Android Market fights fragmentation with multiple APK support

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) continues its efforts to reduce Android platform fragmentation, enabling developers to begin uploading multiple Android Package files to its Android Market storefront. Developers were previously limited to a single APK file, a universal payload deliverable to all eligible devices regardless of platform versions, screen sizes and chipsets. According to Google, multiple APK support gives developers the flexibility to upload different versions optimized for each subset of their customer segment.

Each APK is a complete, independent file that shares the same package name,  containing code and resources to target different Android platform versions, screen sizes or GL texture-compression formats. When users install the app, Android Market identifies the correct APK to deliver based on device characteristics--the store also manages multiple APKs as part of a single product listing that aggregates app details, ratings, and comments across all file versions, guaranteeing that consumers browsing the app's details page see the same product complete with the same description, branding assets, screenshots, video, ratings, and comments. Android Market also aggregates download statistics, reviews and billing data across all APKs.

"Multiple APK support gives you a variety of ways to control app distribution," writes Android Developer Ecosystem chief Eric Chu on the Android Developers Blog. "For example, you could use it to create separate APKs for phones and tablets under the same product listing. You could also use it to take advantage of new APIs or new hardware capabilities without impacting your existing customer base."

Google promises its forthcoming Ice Cream Sandwich platform update (expected sometime during the fourth quarter) will deliver one unifying version of Android that runs across all smartphones and tablets. "We want one OS that runs everywhere," said Android engineer Mike Claren said during his Google I/O 2011 keynote presentation in May, implicitly acknowledging the platform's fragmentation woes. "We're going to take all the good stuff in [Android 3.0, a.k.a. ‘Honeycomb'] and make it available everywhere." Among Honeycomb's breakthroughs: A holographic UI theme and a new interaction model building on signature features like multitasking, notifications and widgets.

For more:
- read this Android Developers Blog entry

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