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Most Android device owners use the Wi-Fi network to update their mobile apps, ensuring they save their data for the more important things they want to use it for. Wi-Fi is particularly helpful when the files are exceptionally huge and may cause users to surpass their plan limits.

While it’s fine to do this, Google has come up with a new method that looks to reduce app update sizes.

How Does It Work?

It’s important to learn how apps update. In the past, if you update an app or allow Google to do it for you automatically, the Play Store overrides the previous version with the new one. It’s a relatively simple method, but it can take up a plethora of your precious data because you’re actually re-downloading the whole app.

What Google has done is come up with “File-by-File patching.” With this method, the Play Store will look at the update’s APK file and then the existing APK file. It will figure out which are the new and/or modified files and download only those files to the device. Basically, you don’t re-download the entire program.



Andrew Hayden, a software engineer for Google Play, likened it to an author changing a sentence in an upcoming book. Rather than resending the whole book, he lets the editor know which sentence needs to be changed and how it needs to be altered.

Does File-by-File Patching Work?

The short answer is yes! Hayden said it would reduce the APK size file to 65 percent of the original size. There are some cases where it’s 90 percent less than the original. That’s a big improvement over the bdsiff algorithm. Google has used it since July 2016, and it was only able to reduce the APK size by 47 percent.

Here are some examples that show the effectiveness of the File-by-File patching:

  • Farm Heroes Super Saga Update–1MB update the bsdiff algorithm can reduce that to 13.4MB (81.1 percent of the original size). The File-by-File patching can decrease it even more 8MB (or 89 percent)
  • Kindle Update –4MB that can be decreased to 8.4MB by the File-by-File patching; the bsdiff algorithm decreases it to 19.1MB.

Is There A Catch To The Method

The File-by-File patching will certainly help in decreasing how much data you use when you update apps, but it does need more processing power to download those updates. 2015 and later devices tend to process one megabyte of APK recompression in two seconds. Other and cheaper models will take longer.

It’s for that reason Google will use the File-by-File patching to the auto-updates – updates that occur in the background and at night when you don’t use your phone. It won’t work for interactive updates (those that you manually update).

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