What is the Android WebView system?

You may have seen Android System WebView (ASW) in the Android device app list or, occasionally, as an update to the Google Play Store. This important system application is not something you install or use directly, but it remains an essential part of the Android operating system.

Depending on the version of Android you have installed, you will see Android System WebView in various formats. Regardless of the device, you’ll need ASW (or a version) enabled and up to date. This guide will explore the reasons and explain how to keep this system component up to date.

What is the Android WebView system and how is it used?

Your Android device may have a web browser installed, but it is not necessarily the basic tool for opening web pages or web-based applications. To open these pages or apps, Android switches to the Android WebView system to display web content in your apps.

It usually does so for reasons of speed and security. Instead of relying on a third-party app, other apps can call Android WebView to upload content, directly integrating calls into this system tool for more efficiency.

Google has evolved the relationship that Android has with ASW over time. Prior to Android 5 Lollipop, WebView could only be updated using major updates from Android devices issued by the manufacturer.

With the release of Android 5, that changed and allowed users to update it directly from the Google Play Store. This allowed for faster error correction and feature publishing.

Other changes were made with Android 7, where it became a custom WebView based on Google Chrome as the default option for Android devices. This changed back to Android 10, as WebView once again made a standalone component, sharing code between it and Chrome.

How to check which version of Android WebView system is installed

Each version of WebView brings new changes, but you should be able to see which version you installed from your Android device settings.

To do so, you’ll need to access the settings menu on your Android device. This will vary depending on your version of Android and the device you have. These steps have been written using a Samsung Galaxy S20 smartphone, but the steps should be similar for other Android devices.

  • From the device application menu, open the file Configuration application From there, tap the button Applications option.
  • You should see a list of installed applications as well as preinstalled system applications. Use the search bar to search Android system web viewand then tap the entry once you locate it.
  • Scroll down Application information screen. At the bottom, the Android System Webview version number will appear. For example, Version 83.0.4103.106. These release identifiers match those of Google Chrome on Android, which reflect their code-sharing base.

You will need to research the version number of Android WebView to determine if it is the latest version available. If it is not, you will need to update it.

Updating Android WebView system

Keeping ASW up to date is an easy process for newer Android devices. If you have a much older Android device (Android 4.4 KitKat and earlier), you won’t be able to upgrade WebView, as it’s still a much more integrated system component that can’t be upgraded without a major device upgrade.

However, for all future releases, you can upgrade ASW using the Google Play Store.

  • To do so, open the Play Store app and search for Android System WebView. If the application has an update available, click Update button.

Once WebView is updated, Android will use this new version of WebView for any other application that requires it to access and view web content.

Installation of different launch tracks of the Android system of WebView

A single version of ASW leaves everyone in the same lane, at least in terms of major updates. Fortunately, Google offers more options for Android users with devices running Android 10 and later.

This version of Android includes a version of WebView that shares much of the same code as the Google Chrome app. This includes shared benefits for both applications, such as a smaller footprint and a more consistent experience.

Instead of offering it as the only option, Google offers four different launch pads for WebView that you can install.

This includes:

  • Stable WebView: Updated every few weeks after a full test schedule to ensure stability for as many devices as possible. This is the version included on all Android devices.
  • WebView Beta: A beta version, which shares most of the code and features with stable WebView. This release may include additional bugs due to reduced testing.
  • WebView Dev: This is a development version, subject to major changes. This version is updated weekly, and users are likely to encounter bugs and issues, but you’ll also be able to try new features or solutions before other users.
  • WebView Canary: The latest absolute avant-garde version with no evidence. This is a daily version with the last code from the previous day. Use it with caution.

Once you’ve installed one of these versions of WebView, you can switch to the Android Developer Options menu. It is usually hidden, so access your Android settings. From there, tap About phone> Software informationand then double-tap Compilation number information several times.

This will activate the developer mode on your phone. Once activated, go back to your Android settings and tap WebView implementation. A list of available versions of WebView will be available; tap the option you want to use to change it.

For Android 7-9 devices, you can install Google Chrome launch pads (Stable, Beta, Dev i Canary Islands) that achieve the same effect. This is because WebView is built into the Google Chrome app for these versions.

How to turn off or clear the Android WebView system

If you want to disable or delete Android System Webview, the simple answer is: you can’t (or shouldn’t). This is an essential component of the system, needed to open web content in Android applications.

The best thing you can do is leave WebView on and keep it updated using the Google Play Store. If you’re having trouble uploading web content to your Android device, see the steps above to switch to a newer version of WebView.

A bug in a stable version could be fixed in a newer beta version of WebView. Of course, these fixes should leak into the stable version of WebView after a short period of time, so it’s best to wait in most circumstances.

Keep Android updated

Android devices are no longer known for their ability to stay up to date, but by keeping ASW as a standalone system component, Google can quickly eliminate urgent bug fixes through the Google Play Store. It is installed on almost all Android devices, including emulated Android devices to your PC.

This is another part of the usual security measures for smartphones that developers like Google and Android use to protect their devices from the worst threats. If you’re really concerned about security, you might want to consider installing an antivirus app for Android, but this may not be necessary for most users.

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