Using Split Apks: What You Need To Know

June 28, 2023
Using Split Apks: What You Need To Know

Mobile applications have become an essential part of our daily lives, and the demand for them continues to grow. However, with the increasing complexity of mobile apps, the size of the installation package has also become larger, causing issues for users with limited storage capacity on their devices.

In response to this challenge, developers are turning to a new approach called Split APKs. Split APKs are a technique that allows developers to divide an app's installation package into smaller, more manageable parts. This approach has become increasingly popular in recent years, offering many benefits over traditional installation packages. However, it also comes with some disadvantages that developers must consider.

This article will explore the world of Split APKs, discussing how they work, their advantages and disadvantages, how to create them, best practices for using them, and common issues and troubleshooting tips. We will also look at future implications and trends in Split APK development.

What are Split APKs?

The fragmentation of Android operating system has led to the development of split APKs, which are modularized installable packages that can be separated into smaller units for efficient downloading and installation on various devices.

The split APK architecture involves the creation of multiple APK files, each representing a specific feature or functionality of an app. These APK files are then combined during installation to create a complete app package.

Split APK installation involves the use of a special tool called Split APK Installer, which is designed to manage the installation of split APK files. The tool works by scanning the device for compatible APK files, and then installing them in the correct order to ensure that the app functions as intended.

Split APKs have gained in popularity due to their ability to reduce download sizes, as they allow users to download only the portions of an app that they need. Additionally, split APKs make it easier to manage app updates, as only the necessary files need to be downloaded and installed.

How Split APKs Work

Understanding the mechanics of splitting APK files can shed light on the advantages and drawbacks of this method of app distribution. When an app is split into multiple APKs, each APK contains a specific set of resources, such as images, videos, or languages.

During the installation process, the device downloads and installs only the APKs that contain the resources required for the device. For instance, if an app has language support for English, Spanish, and French, a device set to Spanish will download only the APK with the Spanish language support. This approach reduces the app size and allows users to download and install only the necessary resources, reducing data usage and storage space.

Split APKs implementation in various mobile operating systems may differ slightly. For instance, in Android, developers can use the bundletool to create and manage the split APKs, while in iOS, developers can use the On-Demand Resources framework to achieve a similar effect.

Additionally, split APKs have been reported to improve app performance, especially on low-end devices. Split APKs vs. traditional monolithic APKs in terms of performance can be measured by the app's loading time, memory usage, and battery consumption. In general, split APKs should provide better performance since the device downloads only the necessary resources, reducing the app's memory footprint and the device's processing burden. However, the implementation of split APKs can be more complex and may require additional development time and resources.

Advantages of Using Split APKs

Split APKs offer several benefits that make them an attractive option for developers. By breaking down the app into smaller chunks, split APKs reduce the size of the overall installation package. This means that users can download and install the app faster, even on slower internet connections.

Additionally, split APKs allow developers to optimize the app's performance by only installing the necessary components on a device. This can lead to faster load times, smoother transitions, and a better overall user experience.

Another advantage of using split APKs is their efficient use of device resources. By only installing the necessary components, split APKs reduce the amount of storage space required on a device. This is especially important for devices with limited storage capacity, such as budget smartphones or tablets.

Additionally, split APKs can help reduce battery consumption by limiting the number of processes running in the background. Overall, split APKs are a powerful tool for developers looking to optimize their app's performance and provide a better user experience across a wide range of devices and use cases.

Disadvantages of Using Split APKs

Examining the potential drawbacks of adopting split APKs as a development approach sheds light on their limitations and challenges.

One of the main limitations of using split APKs is that they increase the complexity of the development process. Splitting an app into multiple APKs requires developers to carefully manage dependencies and ensure that each APK is optimized for a specific device configuration. This can be particularly challenging when a developer needs to update the app, as each APK may need to be updated separately.

Another potential drawback of using split APKs is that they may increase the overall app size. While the use of split APKs can help to reduce the size of an app on a specific device, the total size of the app across all devices can be larger than if it were delivered as a single APK. Additionally, splitting an app into multiple APKs may result in increased download times and storage requirements for users.

Overall, while split APKs can offer advantages in terms of device optimization and app size reduction, developers must carefully weigh these benefits against the potential drawbacks before deciding to adopt this approach.

How to Create Split APKs

Creating split APKs requires following a few specific steps, which can be accomplished through the use of various tools and techniques. Split APKs are different from monolithic APKs, which contain all the code, resources, and assets of an app in a single file. Split APKs, on the other hand, are divided into smaller chunks that can be downloaded and installed separately. This approach allows developers to optimize the size of their apps and deliver only the required resources to users, depending on their device configuration and language preferences.

To create split APKs, developers need to use a build tool that supports this feature, such as Android Studio or Gradle. They also need to define the splits they want to create, such as by language, density, or ABI. They can then build the APK and sign it with their release key to publish it on the Google Play Store.

Split APKs can also be used in conjunction with app bundles, which are a more advanced form of app distribution that allows the Play Store to generate and deliver optimized APKs on the fly, based on the user's device and configuration. However, app bundles require more setup and configuration than split APKs, and are only available for apps targeting Android 5.0 or higher.

Best Practices for Using Split APKs

Optimizing app size and improving user experience can be achieved by implementing best practices for the utilization of split APKs.

One of the best practices for split APK optimization is to ensure that the split apk installation process is seamless and effortless. This can be achieved through the use of reliable and secure app stores that support split APK installation. Additionally, developers should ensure that the split APKs are compatible with the user's device architecture, and that the download and installation process is as smooth as possible.

Another best practice for using split APKs is to ensure that the split APKs are functionally independent and modular. This means that each split APK should contain all the necessary resources and dependencies required for the module to function effectively. This helps to ensure that the user experience is not compromised due to the installation of split APKs.

Furthermore, developers should ensure that the split APKs are optimized for size, and that they only contain the necessary resources and assets required for the module to function. By following these best practices, developers can ensure that their apps are optimized for size, and that users have a seamless and efficient app experience.

Common Issues and Troubleshooting Tips

This section delves into common issues that may arise when working with split APKs and provides troubleshooting tips to ensure a smooth and efficient installation process for users.

One common issue that developers face when using split APKs is compatibility issues with different devices. To avoid this, it is important to thoroughly test the split APKs on various devices before releasing them to the public. Additionally, developers should provide clear instructions on how to install the split APKs for users who may be unfamiliar with the process.

Another issue that may arise when using split APKs is debugging errors. To address this, developers should use debugging techniques such as logging and breakpoints to identify the root cause of the error. It is also important to keep the APKs updated and optimized regularly to prevent potential problems.

Lastly, developers should consider providing support and resources for users who may encounter issues with installing or using split APKs, as this can help improve the overall user experience.

In the previous subtopic, we discussed common issues and troubleshooting tips when using split APKs. Now, let's shift our focus to the future implications and trends in split APK development. As emerging technologies continue to shape the mobile app industry, split APKs are becoming increasingly popular due to their ability to optimize app performance and reduce download size.

In fact, market adoption of split APKs is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. According to a report by App Annie, the global app economy is projected to reach $6.3 trillion by 2021, with app downloads expected to exceed 352 billion. As more users demand faster and more efficient app experiences, developers will need to continue exploring new ways to optimize their apps. Split APKs offer a promising solution to this challenge, and we can expect to see more developers adopting this approach in the future.

Emerging Technologies Market Adoption
Artificial Intelligence Growing rapidly
Augmented Reality Increasing steadily
Internet of Things Slowly gaining traction
Blockchain Still in early stages
5G Networks Expected to drive adoption of new technologies

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Split APKs be used on all Android devices?

Split APKs are a relatively new technology that have gained popularity due to their ability to provide significant benefits, such as reducing app size and improving performance. However, not all Android devices are compatible with split APKs.

Compatibility largely depends on the Android version and the device's processor architecture. Split APKs are compatible with devices running Android 5.0 Lollipop and above, and with devices that have an ARM or ARM64 processor architecture.

While split APKs may not be compatible with all Android devices, they have proven to be an effective solution for developers looking to optimize their app's performance and reduce its size.

What is the maximum number of splits that can be created for an APK?

The maximum number of splits that can be created for an APK depends on the device's compatibility with split APKs.

Split APK compatibility is determined by the Android operating system version and the device's hardware specifications. Generally, higher-end devices with newer versions of Android and more advanced hardware can support a larger number of splits.

However, creating too many splits can also negatively impact the overall performance of the app. It is recommended to test the app thoroughly on multiple devices before determining the optimal number of splits for the APK.

Are there any security risks associated with using Split APKs?

Exploring the advantages of split apks, it is important to understand the limitations as well. While split apks offer benefits such as smaller file sizes and faster downloads, there are potential security risks associated with their use.

Split apks require a device to have the ability to download and install multiple apks from untrusted sources, which could potentially allow malicious actors to gain access to sensitive data or install malware.

Additionally, split apks may not be compatible with all devices or operating systems, limiting their usefulness for certain users.

In order to mitigate these risks, it is important to carefully consider the use of split apks and ensure that proper security measures are in place.

Can Split APKs be installed on external storage (SD card)?

Split APKs offer both pros and cons when it comes to being installed on external storage (SD card).

On one hand, it allows for more storage space on the device itself, which can be beneficial for those with limited internal storage.

On the other hand, installing split APKs on external storage may result in a performance impact, as the app may take longer to load or may not run as smoothly compared to being installed on internal storage.

Additionally, there may be security risks associated with installing split APKs on external storage, as the app may be more vulnerable to outside threats.

Ultimately, the decision to install split APKs on external storage should be based on individual preferences and device capabilities.

How does the size of the original APK affect the splitting process?

When considering splitting large APKs, it is important to understand the impact that the size of the original APK can have on app performance. Split APKs divide the original APK into smaller, more manageable chunks that can be installed individually. However, if the original APK is particularly large, the splitting process can be more complicated and may result in a larger number of split APKs.

This can potentially lead to slower app performance, as the device may need to download and install multiple split APKs before the app can be fully functional. As such, it is important to carefully consider the size of the original APK when deciding whether to split it and how many split APKs to create.


Split APKs are a powerful tool for developers seeking to optimize the performance of their Android applications. Although they require a bit more work to create and manage than traditional APKs, they offer several advantages such as smaller app sizes, faster installation times, and more efficient storage usage. However, developers must also be aware of the potential drawbacks of using split APKs, such as increased complexity and compatibility issues with older devices.

When creating split APKs, it is important to follow best practices such as optimizing file sizes, properly configuring the Android Manifest, and thoroughly testing on a range of devices. Additionally, developers should be aware of common issues and troubleshooting tips, such as addressing versioning and signing issues, and ensuring proper installation and uninstallation of split APKs.

As the Android ecosystem continues to evolve and users demand faster and more efficient apps, the use of split APKs is likely to become more prevalent. By staying current with the latest trends and best practices in split APK development, developers can ensure their apps remain competitive and perform at their best on a wide range of devices.