Here’s your first look at Google’s App Archive feature

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That app you only need once a fortnight? You no longer need to keep it on your phone at all times


You probably have tons of apps on your Android phone that you rarely use but always like to keep for convenience. Google has long recognized this problem with a feature that automatically removes background activity permissions and privileges from unused apps, but the company is willing to go further. As Google announced earlier this year, it wants to introduce a new option to archive apps instead of uninstalling them, giving you the storage and resource-saving benefits of uninstalling without having to set up or sign in again. to apps.

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A tinkerer on Twitter, @AssembleDebug, managed to activate the feature ahead of its release, giving us a look at how it works and looks. It comes after extensive research by Esper.io’s Android expert, Mishaal Rahmanwho previously accurately described how the process works.

The feature is integrated into the Google Play Store, where you can choose between two options when you want to get rid of an app from your phone. You can either use the classic uninstall option or choose to archive the app in question. The Play Store gives you an estimate of how much storage you’ll save this way, with additional information when you press the archive button: “By archiving your apps, Play Store will delete the apps while retaining your data and documents. When you need to retrieve the app, just tap the app icon to download it again. »

In the example provided by @AssembleDebug, the Google News app only takes up 1.4MB instead of 32MB, all without you having to set up your account, preferred languages, and news sources again. A new “archived” section then also appears in the app management section of the Play Store, which gives you an overview of all the apps you have archived.

On your home screen, the archived app will still appear where you placed it, but it has a cloud icon above it, indicating that it’s currently just a placeholder . Unfortunately, this currently clashes with themed icons, with the archived app displaying its usual colored icon instead of the monochrome version.

When you tap the icon on your home screen, you’re thrown straight into a download screen that looks like the one you know from instant apps. The Play Store quickly downloads the resources needed to get the app back up and running, but lets you access it directly as soon as it’s downloaded and installed. It also looks like you won’t have to re-grant any permissions you’ve already granted.

It is clear that the functionality is still in development. At this time, we’ve only seen the system work with Google News, and it’s unclear if other developers have added support yet. Based on the screen recording embedded in the tweet above, it also appears that the archive option is only accessible through the app management screen of the Play Store, which is quite hidden. We can only hope that the option will be integrated into launchers and the regular uninstall workflow that you can access through app listings on the Play Store. There are also still some issues with the language, with the Play Store labeling the app archive process “install”, and the app restore option is called “update”.

Google previously explained that the feature works through App Bundles. This is a relatively new way of bundling apps, ensuring that only resources are downloaded to your phone that are actually needed to run the app. This is supposed to save both download time and storage used on your device. The method also enables the archive feature, as it keeps only the most essential user data on your phone when you don’t want to run the app for a long time.

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