In an effort to tighten Android’s security, Google will hide thousands of old apps from the Play Store on November 1, 2022. If an app’s “target API level” is over two years old, it won’t appear not in play store searches.
Each version of Android has a unique set of security features and protocols. And that means, in theory, apps built for Android 11 should have issues running on Android 12. But Google gets around incompatibility issues by forcing apps to include a “target API level.” This system tells which version of Android an app is designed for, allowing newer phones to run older apps without a hitch.
There is a trade-off to this backward compatibility system, however. Running an app with a lower target API level means disabling certain security restrictions, which makes users more vulnerable to malware and exploits.
Years ago, hackers took advantage of this system by uploading malware with a low-target API to the Play Store. Google has started enforcing a rule to combat the issue: if an app (or update) includes a target API level that’s exceeded by one year, it can’t be downloaded from the Play Store.
Google is simply extending its system to hide overlooked apps. If an app uses a target API level that is more than two years old, it will not appear on the Play Store.
Now, there are a few caveats here. Google won’t hide old apps if you have an Android phone of the same age. You can also reinstall old apps you’ve used in the past, and of course you can always download old apps through a service like APK Mirror.
Source: Google via Malwarebytes