You may have seen Android System WebView (ASW) in your Android device’s app listing, or sometimes as an update to the Google Play Store. This essential system application does not need to be installed or used directly, but it remains an essential part of the Android operating system.
Depending on the version of Android installed, you will see the Android System WebView in different formats. Regardless of your device, you need an activated and current version of ASW (or version thereof). This tutorial will go over why and also explain how to keep this system component up to date.
What is a WebView for Android and how is it used?
Your Android device may have a web browser installed, but it doesn’t have to be a tool to open web pages or web apps. To open these pages or apps, Android instead accesses the Android System WebView to display web content in your apps.
This is usually done for speed and security reasons. Instead of relying on a third party app, other apps can call Android WebView to load content, directly integrating calls to this system tool to improve efficiency.
Google has developed a relationship between Android and ASW over time. Prior to Android 5 Lollipop, WebView could only be updated with major updates to Android devices issued by the manufacturer.
With the release of Android 5, this changed and users were able to update it directly from the Google Play store. This allowed for faster bug fixes and new features release.
Further changes were made in Android 7, where a custom WebView based on Google Chrome became the default option for Android devices. This changed again in Android 10 when the WebView again made a separate component, sharing the code between it and Chrome.
How to check the installed Android System WebView version
Each release of WebView contains new changes, but you will be able to see which version you have installed in your Android device’s settings.
To do this, you need access to the settings menu of your Android device. This will depend on your Android version as well as your device. These steps were written for the Samsung Galaxy S20 smartphone, but should be the same for other Android devices.
- From your device’s app launcher, open the Settings app. From there tap on the “Applications” option.
- You should see a list of installed applications as well as pre-installed system applications. Use the search bar to find Android System Webview, then tap the entry when you find it.
- Scroll the application information screen. The Android System Webview version number will be listed below. For example, Version 83.0.4103.106. These release IDs correspond to IDs for Google Chrome on Android, reflecting their overall code base.
You will need to examine the Android WebView version number to determine if it is the latest available version. If it is not, you need to update it.
Android System WebView Update
Keeping ASW up to date is a simple process for newer Android devices. If you have a much older Android device (Android 4.4 KitKat and older), you won’t be able to update WebView as it remains a much more integrated system component that cannot be updated without a major device update.
However, for all future releases, you can update ASW using the Google Play Store.
- To do this, open the Play Store app and search for Android System WebView. If there is an update available for the app, click the Update button.
After updating WebView, Android will use this new version of WebView for any other applications that need to access and view web content.
Install different Android System WebView version paths
One ASW release leaves everyone alone, at least with regard to important updates. Fortunately, Google offers more choices for Android users with devices running Android 10 and newer.
This Android release includes a version of WebView that has the same code as the Google Chrome app. This includes common benefits for both applications, including a smaller footprint and a more consistent interface.
Instead of offering this as one option, Google offers four different release versions for WebView that you can install.
- WebView Stable: Refreshed every few weeks following a full test schedule to ensure stability on the largest number of devices. This release is included on all Android devices.
- WebView Beta: A beta that uses most of the code and features from WebView stable. There may be additional bugs in this release due to abbreviated testing.
- WebView Dev: This is a development release and may be subject to major changes. This release is updated weekly and users may encounter bugs and issues, but you can also try and test new features or fixes before other users.
- WebView Canary: Totally Advanced, Latest Zero Testing. This is a daily release with the latest code from the previous day. Use with care!
After installing one of these versions of WebView, you can switch to it from the Android developer options menu. This is usually hidden, so go into Android settings. From there, tap About Phone> Software Information, then double-tap the Build Number Information a few times.
This will activate developer mode on your phone. Once enabled, go back to Android settings and tap the WebView implementation. A list of available WebView editions will be available here – tap the setting you want to use to switch to using it.
For devices running Android 7-9, you can instead install Google Chrome release versions (Stable, Beta, Dev, and Canary</a that achieve the same effect. This is because for these editions the WebView is integrated into the Google Chrome app.
How to disable or delete a WebView for Android
If you want to disable or uninstall Android System Webview, the answer is simple: you can’t (or shouldn’t). It is an essential system component required to open web content in Android applications.
The best you can do is leave the WebView enabled and keep it up to date with the Google Play Store. If you are having problems loading web content on your Android device, try upgrading to a newer version of WebView by following the steps above.
The bug in the stable version can be fixed in the new beta version of WebView. Of course, these fixes should hit the stable version of WebView in a short amount of time, so in most cases it’s best to wait.
Keep Android up to date
Android devices are not best known for their ability to keep up to date, but by keeping ASW as a separate system component, Google can quickly release urgent bug fixes via the Google Play Store. It is installed on almost all Android devices, including emulated Android devices on your PC.
This is another piece of common smartphone security measures used by developers like Google and Android to protect devices from the most serious threats. If you are really concerned about security, you might consider installing an antivirus app for Android, but for most users this may not be necessary.