Manage app updates

Keeping apps updated on your users’ devices gives them access to the latest features, while also improving app security and stability. This article outlines steps you can take as an IT admin to ensure the latest versions of apps are installed on your organization’s managed devices.

Default update behavior

By default, apps are updated automatically when the following constraints are met:

  • The device is connected to a Wi-Fi network.
  • The device is charging.
  • The device is idle (i.e. not actively used).
  • The app to be updated is not running in the foreground.

Google Play typically checks for app updates once a day, so it can take up to 24 hours before an app update is added to the update queue. After an app is added to the queue, it will be automatically updated the next time the constraints above are met.

The next sections describe how end users and IT admins can change the default update behavior on their device.

App update settings available to users

End users can modify the Wi-Fi network constraint by changing the auto-update settings on their device. A user can select one of the following options:

  • Update apps over any network.
  • Update apps over Wi-Fi only (this is the default setting).
  • Do not update apps.

The next section describes how you can override the setting set by the end user.

App update settings available to IT admins

As the IT admin you can override the update settings that your users configure to further customize the app update behavior on the devices you manage. If your EMM supports these features, the controls will be available in your EMM console. If you don’t find these controls in your EMM console, contact your EMM provider.

Set network constraints

You can set the network constraint and override the app update setting set by the end-user. You can choose one of the following options:
  • Update apps over any network.
  • Update apps over Wi-Fi only (this is the default setting).
  • Do not update apps.
  • Leave the choice to the end-user.

Note that enforcing the network constraint doesn’t affect the other constraints which still apply, and apps are only be updated when:

  • The device is charging.
  • The device is idle (i.e. not actively used).
  • The app to be updated is not running in the foreground.

To override these other constraints you can set a maintenance window (see section below).

Set a maintenance window

You can set a maintenance window during which the following constraints are ignored:
  • The device is charging.
  • The device is idle (i.e. not actively used).
  • The app to be updated is not running in the foreground.

The maintenance window is defined by a start time (local time of the device) and a duration (between 30 minutes and 24 hours).

Note that setting a maintenance window doesn’t affect the network constraint which is controlled separately (see section above for controlling this constraint).

It can take up to 24 hours for an app update to be added to the update queue. After an app is added to the queue, it will be updated automatically the next time the device is in the maintenance window if the network constraint is met. As a result, it can take up to 48 hours for an app to update after you set a maintenance window.

Set a minimum version code

Setting a minimum version code overrides default update behaviors and interrupts the on-device experience for users. This method is therefore intended for critical updates only.
If you want to update an app immediately after the developer publishes it you can set a minimum version code for that app. If the version of the app currently installed on the device is older than the specified minimum version then the app is updated immediately to the latest available version. The constraints are ignored and the delay of 24 hours for the update to be available to a device does not apply.
IT admins should only use this method in emergency situations and never as a way to update apps over an extended period of time.

Other factors affecting app updates

There are a few other factors that may influence the timing and speed of app updates on Android devices:

  • App release settings: Android app developers have the ability to roll out app updates gradually. As a result, an app update may only initially be available to some devices in your fleet.
  • Pending installs: App updates are queued and installed one at a time. If a device has several apps with pending updates, it may take longer than expected to install all the updates.

Common scenarios for updating apps

Ensure updates are delivered regularly

To ensure updates are delivered regularly and in a timely manner, in your EMM console:
  1. Set a maintenance window.
  2. If your devices are not usually connected to a Wi-Fi network during the maintenance window, then set the network constraint to Update apps over any network (exact wording may differ).

With these settings in place, apps will be updated within 48 hours from the time the developer publishes the update.

Prevent apps from updating while the device is in use

By default, apps aren’t updated when a device is in use. This constraint is ignored when a maintenance window is set in your EMM console. As a result, we recommend selecting a maintenance window during a time when a device isn’t typically in use (overnight, for example).

Disable app updates completely

Disabling app updates isn’t generally recommended, but you may want to do this on a temporary basis to prevent any unexpected change on devices during a critical period of time. In your EMM console, there should be a setting to disable app updates.

Remember to re-enable app updates after the critical period of time elapses.

Validate the new version of an app before deploying it

To validate the new version of an app you developed before you deploy it to a fleet of devices, you can set up closed testing for that app. With closed testing you can manage testers through Google Groups or directly from your EMM console if your EMM supports this feature. If you don’t find this feature in your EMM console, contact your EMM.
For apps that your organization didn’t develop, you can reach out to the app developer to have them set up closed testing for you. It’s not possible to validate the new version of an app without closed testing.

Deliver a critical app update as quickly as possible

Setting a minimum version code overrides default update behaviors and interrupts the on-device experience for users. This method is therefore intended for critical updates only.
If you need to deliver an app update as quickly as possible, set a minimum version code for the app in your EMM console to the latest version.
IT admins should only use this method in emergency situations and never as a way to update apps over an extended period of time.

Frequently asked questions

Can I prevent app updates on a work profile?

Android devices maintain a single version of an app, even if the app is installed in both a personal profile and work profile. This means apps installed in both profiles are updated at the same time. As a result, it’s not possible to prevent app updates on a work profile since apps can be updated from the personal profile.

Can I choose which version of an app to install?

No, you can’t choose which version of an app to install or to update to. Only the latest available version of an app can be installed. 

Can I disable updates for Google Play Store and Google Play Services?

No, you can’t disable updates for Google Play Store and Google Play Services. Updates to these apps are critical to the security and reliability of devices.

Troubleshooting

If apps aren’t updating automatically on the devices you manage after following the best practices in this article, we recommend sending a bug report to your EMM:

  1. In your EMM console, set the maintenance window to a narrow range (for example, 30 minutes).
  2. Allow a device to enter idle state for longer than the maintenance window specified in step 1.
  3. Collect a bug report and send it to your EMM for inspection.
Was this helpful?
How can we improve it?