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Google API Update: The One-Stop Answer to All App Update Woes


It is highly unlikely for this generation that thrives on smartphones to not know what an ‘App update’ is. The latest updates are rolled out consistently to provide users with improved performance and overall better user experience. While one-half of the users do not give much importance to these updates, the other half is blissfully unaware of its importance. Thus it becomes the obligation of the business to ensure that the user is always using the updated version. But why is it necessary to keep an app updated? The reasons are plenty. An app update ensures that the latest features are being used and helps in receiving its feedback. Also, the user stays updated with the performance improvement and the bug fixes made in the app. However, despite its several advantages, the percentage of users who use the latest version of the app is very minimal. The latest ’In-App Updates’ by Google considers these issues and has rolled out an update with the sole intention of making the process of updating an app easier for the common man. How do they do it? Read on to know.

App updates: A quick glance

It is said that “Necessity is the mother of invention“ and it is exactly a necessity that resulted in the invention of the latest  in-app updates by Google. The initial solutions deployed by businesses to notify a user of an update were not successful because of the messy navigation. On the other hand, if a user has turned on automatic updates in the Google Play Store app, then whenever the user’s device is connected to an unmetered connection such as a wifi hotspot the updates are downloaded and installed by Google Play app. However, this depends on other factors such as battery percentage and having a WiFi connection. This cancels out the demographics of users who do not have access to WiFi and depend on a cellular network instead. Thus this solution is flawed as well and does not ensure that the users will update the applications. 

The In-App API Update

Now that we have discussed the major pitfalls of the already existing methods of updating applications, let us delve into how an ideal app update should be. An ideal app update should cover the following points.

  • The user must know about the update with full attention UI.
  • If the user chooses to install the update, then it should be downloaded in the background, without disrupting any further interaction with the app. 
  • When the app is downloaded, the user must decide as to when to install the app.
  • When the new update is installed, the user should remain in the same app if not already.

These criteria are listed solely based on the single fact that, user app interaction is never disrupted unless they have chosen to. This cannot be solved with custom logic in Android because there is no exposed operating system API to start/end app updates. So, it’s just not possible to keep the user in interaction. This was the case until now. 

Google has introduced the new feature “In-app updates” as part of their Play Core library. This essentially checks all the boxes for an ideal app update. It starts with a dialog like this.

When we press the update button, this popup will be dismissed & the update will be downloaded in the background. This is shown regardless of the network connection of the user’s device. Which means it will work on both WiFi & mobile internet. So, after the update is downloaded, the user will be alerted with a message like shown below.

The user can update the app depending on their convenience by pressing the “Reload” button. Once the “Reload” button is pressed, the update installation will start on a different screen such as the one below. After installation, the app will be relaunched automatically. 

Now there’s another scenario that we are yet to discuss for app updates. What if, in a new release of the app there were some errors made that could only be rectified by a new version? For example, a banking app finds out that there is some loophole in the newest version of the app with which unauthorized users can use the app. So it will be decided to correct this mistake in a new version and release that to the play store. But the users who have installed the previous version must not be allowed to use it i.e the user must be blocked to use the app. This is usually done with custom logic by the developers as we discussed earlier, by checking a flag in the server. But that still includes taking the user to the play store. This scenario is called a force update and can also be implemented using the “In-app update” feature. In this case, the user will be welcomed with a message as shown below, when they open the app. 

As shown, there’s only one option but to update the app. When the user taps on the “Update” button they will be taken to the below-given screen.

After installing, the app will be relaunched and the user can continue using the app.

This feature change is undoubtedly a blessing for apps that have a large user base. If the implementation is made with the right UI components, then the update will feel like a second skin with a better user experience for the user and more opportunities for the business. That said, the benefits of the new update are endless. For starters, it lets the users know about the available updates and also makes them easier to install. With everyone looking for a short-cut to get things done, the in-app updates are a much-needed change of air. It enables users to try the latest features and helps them benefit from the performance improvements and bug fixes. More importantly, it lets all this happen comfortably and without any hassle.

Shaheer Malliyil
Senior Software Engineer, RapidValue


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