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About Dynamic Delivery

Google Play’s app serving model, called Dynamic Delivery, uses Android App Bundles to generate and serve optimized APKs for each user’s device configuration, so users download only the code and resources they need to run your app. You no longer have to build, sign, and manage multiple APKs to support different devices, and users get smaller, more optimized downloads.

Most app projects won’t require much effort to build app bundles that support serving optimized split APKs with Dynamic Delivery. For example, if you already organize your app’s code and resources according to established conventions, simply build signed Android App Bundles using Android Studio or using the command line, and upload them to Google Play. Dynamic Delivery then becomes an automatic benefit.

To support advanced capabilities of Dynamic Delivery, such as configuring certain features of your app to be delivered conditionally or downloaded on demand, read the section on how to customize feature delivery.

Dynamic Delivery with split APKs

A fundamental component of Dynamic Delivery is the split APK mechanism available on Android 5.0 (API level 21) and higher. Split APKs are very similar to regular APKs—they include compiled DEX bytecode, resources, and an Android manifest. However, the Android platform is able to treat multiple installed split APKs as a single app. That is, you can install multiple split APKs that have access to common code and resources, and appear as one installed app on the device.

The benefit of split APKs is the ability to break up a monolithic APK—that is, an APK that includes code and resources for all features and device configurations your app supports—into smaller, discrete packages that are installed on a user’s device as required.

For example, one split APK may include the code and resources for an additional feature that only a few of your users need, while another split APK includes resources for only a specific language or screen density. Each of these split APKs is downloaded and installed when the user requests it or it’s required by the device.

The following describes the different types of APKs that may be installed together on a device to form your full app experience. You’ll learn how to configure your app project to support these APKs in later sections on this page.

  • Base APK: This APK contains code and resources that all other split APKs can access and provides the basic functionality for your app. When a user requests to download your app, this APK is downloaded and installed first. That’s because only the base APK’s manifest contains a full declaration of your app’s services, content providers, permissions, platform version requirements, and dependencies on system features. Google Play generates the base APK for your app from your project’s app (or base) module. If you are concerned with reducing your app’s initial download size, it’s important to keep in mind that all code and resources included in this module are included in your app’s base APK.
  • Configuration APKs: Each of these APKs includes native libraries and resources for a specific screen density, CPU architecture, or language. When a user downloads your app, their device downloads and installs only the configuration APKs that target their device. Each configuration APK is a dependency of either a base APK or dynamic feature APK. That is, they are downloaded and installed along with the APK they provide code and resources for. Unlike the base and dynamic feature modules, you don't create a separate module for configuration APKs. If you use standard practices to organize alternative, configuration-specific resources for your base and dynamic feature modules, Google Play automatically generates configuration APKs for you.
  • Dynamic feature APKs: Each of these APKs contains code and resources for a feature of your app that you modularize using dynamic feature modules. Through Dynamic Delivery, you can then customize how and when that feature is downloaded onto a device. For example, using the Play Core Library, dynamic APKs may be installed on demand after the base APK is installed on the device to provide additional functionality to the user. Consider a chat app that downloads and installs the ability to capture and send photos only when the user requests to use that functionality. Because dynamic features may not be available at install time, you should include any common code and resources in the base APK. That is, your dynamic feature should assume that code and resources of only the base APK are available at install time. Google Play generates dynamic feature APKs for your app from your project’s dynamic feature modules.

Consider an app with three dynamic feature modules and support for multiple device configurations. Figure 1 below illustrates what the dependency tree for the app’s various APKs may look like. Note that the base APK forms the head of the tree, and all other APKs depend on the base APK. (If you're curious about how the modules for these APKs are represented in an Android App Bundle, see The Android App Bundle format.)

The base APK is at the head of the tree with dynamic feature APKs having
        a dependency on it. Configuration APKs, which include device
        configuration-specific code and resources for the base and each dynamic
        feature APK, form the leaf nodes of the dependency tree.

Figure 1. Dependency tree for an app served using split APKs

Keep in mind, you don’t need to build these APKs yourself—Google Play does it for you using a single signed app bundle you build with Android Studio. To learn more about the app bundle format and how to build one, go to Build, deploy, and upload Android App Bundles.

Devices running Android 4.4 (API level 19) and lower

Because devices running Android 4.4 (API level 19) and lower don’t support downloading and installing split APKs, Google Play instead serves those devices a single APK, called a multi-APK, that’s optimized for the device's configuration. That is, multi-APKs represent your full app experience but do not include unnecessary code and resources—such as those for other screen densities and CPU architectures.

They do, however, include resources for all languages that your app supports. This allows, for example, users to change your app's preferred language setting without having to download a different multi-APK.

Multi-APKs do not have the ability to later download dynamic features modules on demand. To include a dynamic module in this APK, you must either disable On-demand or enable Fusing when creating the dynamic feature module.

Keep in mind, with Dynamic Delivery, you don't need to build, sign, upload, and manage APKs for each device configuration your app supports. You still build and upload only a single app bundle for your entire app, and Google Play takes care of the rest for you. So whether or not you plan to support devices running Android 4.4 or lower, Dynamic Delivery provides a flexible serving mechanism for both you and your users.

Modularize your app

Modularizing your app is the process of separating logical components of your app project into discrete modules.

Reorganizing your app’s functionality into these discrete components takes careful consideration and time. However, modularization provides your project with the following benefits:

  • Develop in parallel: By separating logical components of your app into modules, different teams or individuals in your organization can take ownership of each module and work on them with fewer merge conflicts or disruptions to other teams. Additionally, if you have logic that’s used in various parts of your app, you can use library modules to promote code reuse and encapsulation.
  • Improve build times: Build systems, such as the Android Studio build system using Gradle, are optimized for projects that are organized into modules. For example, if you enable Gradle’s parallel project execution optimization on a workstation includes a multi-core processor, the build system is able to build multiple modules in parallel and significantly reduce build times. The more modular your project is, the more significant the build performance improvement becomes.
  • Customize feature delivery: Modularizing your app’s features as dynamic feature modules is a requirement to take advantage of Dynamic Delivery’s custom delivery options, such as on demand, conditional, and instant delivery. Creating on demand dynamic features requires more effort and possible refactoring of your app. So, consider carefully which of your app’s features would benefit the most from being modularized into dynamic features and benefiting from custom delivery options.

Modularizing your project by app features takes time and consideration to do properly. When you do decide to begin modularizing your app, you should first configure your base module with the properties necessary to support modular features. Then, you can gradually modularize your app’s features without changing the current behavior of your app by configuring dynamic feature modules for at-install delivery.

Use dynamic feature modules for custom delivery

A unique benefit of Dynamic Delivery is the ability to customize how and when different features of your app are downloaded onto devices running Android 5.0 (API level 21) or higher. For example, to reduce the initial download size of your app, you can configure certain features to be either downloaded as needed on demand or only by devices that support certain capabilities, such as the ability to take pictures or support augmented reality features.

Although you get highly optimized downloads by default when you upload your app as an app bundle, the more advanced and customizable feature delivery options require additional configuration and modularization of your app’s features using dynamic feature modules. That is, dynamic feature modules provide the building blocks for creating modular features that you can configure to each be downloaded as needed.

Consider an app that allows your users to buy and sell goods in an online marketplace. You can reasonably modularize each of the following functionalities of the app into separate dynamic feature modules:

  • Account login and creation
  • Browsing the marketplace
  • Placing an item for sale
  • Processing payments

The table below describes the different delivery options that dynamic feature modules support, and how they might be used to optimize the initial download size of the sample marketplace app.

Delivery option Behavior Sample use-case Getting started
At-install delivery Dynamic feature modules that don’t configure any of the delivery options described above are downloaded at app install, by default. This is an important behavior because it means that you can adopt advanced delivery options gradually. For example, you can benefit from modularizing your app’s features and enable on demand delivery only after you’ve fully implemented on demand downloads using the Play Core library.

In addition, your app can request to uninstall features at a later time. So, if you require certain features at app install, but not after that, you can reduce install size by requesting to remove the feature from the device.

If the app has certain training activities, such as an interactive guide on how to buy and sell items in the marketplace, you can include that feature at app install, by default.

However, to reduce the installed size of the app, the app can request to delete the feature after the user has completed the training.

Modularize your app using dynamic feature modules that configure no advanced delivery options.

To learn how to reduce the installed size of your app by removing certain dynamic feature modules that the user may no longer need, read Manage installed modules.

On demand delivery Allows your app to request and download dynamic feature modules as needed. If only 20% of those who use the marketplace app post items for sale, a good strategy to reduce the initial download size for the majority of users is to make the functionality for taking pictures, including an item description, and placing an item for sale available as an on demand download. That is, you can configure the dynamic feature module for the selling functionality of the app to be downloaded only when a user shows interest in placing items for sale onto the marketplace.

Additionally, if the user no longer sells items after a certain period of time, the app can reduce its installed sized by requesting to uninstall the feature.

Create a dynamic feature module and configure on demand delivery. Your app can then use the Play Core library to request to download the module on demand.
Conditional delivery Allows you to specify certain user device requirements, such as hardware features, locale, and minimum API level to determine whether a modularized feature is downloaded at app install. If the marketplace app has global reach, you might need to support payment methods that are popular in only certain regions or locals. In order to reduce the initial app download size, you can create separate dynamic feature modules for processing certain types of payment methods and have them installed conditionally on a user’s device based on their registered locale. Create a dynamic feature module and configure conditional delivery.
Instant delivery Google Play Instant allows users to interact with your app without needing to install APK(s) on their device. Instead, they can experience your app through the "Try Now" button on the Google Play Store or a URL that you create. This form of delivering content makes it easier for you to increase engagement with your app.

With instant delivery, you can utilize Google Play Instant to allow your users to instantly experience certain features of your app without installation.

Consider a game that include the first few levels of the game in a lightweight dynamic feature module. You can instant-enable that module so that users can instantly experience the game through a URL link or “Try Now" button, without app installation. Create a dynamic feature module and configure instant delivery. Your app can then use the Play Core library to request to download the module on demand.

Keep in mind, modularizing your app features using dynamic feature modules is only the first step. To support Google Play Instant, the download size of the base module of your app and a given instant-enabled dynamic feature must satisfy strict size restrictions. To learn more, read Enable instant experiences by reducing app or game size.

Dynamic feature module manifest

When creating a new dynamic feature module using Android Studio, the IDE includes most of the manifest attributes that the module requires to behave like a dynamic feature. Additionally, some attributes are injected by the build system at compile time, so you needn’t specify or modify them yourself. The following table describes the manifest attributes that are important to dynamic feature modules.

Attribute Description
<manifest
...
This is your typical <manifest> block.
xmlns:dist="http://schemas.android.com/apk/distribution" Specifies a new dist: XML namespace that’s described further below.
split="split_name" When Android Studio builds your app bundle, it includes this attribute for you. So, you should not include or modify this attribute yourself.

Defines the name of the module, which your app specifies when requesting an on demand module using the Play Core Library.

How Gradle determines the value for this attribute:

By default, when you create a dynamic feature module using Android Studio, The IDE uses what you specify as its Module name to identify the module as a Gradle subproject in your Gradle settings file.

When you build your app bundle, Gradle uses the last element of the subproject path to inject this manifest attribute in the module’s manifest. For example, if you create a new dynamic feature module in the MyAppProject/features/ directory and specified "dynamic_feature1" as its Module name, the IDE adds ':features:dynamic_feature1' as a subproject in your settings.gradle file. When building your app bundle, Gradle then injects <manifest split="dynamic_feature1"> in the module’s manifest.

android:isFeatureSplit="true | false"> When Android Studio builds your app bundle, it includes this attribute for you. So, you should not include or modify this attribute manually.

Specifies that this module is a dynamic feature module. Manifests in the base module and configuration APKs either omit this attribute or set it to false.

<dist:module This new XML element defines attributes that determine how the module is packaged and distributed as APKs.
dist:instant="true | false" Specifies whether the module should be available through Google Play Instant as an instant experience.

If your app includes one or more instant-enabled dynamic feature modules, you must also instant-enable the base module. When using Android Studio 3.5 or higher, the IDE does this for you when you create a instant-enabled dynamic feature module.

You can’t set this XML element to true while also setting <dist:on-demand/>. However, you can still request on demand downloads of your instant-enabled dynamic features as instant experiences using the Play Core Library. When a user downloads and installs your app, the device downloads and installs your app's instant-enabled dynamic features, along with the base APK, by default.

dist:title="@string/feature_name" Specifies a user-facing title for the module. For example, the device may display this title when it requests download confirmation.

You need to include the string resource for this title in the base module’s module_root/src/source_set/res/values/strings.xml file.

<dist:fusing dist:include="true | false" />
</dist:module>
Specifies whether to include the module in multi-APKs that target devices running Android 4.4 (API level 20) and lower.

Additionally, when you use bundletool to generate APKs from an app bundle, only dynamic feature modules that set this property to true are included in the universal APK—which is a monolithic APK that includes code and resources for all device configurations your app supports.

<dist:delivery> Encapsulates options that customizes module delivery, as shown below. Keep in mind, each dynamic feature module must configure only one type of these custom delivery options.
<dist:install-time/> Specifies that the module should be available at install time. This is the default behavior for dynamic feature modules that do not specify another type of custom delivery option.

To learn more about at-install downloads, read Configure at-install delivery.

This node is can also specify conditions that limit the module to devices that meet certain requirements, such as device features, user country, or minimum API level. To learn more, read Configure conditional delivery.

<dist:on-demand/> Specifies that the module should be available as an on demand download. That is, the module is not available at install time, but your app may request to download it later.

To learn more about on demand downloads, read Configure on demand delivery.

</dist:delivery>
<application
android:hasCode="true | false">
...
</application>
If the dynamic feature module generates no DEX files—that is, it contains no code that is later compiled into the DEX file format—you must do the following (otherwise, you may get runtime errors):
  1. Set android:hasCode to "false" in the dynamic feature module's manifest.
  2. Add the following to your base module's manifest:
    <application
      android:hasCode="true"
      tools:replace="android:hasCode">
      ...
    </application>
    

Test Dynamic Delivery

The best way to test Dynamic Delivery is through the Google Play Store. That's because a lot of the benefits of Dynamic Delivery rely on deferring optimized APK generation, signing, and serving to the Play Store. So, whether you include basic support for Dynamic Delivery by uploading an app bundle or configure custom delivery options, you should use the following methods to test your app with Dynamic Delivery"

  • Share your app with a URL. This is the fastest way to upload your app bundle and share your app as a Google Play Store link with trusted testers. Additionally, this is the fastest way to test custom delivery options, such as downloading features on demand.
  • Set up an open, closed, or internal test. This method provides structured test channels and is a good way to test the final release version of your app before you roll it out to external users.

Considerations for dynamic features

If you want to publish an app that includes dynamic feature modules to a production track, keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Only devices running Android 5.0 (API level 21) and higher support downloading and installing dynamic features on demand. To make your dynamic feature available to earlier versions of Android, make sure to enable Fusing when you create a dynamic feature module.
  • Make sure you enable SplitCompat, so that your app has immediate access to downloaded dynamic feature modules.
  • If the download size for your dynamic feature is large, your app needs to obtain user confirmation before it can download the dynamic feature module to a device.
  • Dynamic feature modules should not specify activities in their manifest with android:exported set to true. That's because there's no guarantee that the device has downloaded the dynamic feature module when another app tries to launch the activity. Additionally, your app should confirm that a dynamic feature is downloaded before trying to access its code and resources. To learn more, read Manage installed modules.
  • Because dynamic delivery requires you to publish your app using an app bundle, make sure that you're aware of app bundle known issues.

Additional resources

To learn more about using supporting Dynamic Delivery, try the following resource.

Samples

  • PlayCore API sample, which demonstrates usage of the PlayCore API to request and download dynamic features.
  • Dynamic code loading sample, which demonstrates three different approaches to safely access code from an installed dynamic feature module.

Codelabs

  • Your First Android App Bundle, a codelab that explores the basic principles of Android App Bundles and shows you how to quickly get started with building your own using Android Studio. This codelab also explores how to test your app bundles using bundletool.
  • On demand modules, which helps you create an app that downloads and installs dynamic features on demand.

Blog posts

Videos