Google Activates Smart App Updates in Play Store

Originally announced during Google I/O 2012, Google has reportedly activated "smart" or "delta" app updates in the Google Play store. This method essentially saves both time and bandwidth when updating larger apps by downloading the actual changes instead of the entire app itself each time.

The news arrives as Google's biggest mobile carrier -- Verizon Wireless -- is pushing its users into switching over to Share Everything plans, eliminating the unlimited data packages. Once converted, users get unlimited minutes and texts, but the data is capped, depending on the plan, and shared with up to ten devices. Managing data usage -- such as updating apps on the road -- is now even more prevalent.

Google's new method of updating means Android customers aren't forced to download their apps over and over. As an example, ezPDF Reader weighs approximately 6.34 MB, but the delta update only downloads and installs roughly 2.7 to 3 MB of data. Instagram weighs around 13 MB, but the update now only downloads about 3 MB of data. The 100 MB zombie shooter Dead Trigger turned into a mere 5 to 10 MB update.

For tablets, this update method may not be such a big deal. But for smartphones with a limited internal storage capacity set aside for apps, updating can be a real pain. The Xperia Play is a good example: when the app storage falls to 39 or 38 MB, apps won't install or upgrade. Even more, apps like Kindle, Google Books and Smurfs Village (go ahead, flame on) have grown massive, making upgrading difficult without having to remove apps to make installation space.

Still, the new upgrade method doesn't mean users can turn their app storage into a compressed drive: it merely means they can initially download and install apps until the storage reaches its limit without really having to worry about downloading the large files again and again. Updates will still make the apps bigger, but management just got a bit easier on Android phones with limited app space.

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  • Good, now stop updating our apps without us knowing/wanting to even when auto update is unchecked and I'll stop freezing google play upon each reboot...
  • Incremental upgrades are good, especially in today when data is still expensive.