Windows 11 Might Let You Sideload Google’s New Android App Bundles

Windows 11 Might Let You Sideload Google’s New Android App Bundles
Will they or won't they support Google's new app bundles? (Image: Microsoft)

Amazon has officially confirmed that it is working on supporting the new Android App Bundle format mandated by Google, resolving the will-they-or-won’t-they question. It’s not entirely clear if this means you’ll be able to sideload Android apps of all types in Windows 11, which will let you run Android apps on a PC, but it does offer a bit of hope on the horizon for cross-compatibility.

Amazon published the news in a short blog post, and there aren’t too many details yet. The company plans to support app bundles across all types of submissions, citing the benefits of the new file format, including “smaller app size downloads for customers and on-demand downloads for features and assets.” The Amazon Appstore will also continue to support the existing APK file format. However, Amazon will not mandate the new .aab file type for developers to submit to its Appstore, nor will they have to resubmit an app published in APK format.

There was some uncertainty surrounding how Google’s app bundle mandate would affect third-party Android app stores. Specifically, it was unclear whether the change would mean that you couldn’t sideload .aab files on Windows 11. We’re still not entirely sure what the result will look like. It’ll be interesting to see how Amazon’s Appstore translates this unbundling to Windows machines, even with the operating system adding native support for Android apps.

Amazon’s move is the complete opposite of Google’s approach to the Android App Bundle, or .aab file type. Beginning in August, developers will have to publish apps in the proprietary format before they’re available in the Play Store. The requirement applies to all new app submissions. Existing apps are exempt, though it’s worth noting that plenty of major apps have already made the switch because of the veritable drop in file size. The Android App Bundle essentially splits up the APK into all of its important parts, installing only the necessary components related to the device.

Google originally introduced the Android App Package in Android 9 to help alleviate the bloat associated with app distribution. The app bundle is essentially an archived file of split APKs, each representing an essential part of the entire app package, and the parts that are installed depend on your device’s configuration. For instance, if you’re running a flagship smartphone with the latest mobile processor, you’ll get only the assets that pertain to that particular hardware.

The current Windows 11 beta preview doesn’t include the Android app functionality. We probably won’t know what that looks like until Windows 11 is officially launched, though Amazon says it will provide more details as it nears closer to the rollout.