channel, which is dedicated to helping its community understand the strategic business and technical implications of developing mobile applications. This channel is sponsored by Alcatel-Lucent. As you're exploring these resources, check out this helpful resource from our sponsors: Cultivating a Developer Ecosystem: Understanding Their Needs

Android fragmentation issues are a continual complaint among the developer community, but Google has not been ignoring the problem, it seems. Not only will the forthcoming Android version "Ice Cream Sandwich" at last merge the two separate operating system versions, Gingerbread and Honeycomb, into one, Google has also just confirmed that it will launch "Multiple APK" support in its Android Market next month.

This new feature, as the name implies, will allow developers to maintain separate versions of their apps intended for different devices.

At the Google I/O conference, taking place this week in San Francisco, Eric Chu, Mobile Platforms Program Manager at Google, told developers that the company will launch multiple APK support in June 2011. The feature will allow developers to support separate apps on devices with different screen sizes, those running different versions of the Android OS, and devices supporting different compression formats, all under one titled entry within the Android Market.

When an end user then searches the Market from their device, the Market will only show them the version of the app the developer want owners of that device to see.

This will allow developers to maintain different versions for Android tablets and Android phones, as well as a different version for Google TV, which is also getting full Market access later this summer, along with the update to Android 3.1.

While maintaining separate phone, tablet and TV apps makes sense, some developers will likely also use this feature to maintain different versions of apps for different devices within the same category, too. Yes, phone-specific variations of an application will now be possible. That means developers could offer one APK for all models of a phone using one type of GPU, for example, while another APK could support phones with another type of GPU.

Considering that there are currently 310 different Android devices in the world, a number which Google just announced on day one of Google I/O, clearly this fragmentation "fix" could easily become a headache, not a help, if not used properly.

Developers would do best to maintain one code base as best they can, when possible, even if that means working through the really challenging bugs. While saying, "here use this APK instead" may be a quick workaround, it could lead to more problems down the road.

More information about the Android Market for Developers is available here on YouTube.


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