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Old Apps Will Soon Disappear from the Google Play Store

An illustration of the Google Play Store on an Android phone.

In an effort to increase Android security, Google will hide thousands of old Play Store apps on November 1st of 2022. If an app’s “target API level” is more than two years old, it will not show up in Play Store searches.

Each Android release has a unique set of features and security protocols. And that means, in theory, apps made for Android 11 should have problems running on Android 12. But Google gets around incompatibility problems by forcing apps to include a “target API level.” This system indicates which version of Android an app is made for, allowing newer phones to run older apps without a hitch.

There’s a trade-off to this backward compatibility system, though. Running an app with a lower target API level means turning off some security restrictions, leaving users more vulnerable to malware and exploits.

Years ago, hackers took advantage of this system by uploading malware with a low target API to the Play Store. Google started enforcing a rule to fight the problem—if an app (or an update) includes a target API level that’s a year out of date, it cannot be uploaded to the Play Store.

Google is simply expanding its system to hide neglected apps. If an app uses a target API level that’s more than two years old, it won’t show up on the Play Store.

Now, there are a few caveats here. Google won’t hide old apps if you have a similarly old Android phone. You can also reinstall old apps that you used in the past, and of course, you can always sideload old apps through a service like APK Mirror.

Source: Google via Malwarebytes

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