Google revealed “Play as you download” in July last year, which would allow certain games and apps from the Play Store to be opened while they are being downloaded. After a long wait, Google says the feature will be rolling out to all Android 12 devices soon.
This is more or less identical to features that have been available for years on other gaming platforms, such as PlayStation, Xbox, EA Origin, Activision Blizzard’s Battle.net and others. Developers need to add support in their apps and games (which probably involves choosing essential files when opening the app), but once that happens, you’ll be able to open an app or game given while the Play Store is still downloading.
Google previously revealed to XDA Developers Who Play you downloaded uses Android’s Incremental Filesystem, a “special-purpose Linux virtual filesystem that allows a program to run while its binaries and resource files are still lazily downloaded over the network“. Incremental File System is only available on Android 12, hence the need for Android 12 with Play while downloading.
Google now says that Play as you download will be available “soon” for all Android 12 devices. Unfortunately, there’s no specific timeline, but even when Google flips the switch, you’ll probably only be able to use it with a few early games. Some games may also choose not to support the feature at all, especially if the download size is already so small that it downloads in seconds with a reasonably fast internet connection. This is also the reason why this feature is mainly intended for games and not for other types of applications.
Google has been testing other improvements for Android games in recent months, such as a gaming dashboard in Android 12 and a new Play Games desktop emulator for PC.