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About Android App Bundles

An Android App Bundle is a new upload format that includes all your app’s compiled code and resources, but defers APK generation and signing to Google Play.

Google Play’s new app serving model, called Dynamic Delivery, then uses your app bundle to generate and serve optimized APKs for each user’s device configuration, so they download only the code and resources they need to run your app. You no longer have to build, sign, and manage multiple APKs to support different devices, and users get smaller, more optimized downloads.

Additionally, you can add dynamic feature modules to your app project and include them in your app bundle. These modules contain features and assets that you can decide not to include when users first download and install your app. Using the Play Core Library, your app can later request to download those modules as dynamic feature APKs, and, through Dynamic Delivery, Google Play serves only the code and resources for that module to the device.

Watch the following video for an overview of Android App Bundles and Dynamic Delivery.

If you’re using Android Studio 3.2 or higher, most app projects require little effort to support Dynamic Delivery, and you can build an Android App Bundle in just a few clicks. However, adding dynamic feature modules is still in beta, and requires a little more effort and possibly refactoring your app.

This page describes the steps to get started building Android App Bundles and describes some important concepts related to app bundles and Dynamic Delivery.

Get started

To build app bundles and support Dynamic Delivery, follow these steps:

  1. Download Android Studio 3.2 or higher—it's the easiest way to add dynamic feature modules and build app bundles.

  2. Add support for Dynamic Delivery by including a base module, organizing code and resources for configuration APKs, and, optionally, adding dynamic feature modules.

  3. Build an Android App Bundle.

  4. Test your Android App Bundle using bundletool to generate APKs from your app bundle and deploy them to a connected device.

  5. Enroll into app signing by Google Play. Otherwise, you can't upload your app bundle to the Play Console.

  6. Upload your app bundle to the Play Console. You can then use the Play Console's new internal test track to quickly test downloading your app via Dynamic Delivery.

Considerations for dynamic feature beta testers

If you want to publish an app that includes dynamic feature modules to a production track, you must first apply to the dynamic feature beta program. If you are accepted into the beta program, keep the following considerations in mind as you develop your dynamic feature:

  • Only devices running Android 5.0 (API level 21) and higher support downloading and installing dynamic features on demand. To make your dynamic feature available to earlier versions of Android, make sure to enable Fusing when you create a dynamic feature module.
  • Make sure you enable SplitCompat, so that your app has immediate access to downloaded dynamic feature modules.
  • If the download size for your dynamic feature is large, your app needs to obtain user confirmation before it can download the dynamic feature module to a device.
  • Dynamic feature modules should not specify activities in their manifest with android:exported set to true. That's because there's no guarantee that the device has downloaded the dynamic feature module when another app tries to launch the activity. Additionally, your app should confirm that a dynamic feature is downloaded before trying to access its code and resources. To learn more, read Manage installed modules.
  • Before you publish your app, be sure to thoroughly test your dynamic features using the Play Console's test tracks. To learn more, read Set up an open, closed, or internal test.

Additionally, make sure that you're aware of the known issues described in a section below.

Dynamic Delivery with split APKs

A fundamental component of Dynamic Delivery is the split APK mechanism available on Android 5.0 (API level 21) and higher. Split APKs are very similar to regular APKs—they include compiled DEX bytecode, resources, and an Android manifest. However, the Android platform is able to treat multiple installed split APKs as a single app. That is, you can install multiple split APKs that have access to common code and resources, and appear as one installed app on the device.

The benefit of split APKs is the ability to break up a monolithic APK—that is, an APK that includes code and resources for all features and device configurations your app supports—into smaller, discrete packages that are installed on a user’s device as required.

For example, one split APK may include the code and resources for an additional feature that only a few of your users need, while another split APK includes resources for only a specific language or screen density. Each of these split APKs is downloaded and installed when the user requests it or it’s required by the device.

The following describes the different types of APKs that may be installed together on a device to form your full app experience. You’ll learn how to configure your app project to support these APKs in later sections on this page.

  • Base APK: This APK contains code and resources that all other split APKs can access and provides the basic functionality for your app. When a user requests to download your app, this APK is downloaded and installed first. That’s because only the base APK’s manifest contains a full declaration of your app’s services, content providers, permissions, platform version requirements, and dependencies on system features. Google Play generates the base APK for your app from your project’s app (or base) module. If you are concerned with reducing your app’s initial download size, it’s important to keep in mind that all code and resources included in this module are included in your app’s base APK.
  • Configuration APKs: Each of these APKs includes native libraries and resources for a specific screen density, CPU architecture, or language. When a user downloads your app, their device downloads and installs only the configuration APKs that target their device. Each configuration APK is a dependency of either a base APK or dynamic feature APK. That is, they are downloaded and installed along with the APK they provide code and resources for. Unlike the base and dynamic feature modules, you don't create a separate module for configuration APKs. If you use standard practices to organize alternative, configuration-specific resources for your base and dynamic feature modules, Google Play automatically generates configuration APKs for you.
  • Dynamic feature APKs: Each of these APKs contains code and resources for a feature of your app that is not required when your app is first installed. That is, using the Play Core Library, dynamic APKs may be installed on demand after the base APK is installed on the device to provide additional functionality to the user. For example, you may have a chat app that downloads and installs the ability to capture and send photos only when the user requests to use that functionality. Because dynamic features may not be available at install time, you should include any common code and resources in the base APK. That is, your dynamic feature should assume that code and resources of only the base APK are available at install time. Google Play generates dynamic feature APKs for your app from your project’s dynamic feature modules.

Consider an app with three dynamic feature modules and support for multiple device configurations. Figure 1 below illustrates what the dependency tree for the app’s various APKs may look like. Note that the base APK forms the head of the tree, and all other APKs depend on the base APK. (If you're curious about how the modules for these APKs are represented in an Android App Bundle, see The Android App Bundle format.)

The base APK is at the head of the tree with dynamic feature APKs having
        a dependency on it. Configuration APKs, which include device
        configuration-specific code and resources for the base and each dynamic
        feature APK, form the leaf nodes of the dependency tree.

Figure 1. Dependency tree for an app served using split APKs

Keep in mind, you don’t need to build these APKs yourself—Google Play does it for you using a single signed app bundle you build with Android Studio. To learn more about the app bundle format and how to build one, go to Build, deploy, and upload Android App Bundles.

Devices running Android 4.4 (API level 19) and lower

Because devices running Android 4.4 (API level 19) and lower don’t support downloading and installing split APKs, Google Play instead serves those devices a single APK, called a multi-APK, that’s optimized for the device's configuration. That is, multi-APKs represent your full app experience but do not include unnecessary code and resources—such as those for other screen densities and CPU architectures.

They do, however, include resources for all languages that your app supports. This allows, for example, users to change your app's preferred language setting without having to download a different multi-APK.

Multi-APKs do not have the ability to later download dynamic features modules on demand. To include a dynamic module in this APK, you must either disable On-demand or enable Fusing when creating the dynamic feature module.

Keep in mind, with Dynamic Delivery, you don't need to build, sign, upload, and manage APKs for each device configuration your app supports. You still build and upload only a single app bundle for your entire app, and Google Play takes care of the rest for you. So whether or not you plan to support devices running Android 4.4 or lower, Dynamic Delivery provides a flexible serving mechanism for both you and your users.

The Android App Bundle format

An Android App Bundle is a file (with the .aab file extension) that you upload to Google Play to support Dynamic Delivery.

App bundles are signed binaries that organize your app’s code and resources into modules, as illustrated in figure 2. Code and resources for each module are organized similarly to what you would find in an APK—and that makes sense because each of these modules may be generated as separate APKs. Google Play then uses the app bundle to generate the various APKs that are served to users, such as the base APK, dynamic feature APKs, configuration APKs, and (for devices that do not support split APKs) multi-APKs. The directories that are colored in blue—such as the drawable/, values/, and lib/ directories—represent code and resources that Google Play uses to create configuration APKs for each module.

App bundles organize your app into directories that each represent a
        module. Within each module directory, code and resources are organized
        similar to that of a typical APK.

Figure 2. The contents of an Android App Bundle with one base module and two dynamic feature modules.

The following list describes some of the app bundle’s files and directories in more detail:

  • base/, feature1/, and feature2/: Each of these top-level directories represent a different module of your app. The base module for your app is always contained in a base directory of the app bundle. However, the directory for each dynamic feature module is given the name specified by the split attribute in the module’s manifest. To learn more, read about the Dynamic feature module manifest.
  • BUNDLE-METADATA/: This directory includes metadata files that contain information useful for tools or app stores. Such metadata files may include ProGuard mappings and the complete list of your app's DEX files. Files in this directory are not packaged into your app's APKs.
  • Module Protocol Buffer (*.pb) files: These files provide metadata that helps describe the contents of each app module to app stores, such as Google Play. For example, BundleConfig.pb provides information about the bundle itself, such as which version of the build tools were used to build the app bundle, and native.pb and resources.pb describe the code and resources in each module, which is useful when Google Play optimizes APKs for different device configurations.
  • manifest/: Unlike APKs, app bundles store the AndroidManifest.xml file of each module in this separate directory.
  • dex/: Unlike APKs, app bundles store the DEX files for each module in this separate directory.
  • res/, lib/, and assets/: These directories are identical to those in a typical APK. When you upload your app bundle, Google Play inspects these directories and packages only the files that satisfy the target device configuration, while preserving file paths.
  • root/: This directory stores files that are later relocated to the root of any APK that includes the module that this directory is located in. For example, the base/root/ directory of an app bundle may include Java-based resources that your app loads using Class.getResource(). Those files are later relocated to the root directory of your app’s base APK and every multi-APK that Google Play generates. Paths within this directory are also preserved. That is, directories (and their subdirectories) are also relocated to the root of the APK.

Build and deploy Android App Bundles

An app bundle is different from an APK in that you can’t deploy one to a device. Rather, it’s a upload format that includes all your app’s compiled code and resources in a single build artifact. So, after you upload your signed app bundle, Google Play has everything it needs to build and sign your app’s APKs, and serve them to users through Dynamic Delivery.

If you’re using Android Studio, you can build your project as a signed app bundle in just a few clicks. Then, simply upload your app bundle to the Play Console to test or publish your app with Dynamic Delivery.

Test your app bundle with bundletool

After you build your Android App Bundle, you should test how Google Play will use it to generate APKs and how those APKs will behave when deployed to a device.

You can perform these tests locally using bundletool—the command line tool that Gradle, Android Studio, and Google Play use to build an Android App Bundle or convert an app bundle into APKs that are deployed to devices. This tool is also useful for including app bundle support on your build server. To learn how to download and use bundletool, read Test Android App Bundles with bundletool.

After testing your app bundle locally, you should then test it through Google Play by uploading your app bundle to the Play Console. An internal test track allows you to upload an app bundle to the Play Console and start testing it on your device with Dynamic Delivery in just a few minutes.

Download dynamic feature modules with the Play Core Library

If your app includes dynamic features, it needs to use the Play Core Library to request, monitor, and manage dynamic feature module downloads. To learn more, go to Download modules with the Play Core Library.

If you want to see the library in action, try the Play Core Library sample app.

A note about Instant Apps

In Android Studio 3.2 or higher, you can add an instant experience to an app bundle, as long as your app's size is small enough. For details on the size limits for the different types of instant experiences that you can create, see Overview of Google Play Instant.

Known issues

The following are the currently known issues when building Android App Bundles or serving your app using Dynamic Delivery. If you experience issues that are not described below, please report a bug.

  • Android App Bundles do not support APK expansion files. However, Google Play still requires that app downloads be 100MB or less. So, for example, when first installing your app, the total size of your base APK and its configuration APKs must equal 100 MB or less. Similarly, the total size of any dynamic feature APK and its configuration APKs must be 100 MB or less. After uploading your app bundle, the Play Console warns you if your app bundle results in APKs that violate this restriction.
  • If you use tools that dynamically modify resource tables, APKs generated from app bundles might behave unexpectedly. So, when building an app bundle, it is recommended that you disable such tools.
  • In a dynamic feature module’s manifest, you should not reference resources that don’t exist in the base module. That’s because, when Google Play generates your app’s base APK, it merges manifests for all modules into that of the base APK. So, resource linking breaks if the base APK’s manifest references resources that don’t exist in the base APK.
  • As of Android Studio 3.2 Canary 14, when you change the build variant for your app’s base module, the same build variant is not automatically selected for dynamic feature modules that depend on the base module. So, you might receive an error when building your app. Simply make sure that you select the same build variant for the base module and other modules that depend on it.
  • It is currently possible to configure properties in a dynamic feature module’s build configuration that conflict with those from the base (or other) modules. For example, you can set buildTypes.release.debuggable = true in the base module and set it to false in a dynamic feature module. Such conflicts might cause build and runtime issues. Keep in mind, by default, dynamic feature modules inherit some build configurations from the base module. So, make sure you understand which configurations you should keep, and which ones you should omit, in your Dynamic feature module build configuration.
  • Because app installs may require downloading more than one APK (such the base APK and a few of its configuration APKs), you should be careful when manually transferring your app’s APKs onto a device (also known as sideloading). Otherwise, your app may experience runtime issues due to missing code and resources.
  • Currently, Google Play includes all the code and resources for a dynamic feature module in a single APK. In the near future, for devices running Android 5.0 (API level 21) and higher, serving will be optimized to use configuration APKs.
  • Downloading dynamic feature modules requires devices to have a recent version of the Play Store app installed. So, if your app includes dynamic feature modules, downloads for a very small percentage of users may fall back to a single optimized multi-APK, which is the same download experience for devices running Android 4.4 (API level 20) and lower.