If you use an Android device, you may have come across an app called Android System WebView. It’s a system app that regularly receives updates via the Google Play store. But what does it do, and should you remove it?
A Crucial System Component
Android System WebView is an essential system component that Android apps use to display external web content instead of opening it in a regular web browser, such as Chrome. It comes preinstalled on all Android devices.
It’s commonly used in apps like Twitter and Facebook to open the shared hyperlinks within the app. But a wide variety of other Android applications also use it to display web content that isn’t a part of the app.
The WebView app is based on Chromium, the same open source project that powers the Google Chrome web browser, but it doesn’t include all the features present in the full version of Chrome. So it’s not a replacement for a regular browser.
Why Do Apps Use It?
Google offers apps multiple ways to show external content, including the WebView, Custom Tabs, and the ability to trigger a regular web browser. But in order to keep users within their apps and deliver a seamless experience, the app developers employ the WebView functionality whenever there is a need to show external content.
Thanks to WebView, whenever you tap on a URL in an app, a container opens within it and renders the complete webpage. Furthermore, the app developers can customize this container to match the app’s overall interface. So you get a consistent experience and aren’t transferred to the separate browser app to open external web content.
Why Does Android System WebView Receive Updates?
You will often spot the Android System WebView in the updated apps list. This is because Google frequently releases updates for the WebView to ensure it has all the latest enhancements and bug fixes introduced in the Chromium project. These updates are essential to keep all apps that use the WebView running smoothly.
If it seems like a recent addition to your apps, that’s because WebView used to be upgraded as a part of the core Android updates. But beginning with the Android 5.0 Lollipop release, the company made it upgradeable via the Google Play store as a separate Android System WebView app. That way it can receive updates as and when required instead of relying on limited system updates.
Most importantly, you don’t need to update the Android System WebView app manually. Instead, it automatically receives all the updates.
Can You Remove Android System WebView?
You can’t uninstall the Android System WebView app from an Android device because it’s a system app. You can disable it or uninstall updates, but there is no good reason to do so. This is because many apps and games use it to display external web pages and other content. If you disable it, at best, you risk breaking part of their functionality, and at worst, you will make them completely unstable.
Interestingly for Android 7 Nougat, Android 8 Oreo, and Android 9 Pie versions, Google used the full version of Chrome for WebView functionality. Although the Android System WebView app was installed on every Android device, it wasn’t actively used or updated. So for these versions, even if you disable Android System WebView, there is no impact on any app’s performance, but you won’t get any benefit either. So it’s best to leave the app alone.
What About WebView Beta, Dev, or Canary?
Like most apps, pre-release versions of the Android System WebView, such as beta, dev, and canary, are released via the Google Play store. But these versions are intended for app developers to test the upcoming changes to the WebView if their apps use the WebView functionality.
They are not for regular users, and if even you install a pre-release version, you won’t see any benefits. Instead, you may have to deal with bugs as beta, dev, and canary versions aren’t thoroughly tested and may be unstable.
Important Part of the Android Experience
All in all, the Android System WebView app is an integral part of the core Android experience. However, it isn’t your typical app. So it isn’t listed in the app launcher, nor can you open it manually. But it’s there for when an app needs it. It’s a good idea to know about it so that you don’t disable it or remove the updates and end up causing problems.