Google may not be pushing the envelope when it comes to 64-bit support on mobile, but the changes they are making to their app store are sensible and should translate into several benefits for users of various devices.
Apple has required 64-bit code for some time now, and while having 64-bit apps won’t lead to a revolution in the app world overnight, it should bring some more powerful apps into the hands of users in the very near future.
Google has put considerable thought into this change and has considered security concerns as well. In early 2018 there will be a security update that coders and users won’t need to worry about, but it will serve to make downloading apps safer.
Apps from the Google Play Store will soon have a little bit of security data attached to prove that they are from the Google Play Store and are not malicious. The rollout of this security data is set for early 2018.
What Is 64-bit Android?
Smartphones that run on 64-bit Android are not a new thing as phones have long been equipped with either 32-bit or 64-bit Android since Lollipop was released a few years ago.
The 32-bit or 64-bit really describes the CPU and how much data can be processed per second. Consumers are very aware of other smartphone features such as having a better camera, more RAM, or larger internal storage, however, the CPU is a detail not frequently flaunted in advertisements.
With a 32-bit phone, only 4GB of RAM can be supported, which may not be enough for newer apps that demand more resources. Newer phones have 6GB of RAM, however, the switch from 32-bit to 64-bit is more about performance and processing power, rather than memory.
By 2019 Google will be making 64-bit support mandatory for apps in the Google Play store, which is meant to motivate developers to update their apps and to make sure that future app releases are safer and more efficient.
You’ll still be able to download apps that run on 32-bit but those same apps will be required to support 64-bit Android as well in order to be on the Google Play Store. The apps will also include updated security data added by Google to help your device verify that the app is authentic and safe.
Why Is 64-bit Android Such a Big Deal?
Using 64-bit Android allows for faster performance in apps and also enhances security and efficiency. While 32-bit apps will work fine on most devices, newer apps that run 64-bit android may require more RAM than a 32-bit system has. 64-bit Android should mean performance increases; however, many users already have 64-bit Android and may not notice a difference.
With 64-bit Android data can be retrieved faster, and newer designs of processors are more energy efficient which means that phone batteries should last longer. With a faster processor, 64-bit Android apps will load faster, the phone will run more quickly, and the phone interface will be much more responsive.
Newer phones have been advertised with 6GB of RAM which will soon become the new standard alongside 64-bit Android. With more RAM available, users won’t experience nearly as much lag when multitasking and will be able to use multiple apps on their phones with a limited sacrifice to performance.
64-bit Android is also a big deal for developers who have access to new materials from Google to use for their app creation. Having updated standards also helps to ensure that apps can be verified, and keeps user data safe.
Each time you download an app on your phone, your device verifies the app before allowing it to install. With the 64-bit Android this verification process is safer, and more efficiently performed.
How Do I Know If My Device Is Running 32-bit or 64-bit Android?
One way to tell if your device is running 32-bit or 64-bit Android is to look up the specifications of your phone if you purchased it recently. This may be noted as 64-bit Android or Android x64. You can also look up the processor that is in your phone, and if the CPU is an ARMv7-A or lower then you have 32-bit Android.
There are also apps that you can download, such as AnTuTu Benchmark, which can easily be installed, and will tell you the specs on your system simply by opening the app on your phone.
There is no need to run any tests with AnTuTu, and it supplies a handy information page with many other interesting specifications such as the Resolution of your screen, the CPU model, and information about the camera.
Another app is Droid Hardware Info, which is available for free on the Google Play Store. Once installed this app also provides a lot of information about your device, perhaps even more than AnTuTu. It will tell you details about all of the hardware components of your phone and will allow you to see what cores are currently engaged in your processor.
If you think you may want to root your phone or get certain technical apps, you’ll want to know whether your phone runs on 32-bit or 64-bit Android. For most users though, the information won’t affect their day to day use of their device.
Will Android Apps Support 64-bit?
Since 2015, Android has supported 64-bit apps but they weren’t necessary until Google set a deadline for the transition. As of August 2018, Google has declared that apps will have to support 64-bit, which is a switch that Apple started in February 2015.
There are many apps that are available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store that can still run on a 32-bit operating system, however, these will also work on 64-bit systems. Unfortunately, 64-bit apps will only work on 64-bit systems and cannot be used on a 32-bit platform.
Users do not need to worry as many are already holding 64-bit Android in their current devices, and newer phones will already be equipped for this as well. However, some individuals will find that if they have older phones, they may not be able to download and use 64-bit Android apps.
Typically, when downloading apps from the Google Play Store, users can input what kind of device they have and the app store will inform them if their device is compatible with an app. Users with older phones may find themselves taking advantage of this feature more after the fall of 2018.
Many users will choose to upgrade to a newer device in order to fully take advantage of new apps becoming available. It will be unclear how many of these apps will no longer support 32-bit Android, but experts think newer apps will slowly transition over time until they only support 64-bit Android.
What Does This Switch Mean for Android Users?
For most users, there won’t be much of a difference outside of better performance of apps on their device and perhaps a slightly extended battery life. The switch is primarily to make the apps that users download on their phones more secure and more efficient and generally increase the overall quality of what is available on Android.
With new technology being adopted at a slower rate in phones than PC primarily due to the size restrictions, having high-quality apps that run well on a phone is key. Without stricter guidelines for apps on the Google Play Store, not all apps are made to the highest specifications. Most apps are made to work with the widest number of phones possible.
Developers will have to update their already released apps which means that users might notice these apps lagging less, that they are less draining their device’s battery, and generally they will have fewer issues related to performance.
On the security side, apps will be more easily verified by devices and in theory, users should be bothered less by their phone thinking an app may be questionable. Of course, how this plays out, in reality, may be somewhat different, but Google has provided many developers the tools needed to make crucial updates.
The security data that Google will add to apps should keep malicious apps at bay and serve as a stamp of approval of sorts that prevents those destructive apps from corrupting devices. With more performance power, apps should also improve in quality and functionality should the developers decide to push the boundaries and expand their apps a little more.
If I Have 32-bit Android on My Device, What Do I Need to Do?
For the moment if you have 32-bit Android you don’t need to do anything. The cut off for new apps being published to the app store without 64-bit support isn’t until Fall 2018, and even after that point 32-bit version of apps will still be available.
As newer and higher powered 64-bit apps come out and become more prevalent in the Google Play Store, you may choose to upgrade your phone in order to have a device that is compatible with those apps, however, this is also not a requirement unless the app you want does not support 32-bit.