Google has a problem with legacy apps in the Play Store, some of which are very popular but have not been updated for months or years. With Android 9.0 P, the company is introducing a new policy whereby apps and games that do not meet the Android v17 API level will probably no longer be installed and run on smartphones and tablets.
The first version for developers already includes this lock. Apps that do not comply with the new policy and are only compatible with Android version 4.1 or earlier will be warned. This applies to the installation via APK, the execution remains despite warning but still possible. It could be different in the Play Store. There, the old apps on new smartphones and tablets could not be displayed at all.
Developers often upgrade their Android apps to old versions to avoid the new regulations and system requirements of a new operating system. So far, this had no negative consequences, because the apps could run on any smartphone and tablet without any problems. However, if a developer uses an old Android base, these apps may soon run out of luck on the smartphone running Android 9.0 – or be found in the Play Store.
A Danger to Developers only in the Long Run?
If you look at the Android distribution of the last month, the problem will probably not affect anyone in the short term. Android 8.0 and 8.1 are just 1.1 percent of all Play Store-enabled Android smartphones and tablets installed. Android 4.1 and older, however, runs on 2.4 percent of all Android devices. Nevertheless, the procedure should be a warning to all Android developers. This may only be a small step for Google now, but the call for regulation, similar to Apple, could provide for further measures that affect significantly more users.
It is currently unclear how many apps are exactly affected by the restriction. In March 2018, 3.67 million apps will be available for download in the Play Store. Most of them are old, have not been updated for a long time and could soon become unusable. It will be exciting to see how the restriction really works.