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Android is getting a neat trick to save on storage

an image of a phone with Android 12
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If you're using the best Android phones but have struggled with onboard storage limits, then Google is about to come to your rescue in the form of a new "app archiving" feature.

As announced on the Android Developers Blog (opens in new tab), Android devs will now be able to reduce the size of apps by around 60% by letting them be saved as a new archived APK file format. This option is coming to developers as of the announcement, but one that won't be available to consumers until "later in the year," perhaps in line with the launch of Android 13.

The point of archiving an app, instead of just uninstalling it, is that it should mean you won't need to download as much (or even any) data to get it working again, making it faster to enable an archived app when you need it. It sounds ideal for those apps that you only use from time to time but can't sensibly delete. A couple of examples I can think of looking at seldom-used apps on my phone are travel ticket apps, or digital menu and ordering apps for pubs and restaurants.

This archiving function doesn't include user data, the blog also explains. We don't know what the exact benefits of this might be, but it at least sounds practical to only archive the information the developer can guarantee will be present in the app.

The blog also mentions that archiving won't be a compulsory feature and shows developers how they can disable it. This is a thoughtful feature to add for developers who for whatever reason may not want their app to be archivable, although it may disappoint some users who'd rather be able to save space on all possible apps.

While some older and cheaper Android phones can have very small on-board storage, recent Androids usually have at least 128GB storage. Even with this quantity, it can be difficult for some users to fit all the apps, files, photos etc. that they want on their phones. While cloud storage can help keep images and data accessible but not on the device itself, most apps still require a proper installation to function. It'll be interesting to see just how this feature looks and works whenever Google pushes it live, and find how just how much storage space you can reclaim on your device.

Richard Priday
Staff Writer

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.