If it is currently possible to easily download fairly old applications on your Android smartphone, things may change with Android 14.
Google could prevent the installation of outdated apps on Android smartphones, even when the user decides to download the APK file directly or goes through a third-party app store.
Requirements currently reserved for the Google Play Store
In order to improve the security of its users, Google regularly updates the guidelines for developing applications on Android and making them available on the Google Play Store. Until recently, these have been updated: now, each new application or application update must target Android 12, which corresponds to API level 31. Google explains that targeting a recent version of Android allows developers to bring the latest platform enhancements and features to their users, without preventing apps from running on older versions of Android. Developers must adhere to these new guidelines if they want their apps to still be viewable on the Google Play Store by those with a recent version of Android.
For those who are unwilling or unable to meet these requirements, it is always possible to circumvent the Google Play Store by offering their applications for direct download on their sites or in alternative stores. As pointed out 9to5Google, an outdated application remains visible and available on the Play Store for those who have already downloaded it at least once. But the rules are likely to get tougher with Android 14.
A tightening of the rules in sight on Android 14
Where the old rules simply prevented older apps from being visible on the official Google store, a recent code change spotted by 9to5Google makes API requirements much more important. Thus, the installation of applications that are too old would be completely blocked, even through an APK file or a third-party store. The developer behind this change says it wants to prevent the download of apps that consciously target older versions of Android to avoid certain protections conferred by newer versions. This technique would be used in particular by malicious applications and for the propagation of malware.
This blocking is intended to be progressive. Google will block apps that target really, really old versions of Android in the first place, and have the ability to revise its requirements upwards over time. For those who really want to always have the possibility of installing obsolete apps, it will be possible, but with a more complex manipulation.
Source : 9to5Google