In an Android Developers blog post, Google announced that it has added a new algorithm to the Google Play Store that will reduce the size of the updates for Android apps, as well as show users the actual size of these updates.
Last year, Android users downloaded more than 65 billion apps from the Google Play Store, according to the blog post. With such rapid growth, developers are being pushed to release more frequent updates to their apps to add new content, fix security issues and make other changes according to the feedback of users.
However, Google noted that certain users, such as those who rarely connect to Wi-Fi networks, are sensitive to the amount of data that they download. This is the reason why the company looked to reduce the size of app installations and updates, while making the amount of data downloaded transparent.
For virtually all of the app updates on the Google Play Store, only the changes, known as deltas, are downloaded and then merged with the apps already installed in smartphones, which reduces the size of the updates. A new delta algorithm named bsdiff makes an even further reduction on update sizes by up to 50 percent, as it was designed to create more efficient deltas of the app's native libraries.
The blog post noted two recent patches to the Google Chrome browser for Android. The M46 to M47 major update had a size of 22.8 MB, while the M47 minor update was 15.3 MB. With the bsdiff algorithm, the sizes of the updates were reduced to 12.9 MB and 3.6 MB, respectively.
Some apps require the download of expansion files, which are additional downloads to a main app that are much larger as they contain the resource files of the app, such as the content used by mobile games. Algorithms will also begin to be applied to these expansion files to reduce the initial installation size by 12 percent and updates by 65 percent, on average.
In addition to the release of the bsdiff algorithm, the Google Play Store will now display the amount of data required to download apps and updates. This covers the actual download size for users to access the app and the size of updates for apps already installed, and not just the file sizes of APKs.
Users who own high-end Android smartphones with massive memory cards and usually connect to Wi-Fi networks might not see much of a difference with these Google Play Store updates. However, for Android owners who are limited to data plans and with small storage on their devices, these changes will allow them to maximize the capabilities of their smartphones.