In the last year, a heads up was given by Google to all Android developers that Google Play store will require 64 bit apps from August 2019. As per the recent statement, they have given more clarity about this 64-bit transition.
Why Move to 64 Bit?
The idea behind moving to 64 bit is to improve the security and performance of the applications. For all applications that are developed using native libraries, 64 bit offers a lot better performance with new instructions and additional registers.
Previously since Android version 5, 64-bit applications were supported by the OS, but developers were not asked to create a 64-bit version of the native apps created by them.
What is the Big News?
In 2017, Google announced that they will keep on supporting 32-bit apps for now, but from August 2019, all native apps must have a 64-bit version as well. This is because Google requires 64-bit applications to prepare for upcoming Android devices that support 64-bit code only.
Right now, Google has started a detailed timeline and has moved the transition plan till August 2021. This includes games developed with Unity extension.
From August 2019, all newly created apps along with app updates must have a 64-bit version as well when published on Google Play. The rule applies to apps developed using C++ or C, which contains links to native or third-party libraries.
However, for apps developed using Kotlin or Java, this rule is not applied yet. In the 64 bit guide published for Android developers, Google states that if the code is written in Kotlin or Java, it is already compatible with 64-bit devices.
If any native code is used by your app, or even if you are unsure that your app requires access to native codes, it is better to be prepared for developing a 64-bit version.
When is the Change Happening?
From August 2021, officially Google Play will stop serving apps that don’t have a 64-bit version. If you own a 64-bit device, you won’t be able to see 32-bit apps in Google Play but as a turn around solution you can still install the apps from third party apk stores assuming they survive till 2021. This includes games developed using Unity 5.6 or older versions.
For 32-bit devices, there will not be any change. Google Play Store will continue serving apps to 32-bit devices. The extra time has been given to game developers using Unity because Unity started supporting 64 bit from 2018.
Also, the exception is still there for apps to be used on wearable devices or Android TV. Those devices do not require 64-bit code. For apps distributed on Android Pie and above versions, this rule Is not applied yet.