Google could be taking steps to make it easier for Android users to keep the core apps on their phones and tablets up to date. While most third party apps can be updated simply by downloading the latest version from the Google Play Store, some apps such as the default Android clock, email client, or photo gallery are only updated when you install a whole new version of Android.

Since some device makers and wireless carriers are slow to roll out those updates, Google has been making moves over the past few years to separate some of those core apps from the operating system by offering them as standalone apps that can be updated through the Play Store.

Now there’s evidence that with the upcoming launch of Android 4.4 KitKat, Google could bring more of those apps to the Play Store — and make a few other changes.

Google Android Kit Kat

The folks at Myce found a log file of Android 4.4 running on a Nexus 5 recently, and while it didn’t really reveal many surprises about the next-generation Nexus smartphone, there are some interesting tidbits about the apps running on that phone.

First, this appears to be a device owned by a Google employee (which is hardly shocking, because who else would be using a Nexus 5?) since there’s mention of Google’s internal version of the Play Store.

Second, many of the core apps such as Google Sound Search, Play Store, and QuickOffice have higher version numbers than the versions that are available to the public.

But the biggest difference may be that some of the prefixes for names of the packages for those apps have been changed from com.android to com.google.android. That’s a pretty strong hint that apps including the phone dialer and camera app could soon show up in the Google Play Store, giving folks who aren’t running the latest version of Android the option to have up-to-date versions of a few more key Android components.

Interestingly, the idea of separating core apps from the operating system kind of fits with the whole Android 4.4 KitKat theme: Google’s breaking you off a piece.

Also of note is the fact that the Camera app and Gallery app have been separated. Up until now there was a single app for both. That could allow Google to push updates to one app without working on the other — and make it easier for users to choose their own camera or gallery apps while continuing to use Google’s default for the other.

You can find more details (and speculation) at Myce and AndroidWorld.it.

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7 replies on “More core Android apps to be updated through the Play Store?”

  1. Downside is that more and more is getting pushed out of AOSP and into the licensed Google side of things, making it more difficult for someone to build a Google-free version of Android.

  2. Hopefully, Google will also soon break off the app homescreen launcher.

    In the end, the only component that needs to remain on any Android phone/tablet you buy should be the very base Android core OS, and the hardware drivers for that specific device.

  3. How about making sure the tablet apps are indeed made exclusively for tablets and not stretched out smart phone apps.

  4. I have been saying for years Google needed to separate the OS pieces so they can push piecemeal updates. I am glad that they did and are taking it further. The ONLY downside of this, is AOSP. Since the “google-fied” new app might get all the love and development, the generic AOSP app will likely languish.

    Hopefully many of these changes make it into AOSP. (And I recognized that you can sideload/app store/ and ROM , but I am thinking overall ease of use.)

    1. I would present that breaking apart almost all the apps that are not directly essential to running the Android OS on a device would be good for AOSP, too. We should get to choose which email, browser, camera, dialer, calendar, address book, file manager, gallery, map, etc. apps we want to use; if AOSP wants to provide open-source alternatives in their distribution, they can. Alternatively, they can decide they don’t need to worry anymore about having to develop and maintain such apps — they can advise their users to choose from scores of choices, whether they are free or paid apps. This can free up the developers of such open-source spins on Android to focus their time on the Android kernel itself and hardware drivers.

  5. Smart move: there’s no reason why apps or even system utilities should be part of the OS, and getting updates for those makes the carriers’ lack of core OS updates more bearable.

    It’s also a good hand to play vs monolithic iOS.

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