To reduce the chance of malware, Android 14 is starting to completely block the installation of apps targeting outdated versions of Android.
For years, the Google Play Store guidelines have ensured that Android developers keep their apps updated to take advantage of the latest features and security measures of the Android platform. This month, the guidelines were updated, requiring newly listed Play Store apps to target Android 12 at a minimum.
Until now, these minimum API-level requirements only applied to apps intended for the Google Play Store. If a developer wants to make an app for an older version, they can do so and simply ask their users to manually sideload the APK file. Likewise, if an Android app hasn’t been updated since the guidelines changed, the Play Store will continue to offer the app to those who’ve installed it before.
According to a newly posted code change, Android 14 is set to tighten API requirements, completely blocking the installation of outdated apps. This change would prevent users from sideloading specific APK files and also prevent app stores from installing those same apps.
Initially, Android 14 devices will only block apps that target mostly old Android versions. However, the plan is to raise the threshold to Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) over time, with Google having a mechanism to “step up”. [it] That said, it will probably still be up to each device manufacturer to determine the threshold for outdated apps or to enable them at all.
If the minimum installable SDK version enforcement is enabled, you will block the installation of apps with a lower target SDK version than required. This helps improve security and privacy, as malware can target older SDK versions to avoid enforcing new API behaviors.
By blocking these outdated apps, Google wants to prevent the spread of malware apps on Android. The developer responsible for the change notes that some malware apps have deliberately targeted older versions of Android to get around certain protections that are only applied to newer apps.
That said, if for some reason you want or need to install an outdated application, you can still do so through a command shell, by using a new flag. Given the extra steps involved, it is less likely that someone would accidentally do this and accidentally install malware.
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