Android 14 Preview 1 released: blocks old apps by default

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 9, 2023
Google Android

Google announced the official release of the first Android 14 preview earlier today on the company's Android Developers Blog. The developer preview is available for a range of Google Pixel devices and the Android emulator.

android 14 logo

One of the main changes of Android 14 is a security feature that blocks the installation of older apps on devices that run the new version of Android. Google notes that Android malware targets older API levels often to bypass certain security and privacy protections introduced in newer versions of the mobile operating system.

API levels determine the capabilities and limitations of applications on Android. The level determines compatibility as well, as apps that target newer APIs are not compatible with Android devices that are older. Google Play discoverability is also linked to certain API levels. Apps that target older levels, currently older than API level 30, won't be discoverable "to all Google Play users whose devices run Android OS versions newer" than the application's target API level.

These API level restrictions applied to Google Play Store only, but not to other distribution platforms or means. With Android 14, attempts to install apps that target older Android API levels are blocked, including installations through sideloading.

Malware exploits old Android API levels

The company noticed that malware is often using a target SDK level of 22, which means that it is not "subjected to the runtime permission model introduced in 2015 by Android 6.0", which is API level 23.

Runtime permissions, introduced in Android 6.0, gives users more control over "dangerous permissions". Users are prompted to allow or decline permissions when an app launches or a certain feature is accessed, that requires a specific permission. Google improved runtime permissions in Android 10, when it increased transparency and added control of activity recognition runtime permissions.

As a consequence, Google decided to restrict the installation of apps that target API levels before 23 on Android 14 devices. These applications are blocked from installation on Android 14 devices.

Apps that are installed on devices remain installed when a device is upgraded to Android 14. Google Android users may want to make sure that all old apps are installed on the device before the upgrade to Android 14 is installed. Updates for these apps should also work in this case, but Google does not mention this explicitly in the blog post.

Developers may run an ADB command to test apps that target an older API level on Android 14 devices. The command adb install --bypass-low-target-sdk-block FILENAME.apk bypasses the restriction for the selected Android application.

Google Play Store guidelines and future restrictions

Google updated the Play Store guidelines last month. One of the main changes is that Google requires that new Android apps target at least Android 12. The restriction does not apply to existing apps that are updated by their developers.

9to5Google discovered a commit comment that suggests that Google has plans to increase the required API level progressively. The company has yet to confirm the plans. For now, Android 6.0 is the minimum when it comes to the installation of old apps on Android 14 devices.

Now You: do you run old Android apps on your devices?

Android 14 Preview 1 released: blocks old apps by default
Article Name
Android 14 Preview 1 released: blocks old apps by default
Android 14 Preview 1 is out, and with it comes a new restriction that prevents old Android apps from being installed.
Ghacks Technology News

Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Adam Burley said on June 8, 2023 at 7:44 pm

    I have loads of apps which are quite old, so I’m really annoyed with this change. Why couldn’t they have just created a wrapper around older apps that sends the permission prompts when the app starts and blocks the app from running unless you accept everything?

    One of the reasons I’ve always loved Android is the backwards compatibility. I can buy a top of the range phone in 2023 and still be able to run apps designed for Android 1.0. This will no longer be the case.

    The apps I use are apps I’ve been using for many years and across various devices. I’ve never looked for alternatives because I’ve never needed to do so. The apps worked for me and so I kept using them.

    Using an app called “APK Analyzer”, I found that I have 62 apps installed with a targetSdk < 23. They include:
    *MP3Tag Editor (targetSdk=4), a simple and no-nonsense app to edit MP3 tags
    *exoScribe (targetSdk=7), a note-taking application
    *CopyPasteKeyboard (targetSdk=8), a keyboard with built-in copy and paste
    *MyAppsList (targetSdk=8), an app to easily get a list of all your installed apps
    *Perfect World Clock (targetSdk=11), an app which displays clocks from various timezones
    *French Verbs (targetSdk=14), an app to look up conjugations for French verbs
    *ATP/WTA Live (targetSdk=15), an app to display live tennis scores
    *Subtitle Editor (targetSdk=17), an app to edit subtitle information
    *GeoTag (targetSdk=18), an app to edit geotagging information on photos
    *SharpMindMap (targetSdk=18), an app to create mind maps
    *DiskUsage (targetSdk=19), an app to analyze disk usage
    *Save To Phone (targetSdk=19), an app to save files to the phone storage from any share dialog
    *aGrep (targetSdk=21), an app to search for files
    *aSQLiteManager (targetSdk=22), an app to view SQLite databases

    That's just a selection, there are many more. Now I have to find equivalents to all of those, and then re-learn how to use them. That doesn't seem fair for apps which have worked fine for years.

  2. John G. said on February 9, 2023 at 4:46 pm

    Google has taken a very bad decision because the forward compatibility is always needed and it was one of the best things of Android OS. Thanks for the article.

  3. Someone said on February 9, 2023 at 12:05 pm

    My phone is an outdated Samsung J3 back from 2016, running lolipop 5.1 android. Great phone. It has only 8Gb of mem, back in 6 years and more, apps doesnt wanted so much space..but it still works perfect.

  4. Yuliya said on February 9, 2023 at 11:54 am

    Annoying, but Android 6 is kind of reasonable, as it’s the version which introduced the permissions system. Applications targeting an older API version have a permission screen which is basically – do you want to run this application: yes/no. Still, I hope there is a global switch, maybe via ADB, because I do have some older applications which are actually open source and either haven’t been updated in a while, or they have their reasons for that target.

    I do believe the permissions system needs a bit of an overhaul. Lately they have added new permissions such as alarms/reminders and nearby devices which seem a bit odd or a bit of an afterthought. The alarms/reminders one is particularily weird, because it is being given to everything, and if you attempt to remove it, things seems fine at first, but then you start encountering some ectremely odd bugs, which seem to be caused by the system rather than the application itself. For instance you cannot minimize certain applications if you remove this feature. Every time you go back to it, it reloads discarding everything that was previously stored in RAM. Without nearby devices some applications refuse to start at all, again a permission given by default to everything.

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.