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Posted 2 Mar 2015


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How to Publish Your Apps On Google Play For x86-based Android Devices Using Multiple APK Support

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2 Mar 2015CPOL7 min read
The following sessions are created specifically for Android developers who want to package their APPS to support Android x86-based devices:

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Google Play has added Multiple APK support for x86 CPU architecture. This feature allows you to publish different APKs for your application that are each targeted to x86 CPU architecture. The APK is a complete and independent version of your application, but it shares the same application listing on Google Play and must share the same package name and be signed with the same release key. This feature is useful for cases in which your application cannot reach all desired devices with a single APK such as an App developed using Androind NDK. You can visit Google Multiple APK Support Page on Android Developer site for complete information.

The following sessions are created specifically for Android developers who want to package their APPS to support Android x86-based devices:

Creating Multiple APKs

Once you decide to publish multiple APKs, you probably need to create separate Android projects for each APK you intend to publish so that you can appropriately develop them separately. You can do this by simply duplicating your existing project and give it a new name. (Alternatively, you might use a build system that can output different resources—such as textures—based on the build configuration.)

Tip: One way to avoid duplicating large portions of your application code is to use a library project. A library project holds shared code and resources, which you can include in your actual application projects.

When creating multiple projects for the same application, it's a good practice to identify each one with a name that indicates the device restrictions to be placed on the APK, so you can easily identify them. For example, "HelloWorld_8" might be a good name for an application designed for API level 8 and above.

Note: All APKs you publish for the same application must have the same package name and be signed with the same certificate key. Be sure you also understand each of the Rules for multiple APKs.

Assigning version codes

Each APK for the same application must have a unique version code, specified by the android:versionCode attribute. You must be careful about assigning version codes when publishing multiple APKs, because they must each be different, but in some cases, must or should be defined in a specific order, based on the configurations that each APK supports.

Ordering version codes

An APK that requires a higher API level must usually have a higher version code. For example, if you create two APKs to support different API levels, the APK for the higher API levels must have the higher version code. This ensures that if a device receives a system update that then qualifies it to install the APK for higher API levels, the user receives a notification to update the app. For more information about how this requirement applies, see the section above about Rules for multiple APKs.

You should also consider how the order of version codes might affect which APK your users receive either due to overlap between coverage of different APKs or future changes you might make to your APKs.

For example, if you have different APKs based on screen size, such as one for small - normal and one for large - xlarge, but foresee a time when you will change the APKs to be one for small and one for normal - xlarge, then you should make the version code for the large - xlarge APK be higher. That way, a normal size device will receive the appropriate update when you make the change, because the version code increases from the existing APK to the new APK that now supports the device.

Also, when creating multiple APKs that differ based on support for different OpenGL texture compression formats, be aware that many devices support multiple formats. Because a device receives the APK with the highest version code when there is an overlap in coverage between two APKs, you should order the version codes among your APKs so that the APK with the preferred compression format has the highest version code. For example, you might want to perform separate builds for your app using PVRTC, ATITC, and ETC1 compression formats. If you prefer these formats in this exact order, then the APK that uses PVRTC should have the highest version code, the APK that uses ATITC has a lower version code, and the version with ETC1 has the lowest. Thus, if a device supports both PVRTC and ETC1, it receives the APK with PVRTC, because it has the highest version code.

Many devices also support multiple ABIs, for example both ARMv7 and ARMv5TE. Many x86 ABI devices can also run ARMv7 and ARMv5TE binaries. You should order the version codes so that the APK with best performance runs on each device. For example, order the version codes so that the x86 APK has the highest version code, followed by ARMv7, then ARMv5TE. Thus the x86 APK will be preferred for x86 devices and the ARMv7 APK preferred for ARMv7 devices.

Using a version code scheme

In order to allow different APKs to update their version codes independent of others (for example, when you fix a bug in only one APK, so don't need to update all APKs), you should use a scheme for your version codes that provides sufficient room between each APK so that you can increase the code in one without requiring an increase in others. You should also include your actual version name in the code (that is, the user visible version assigned to android:versionName), so that it's easy for you to associate the version code and version name.

Note: When you increase the version code for an APK, Google Play will prompt users of the previous version to update the application. Thus, to avoid unnecessary updates, you should not increase the version code for APKs that do not actually include changes.

We suggest using a version code with at least 8 digits. Integers that represent the supported configurations are in the higher order bits, and the version name (from android:versionName) is in the lower order bits. For example, when the application version name is 3.1.0, the version code for ARMv7 ABI and an API level 4 APK would be something like 20400310. As another example, when the application version name is 3.1.0, the version code for x86 ABI and an API level 11 APK would something like 61100310. The first digit indicates the supported ABI, second and third digits are reserved for the API Level (4 and 11, respectively), the fourth and fifth digits are for either screen sizes or GL texture formats (not used in these examples), and the last three digits are for the application's version name (3.1.0). Figure 1 shows two examples that split based on the ABI, the platform version (API Level) and screen size. The ABI key is: 7 - x86_64, 6 - x86, 3 - ARM64-V8A, 2 - ARMv7, 1 - ARMv5TE.

Image 1

Figure 1. A suggested scheme for your version codes, using the first digit for the ABI, the second and third digits for the API Level, the fourth and fifth digits for the minimum and maximum screen size (1 - 4 indicating each of the four sizes) or to denote the texture formats and the last three digits for the app version. The ABI key is: 7 - x86_64, 6 - x86, 2 - ARMv7, 1 - ARMv5TE. For example, the version code for x86_64 ABI and an API level 19 APK would something like 71900310

This scheme for version codes is just a suggestion for how you should establish a pattern that is scalable as your application evolves. In particular, this scheme doesn't demonstrate a solution for identifying different texture compression formats. One option might be to define your own table that specifies a different integer to each of the different compression formats your application supports (for example, 1 might correspond to ETC1 and 2 is ATITC, and so on).

You can use any scheme you want, but you should carefully consider how future versions of your application will need to increase their version codes and how devices can receive updates when either the device configuration changes (for example, due to a system update) or when you modify the configuration support for one or several of the APKs.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


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