Better Android app update mechanisms blog home

Posted Friday, 01-Jun-2012 by Ingo Karkat

As I said yesterday, I suffer from broken app updates on my old Android 1.6 phone and want rollback to previous app versions. Here's a couple of ideas how (at least my) situation could be improved:

my daughter Hannah with a pretend mobile phone
Allow rollback to the previously installed version

The existing version of the app could be copied to a backup location on my SD card (where storage space isn't that much an issue) prior to the app update. If I detect any problems with the new version (or just don't like it), I could restore the backup through Settings > Applications, and the app would be exempted from automatic updates in the future.

Alternatively, the app store (i.e. Google Play) could offer a version archive and a |Rollback| button in its UI. There are some legal and security issues: What if the app owner doesn't want to grant access to former versions? What if one version had a vulnerability?

Gather crash statistics and flag versions for certain phone hardware or versions

The above still requires the user to detect the problems and intervene manually. Ideally, these tedious administration tasks would be automated. If Android had a crash reporting infrastructure similar to Microsoft's Windows Error Reporting, the power of the vast user base could be harnessed to prevent app updates that render my phone broken. If a majority of Android version X users report back crashes after an app update, but no such anomaly exists for other Android versions, Google could automatically report this incident to the app user ("your latest app version shows an elevated rate of crashes on X"), exempt the app from automatic updates for those users, and offer a warning in the manual update screen ("This update caused crashes on 33% of Android X users; do you really want to update to it?")

Ingo Karkat, 01-Jun-2012

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