tree: 2b34f6707e5ee28a8d6855b6980077a860b37cc2 [path history] [tgz]
  1. java/
  5. generate_android_manifest.pydeps
  9. write_installer_json.pydeps

Incremental Install

Incremental Install is a way of building & deploying an APK that tries to minimize the time it takes to make a change and see that change running on device. They work best with is_component_build=true, and do not require a rooted device.


Option 1: Add the gn arg:

incremental_apk_by_default = true

This causes all apks to be built as incremental (except for blacklisted ones).

Option 2: Add _incremental to the apk target name. E.g.:

ninja -C out/Debug chrome_public_apk_incremental
ninja -C out/Debug chrome_public_test_apk_incremental


It is not enough to adb install them. You must use a generated wrapper script:

out/Debug/bin/run_chrome_public_test_apk_incremental  # Automatically sets --fast-local-dev


Isolated processes (on L+) are incompatible with incremental install. As a work-around, you can disable isolated processes only for incremental apks using gn arg:

disable_incremental_isolated_processes = true

How it Works


The basic idea is to side-load .dex and .so files to /data/local/tmp rather than bundling them in the .apk. Then, when making a change, only the changed .dex / .so needs to be pushed to the device.

Faster Builds:

  • No final_dex step (where all .dex files are merged into one)
  • No need to rebuild .apk for code-only changes (but required for resources)
  • Apks sign faster because they are smaller.

Faster Installs:

  • The .apk is smaller, and so faster to verify.
  • No need to run adb install for code-only changes.
  • Only changed .so / .dex files are pushed. MD5s of existing on-device files are cached on host computer.

Slower Initial Runs:

  • The first time you run an incremental .apk, the DexOpt needs to run on all .dex files. This step is normally done during adb install, but is done on start-up for incremental apks.
    • DexOpt results are cached, so subsequent runs are much faster

The Code

All incremental apks have the same classes.dex, which is built from:


They also have a transformed AndroidManifest.xml, which overrides the the main application class and any instrumentation classes so that they instead point to BootstrapApplication. This is built by:


Wrapper scripts and install logic is contained in:


Finally, GN logic for incremental apks is sprinkled throughout.