Google introduced a warning dialog with Android 14 last year, specifically targeting users downloading a Google app update from a source other than the Play Store. This cautionary measure, part of the “update ownership” API in Android 14, allowed app stores to claim ownership over an app and warn users about potential risks associated with sideloading updates from unofficial sources.
Initially observed on Pixel phones and some Google apps, recent reports indicate that these warning dialogs are extending their reach beyond Pixel devices and Google’s proprietary apps and services.
Users have reported encountering these warning dialogs on non-Pixel phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra while attempting to sideload updates even for non-Google apps like AccuWeather. Warnings have been noted even when updating apps via the Galaxy Store on Galaxy devices. This expansion of warning dialogs suggests that Google is broadening its efforts to enhance user awareness and security beyond its own branded hardware and software products.
Updating apps from random sources may change the app’s functionality, notes Google
While the Android ecosystem’s flexibility allows users to install apps or updates from various sources, it also exposes devices to potential risks, including the loss of certain features present in previous builds. The warning dialogs serve as a proactive measure, alerting users to the potential pitfalls of sideloading updates from unofficial sources.
Importantly, the dialog appears only once for each unique app source. If a user downloads an app or update from the Play Store and subsequently sideloads a newer version from a different service, the warning dialog won’t reappear for subsequent updates, regardless of the source.
This move by Google aims to strike a balance between the open nature of the Android ecosystem and user safety. The warning dialog provides users with crucial information about the potential risks associated with sideloading, enabling them to make informed decisions about their app installation practices. For seasoned users accustomed to sideloading, the dialog is unlikely to pose a significant inconvenience, given the option to proceed with the update. However, for those new to the practice, the warning dialog serves as a valuable precautionary measure. It lets the unaware users know the possible outcomes before they go ahead.