Google has recently released Compatibility Definition Document (CDD) for Android 7.0, which mentioned something about Android Extensions. Based on its description, many believed this could be the answer to fragmentation problems, and in preparation for backporting.
Below is a direct quote from the Android 7.0 CDD.
3.1.1. Android Extensions
Android includes the support of extending the managed APIs while keeping the same API level version. Android device implementations MUST preload the AOSP implementation of both the shared library ExtShared and services ExtServices with versions higher than or equal to the minimum versions allowed per each API level. For example, Android 7.0 device implementations, running API level 24 MUST include at least version 1.
This section of the CDD specified that device manufacturers must include shared libraries that will extend Android’s functionality. Must being the operative word, means that manufacturers will be forced to implement the system in every new version of OS that will be installed in their products.
Many believed that when implemented, Google will be able to bypass manufacturers and carriers, allowing them to update OS to all Android devices simultaneously without the need for a full system update. After all, the new APKs connected with the Android Extensions – GoogleExtShared.apk and GoogleExtServices.apk – are mostly blank or the so-called “app shells”. These help ensure that whenever an app is updated on the Google Play Store, update will be immediate.
Just imagine what this could mean to Android users out there. No more waiting as to if and when your Android device will get the latest operating system. Once a new OS is out, it’s out.
But at the moment, the situation is bad. Based on statistics provided by the Android team, only a small percentage of Android users are on Nougat.
- Only 0.3% run on Android 7.0 Nougat
- 11.3% run on Android 5.0 Lollipop
- 22.8% run on Android 5.1 Lollipop
- 24% run on Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- 25.2% run on Android 4.4 KitKat
Clearly, people are stuck on KitKat and missing out on the many new apps and features because of fragmentation and incompatibility issues. If these concerns are resolved, everyone will be on the same page, so to speak.
Android Extensions will also benefit Google…big time. If fragmentation is resolved, its operating system would see more success. Right now, they already dominate the smartphone scene by 88%, and they have an opportunity to raise the numbers further.
Where does backporting fit in all this theory?
Many believe that the demand to have the “app shells” preloaded paves the way for backporting. Keeping them empty until they’re ready to be used makes it easier to backport whatever future AOSP features will arrive.
How extensively will the two APKs be used? It’s anybody’s guess. Again, the theory is that when the updates eventually come with the Android Extensions, GoogleExtShared will serve as the Shared Library, where programs sharing bits of codes will be kept, while GoogleExtServices will serve as the AOSP equivalent to Google Play Services.
Moreover, the improvements that the Android Extensions will bring will put an end to talks about Google applications working better on iOs than on Android.