Android 14 could prevent users from sideloading outdated apps

The change could curb the spread of malware on the platform

Google is reportedly working on a new change set to go live with Android 14 that will prevent users from installing outdated apps on their devices. The company already enforces minimum API level requirements for apps on the Play Store, preventing developers from publishing apps that target older Android releases. However, this restriction doesn’t prevent users from sideloading outdated apps.

Google aims to remedy that with Android 14, and a newly posted code change (via 9to5Google) suggests that the company will enforce stricter API requirements with the upcoming release. Once the change goes into effect, users will no longer be able to sideload APK files for apps that don’t meet a specified API level. It will also prevent third-party app stores from installing apps that don’t meet the new guidelines.

At first, Android 14 will reportedly block apps that target especially old Android releases. However, Google plans to increase the threshold to Android 6.0 Marshmallow over time and implement a mechanism to “progressively ramp [it] up” further. 9to5Google notes that the company will likely give OEMs the option to enable or disable the feature and set a threshold for outdated apps for their devices.

This move aims to curb the spread of malware, as “malware can target older SDK versions to avoid enforcement of new API behavior,” notes the developer responsible for the change. Users will still have the option to install outdated apps on their devices through a command shell using a new flag, but the process won’t be as simple as sideloading an APK. By making the process more complicated, Google will make it less likely for users to install a malware-laden app on their devices unintentionally.

We expect to learn more about this change in

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Android 14 Could Prevent You from Installing Ancient Apps

A photo of the Google Play Store logo

Google only wants you to install apps from the Google Play Store in the next version of Android.
Image: East pop (Shutterstock)

The next version of Android isn’t due out until late this year, but it’s as good a time as any to start sniffing around for what’s to come. A recent edit to the Android 14 source code shows that Google is working on stricter API requirements to prevent Android users from installing old apps. It’ll be a boon for security but a bummer for Android diehards who prefer to finetune their smartphone experience through sideloading.

9to5Google discovered that Android 14, by default, will block any apps targeted toward especially old versions of Android, with the plan being to start with the oldest versions and work up to block apps all the way through Android 6. If an app developer—even an independent one—isn’t writing their app to more recent source code than that, Android will deny installation. It looks like device makers will be able to make the block more lenient (by allowing apps aimed at some older versions but not others) or disable it entirely, but the base install you’ll get on Pixel devices will have it fully enabled.

This should make Android feel more secure, especially from malicious apps that use ancient exploits to gain access to sensitive parts of the source code. Android 6 is the baseline because it was the first time Google required apps to ask for access to your contacts, location information, and internal storage. The nastier apps out there tend to target earlier versions of Android to circumvent this.

The Android mobile operating system has been around for a long time. But due to its openness and tinkerability, it’s developed a bit of a reputation for

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