Google has been ramping up its security requirements for Android apps recently. Earlier this year, it announced deadlines for the transition to 64-bit applications, and also stated that it rejected 55% more Play Store submissions in 2018 than in 2017. Now, the company has urged developers to target higher API levels, which bring considerably more "significant security and privacy benefits".
Since November 2018, developers have been required to target API level 26, which corresponds to Android 8.0 Oreo. However, Google is now encouraging developers to target more modern APIs to "provide users with the best Android experience possible".
Starting from August 2019, new app submissions to the Play Store will be expected to target API level 28, which is Android 9.0 Pie. Existing app updates will be required to target the same from November 2019. It is important to note that current apps in the Play Store are not affected by this change and neither are developers who build apps for older versions of Android using the "minSdkVersion" property in the build.gradle file.
Google has also mentioned that third-party app stores, notably from Chinese distributors such as Oppo, Huawei, and Tencent, will also impose target API level restrictions of 26. To emphasize the need for this, the company noted that 95% of spyware present in apps distributed outside the Play Store comes from those which target API level 22 or lower.
Moving forward, the firm will also be warn users about non-complying apps in the following manner:
- August 2019: New apps will receive warnings during installation if they do not target API level 26 or higher.
- November 2019: New versions of existing apps will receive warnings during installation if they do not target API level 26 or higher.
- 2020 onwards: The target API level requirement will advance annually.
Those with developer options enabled will already start to see warnings for apps which do not target API level 26 at the very least. Developers can refer to this guide to migrate their apps in accordance with Google's latest requirements.