[REVIEW] : Google to crack down on outdated apps on Android

Google continues to clean up the Play Store. While the firm regularly bans new applications accused of spying on users, or spreading malware, it will also crack down on outdated applications, which have no longer been updated by their developers.

Each time a new version of Android is released, Google makes improvements to the system in terms of personal data protection. And to comply with these new user protections, developers must update their apps to target a new level of Android APIs.

Currently, if a developer releases a new app or update to the Play Store, it must target an API level one year away from the latest major version of Android. “New applications and application updates that do not meet this requirement cannot be published on Google Play”, reminds the firm.

On the other hand, until now, the existing applications which did not conform to this rule were tolerated. But soon, that will change.

An app that targets an outdated API level does not include the protections that Google has provided for personal data

Indeed, in a blog post addressed to developers, Google explains: “As of November 1, 2022, existing applications that do not target an API level within two years of the last major version of Android will no longer be available for discovery or installation for new users with devices running Android OS versions higher than the apps target API. As new versions of the Android operating system are released, the requirements window will adjust accordingly. »

As explained above, each update of the Android operating system, and therefore API levels, includes new privacy rules. However, by targeting an old API level (either because the app has been abandoned, or voluntarily), an application can escape these rules.

“The reason behind this is simple. Users with the latest devices or those completely caught up in Android updates expect to realize the full potential of all the privacy and security protections Android has to offer. Expanding our target-level API requirements will prevent users from installing older apps that may not have these protections,” Google says.

In any case, if by the end of the year, certain applications disappear from the Play Store, it is possible that Google has sanctioned its developer because of the use of an API level that is too old.

At the end of the year, the most recent API level will be Android 13. And because of this, app developers should therefore target at least the API level corresponding to Android 11, if they don’t want to be penalized.

Google Play Store: developers will no longer be able to check the presence of other applications on your smartphone

The tech giant will update the rules for developers to prevent them from having access to the full list of applications installed on smartphones. At least if their program does not need it.

Restrictions for app scanning

This new rule aims to restrict the use of access permissions to certain sensitive information on Android devices. Google considers the list of installed applications to be part of users’ personal data.

Only those for which it is the main functionality (antivirus, file manager, browsers), will therefore be able to continue to access this list. Google nevertheless specifies that temporary exceptions may be granted to bank apps and digital wallets to ensure the security of smartphones. This new policy will be applied from May 5 on phones running Android 11 or higher.

5 new Android and iOS applications to install on your smartphone

I try every week to bring you the best possible apps that aren’t personal data traps or microtransaction nests.

From mobile games to productivity apps, here are NextPit’s 5 free and paid Android/iOS apps this week.

jtx Board (Android)

We start with an all-in-one productivity application that offers note taking, the creation of to-do lists and logbooks. The editor is quite powerful, you can adjust the priority level (lots of intermediate notches), a level of confidentiality, assign reminders, tags and even update the progress of your various tasks.

I really like the fact that we can combine the different elements – notes, ToDo – between them or group them together in a logbook. They are also very easily accessible and modifiable thanks to a simple, clear but also very neat interface.

ScoreKeeper (iOS)

This iOS application is supposed to allow you not to lose the scores of your games with friends. Whether it’s a board game or a Fifa/Call of Duty tournament with friends, you can create multiple games in the app and create multiple player profiles. Each has a counter that you can change to your liking.

On the Play Store, neglected apps will soon be hidden

Google is toughening up its war on apps that aren’t updated enough. In addition to the measures already taken in the past to combat these obsolete apps (namely minimal support for certain Android functions and the use of recent programming interfaces to authorize updates), the company announces a new rule: all APIs with APIs over two years old will now be hidden from Play Store listings. They will be considered abandoned by the system and will not appear in search results.

This is a paradigm shift for developers since until now, the systems put in place to encourage regular app updates — and their compatibility with the most recent versions of Android — have only been offered on a voluntary basis. In other words, the rules enacted weren’t punitive and old apps that weren’t updated weren’t downgraded in any way. However, Google has many reasons to toughen its policy. On the one hand because many malware primarily target technically outdated apps, which poses a security risk to users. On the other hand because we know that the fracturing of Android is a problem for the ecosystem and everyone has to gain if the common technical base is tightened.

To better understand this new system, let’s look at the end of the year. The new rules will go into effect on November 1, 2022, when Android 13 (and its level 33 APIs) should be the most recent version. On this date, the Play Store will no longer accept updates to applications that do not respect at least the level 31 APIs introduced a year earlier with Android 12. These applications may nevertheless continue to appear in the Play lists. Store. On the other hand, apps that technically do not respect the level 30 APIs of Android 11 (which will be two years old) will be hidden.

Some exceptions

Small clarification from Google, users who have already installed one of these applications will continue to see them and be able to reinstall them. “They will no longer be available for discovery or installation for new users with devices running Android OS versions higher than the apps’ target API level,” the company adds. In other words, obsolete applications with regard to the latest versions of Android released will still remain available for users of older devices, running on older versions of the operating system. A more restrictive operation, but not that much. Especially since the two-year period of technical backward compatibility granted to developers seems quite long.

Be careful if you have downloaded these applications from the Google Play Store: delete them quickly from your smartphone!

Security on your smartphone is something very important. Because these devices, which have become companions in our daily lives, contain a lot of important data. Malicious people are also aware of this and do not hesitate to trick users to obtain sensitive data.

The good advice is therefore to always be vigilant when you download a file or a new application on your smartphone. Especially if it runs on Android. Much more open than its main competitor the AppStore, the Google Play Store may contain dubious applications. Sometimes even malicious.

Latest example: the American giant decided on March 25 to purely and simply delete several applications from its store. The reason ?