Google has a new file system in works, called Incremental File System. While the file system has been in works for quite a few months already, the exact purpose and nature of implementation still remains somewhat doubtful. However, recent moves made by Google’s developer team has suggested that the feature may eventually be introduced as a public end offering, and not just something that will be on offer for developers. If this is indeed introduced, the feature can have interesting implications for how apps, and heavy games in particular, are downloaded on Android phones.
Take, for instance, a game like Call of Duty: Mobile, PUBG Mobile or Asphalt 9, all of which are among the most popular games on the Google Play Store, and are rather large in size. With Incremental File System, the game files will be segmented into smaller data offsets. With this, once you begin downloading a game, Google states that an initial part of the data would be downloaded immediately, amounting to 200MB, for example. This 200MB data can contain the intro segment as well as the basic in-game characters and menus, thereby offering users a ‘trial’ section of sorts, and letting them check out a game without needing to wait until the entire file, which may be gigabytes in size, is downloaded.
There are multiple benefits to this. For one, for users who are on slower data or Wi-Fi networks, this can allow them to check out a game faster, and take a call on whether they wish to play it further, or cancel its download. For developers, the feature can allow them to market bigger games more easily — if a user remained apprehensive about downloading a game because of its file size, developers can now offer a brief taste of the game to users, thereby making a more compelling case for them to download the game in question. It will also be easy on the developers, since this will be a kernel-end deployment from Google, and would not require the developers to specifically design an intro or a demo mode of sorts.
According to Google’s documentation on the matter, “Incremental FS is special-purpose Linux virtual file system that allows execution of a program while its binary and resource files are still being lazily downloaded over the network, USB etc. It is focused on incremental delivery for a small number (under 100) of big files (more than 10 megabytes). Incremental FS doesn’t allow direct writes into files and, once loaded, file content never changes. Incremental FS doesn’t use a block device, instead it saves data into a backing file located on a regular file-system.”
Google notes that with this file system, while playing large games on Android phones will definitely become easier, there may be the brief frozen screens or stutters between a player finishing the intro section, and the next part of the game being downloaded. XDA Developers, which first published a report on Incremental File System, notes that the feature may be introduced as part of Google’s Android 12 in 2021. For a full view of the kernel documentation for Google’s new file system, click here.