Google is giving Android app developers a lot more room to work with, expanding the maximum Android app size from 50MB to 4GB.
Although Android apps were free to exceed the size limit before, developers had to host the data on their own. For users, that meant downloading additional files from within the app after installing the core app from the Android Market. The extra downloads were a nuisance and would eat into the 15 minute refund window for Android apps.
Under the new system, Android .APK files will still be limited to 50MB, but Google will host up to two expansion files, each up to 2GB. Most newer devices will download these expansions automatically, and the refund window will not begin until all files are in place.
Some older devices will still have to use a separate downloader, but Google now offers its own developer tool for this purpose. This tool can download files in the background, resume large files safely, pause and resume based on Wi-Fi availability and notify users of estimated completion time.
In both cases, users will be able to see the total size of the app from within the Android Market, solving another issue with app developers' own download tools.
Although most apps don't have troubling coming in under 50MB, size limits are a big concern for game developers, who need to pack their apps with image and video assets. As phones and tablets move toward higher-resolution displays, the need for larger apps will only grow.
Apple's next iPad may face similar app size issues if developers want to accommodate a 2048x1536 pixel display, as expected. The size limit for iOS apps is currently 2GB, but apps downloaded over 3G must be no larger than 20MB.
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