An update on python-for-android: v2019.06.06 released and future plans

python-for-android is a packaging tool for Python apps on Android. You can create your own Python distribution including the modules and dependencies you want, and bundle it in an APK along with your own code.

python-for-android 2019.06.06 has just been released! This release contains 198 commits from 31 different contributors. Many thanks to everyone involved.

Major changes in this release include:

  • Added support for running your when packaging your app, enabling your code to be installed as a module in the on-device Python environment. This also makes it easy to build Cython or other compiled components.
  • Added some tooling for requesting and checking for app permissions at runtime.
  • Added initial support for matplotlib.
  • Updated many recipes, and especially the SDL2 backend components, for improved performance and stability on Android.
  • Ongoing improvements to our test coverage and infrastructure.
  • Removed a significant amount of dead code relating to long-deprecated build configurations, and unified other parts of the build to reduce duplication of effort between bootstraps.
  • Updated the release model to target regular, smaller releases.

Of course there have also been a wide range of bugfixes and improvements. See the release notes for a full changelog.

Release model

In this release we’ve transitioned to a calendar-based version system. Future releases will continue to be of the form YYYY.MM.DD. We’re initially targeting one release every four weeks. This scheme represents how python-for-android is normally best used: many changes are driven by updates in the Android ecosystem and build toolchain, and in practice it’s usually best to be working from the most recent possible python-for-android release.

This has been made possible by the hard work of various contributors, setting up and continuing to improve python-for-android’s suite of tests and continuous integration services. In the past we haven’t done a great job of keeping up releases alongside major improvements, but this should now be much more straightforward.

If you’re using buildozer then this doesn’t directly affect you, as buildozer was already configured to use a more recent python-for-android version. Buildozer will now automatically transition to use the latest release, represented by the master branch in the python-for-android git repository.

Future work

We’ve had some questions about Google’s plan to require 64-bit support for apps on Google Play, starting in August 2019. In fact python-for-android already supports this, just pass the required architecture as an argument to the build:

p4a apk --arch=arm64-v8a

That said, we’re working to improve our testing and documentation around 64-bit builds, to make sure everything works as expected.

We also don’t currently support multi-architecture builds in a single output APK. This should be technically possible, but hasn’t ever been a focus because it would significantly increase the APK size. We may revisit this, but in the meantime you can upload one APK of each type to Google Play and python-for-android will automatically handle versioning different architectures correctly (i.e. arm64-v8a is an ‘upgrade’ for devices that support it, so that APK will be preferred).

The other current focus is on improving our test infrastructure, especially increasing test coverage and automation. This should further increase the ease of making regular releases, and our confidence that everything continues to work correctly!

These points are just general goals for python-for-android. There is always other maintenance work to do, and contributions of all types are always welcome.