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Reverse engineering Android applications is a popular hobby on the XDA forums. Decompiling and modifying existing apps is a skill that has been used to produce unofficial versions of apps with new themes, features, and more, and one of the most important tools at a modder’s disposal is Apktool. Apktool is the most widely used free tool aimed at reverse engineering Android apps. The project was started in 2012 by XDA Recognized Developer iBotPeaches and continues to see updates to this very day, with the most recent one adding support for the first Android P Developer Preview and experimental rebuilding of apps made with AAPT2.
The tool’s latest version is v2.3.2 and it finally allows users to recompile applications built with API level 28 in mind—Android P. Previously, you could easily decompile applications made for the P release, but that’s useful only for performing “APK teardowns” and not for actually modding files. Those of you who are fans of Magisk Modules will be happy to know that system modifications may be on the way now that modders can decompile, modify, and recompile Android P system files.
In addition, the tool brings experimental support for rebuilding applications that were made with AAPT2. AAPT2, or Android Asset Packaging Tool 2.0, is the default in the Android Gradle Plugin 3.0 and it offers a few enhancements over building with regular AAPT. AAPT is what takes an app’s resource files and compiles them. Apktool is able to reverse AAPT, but until now it has not been able to reverse the resource packaging performed under apps built with AAPT2.
You can view the full change-log below. We are glad to see an updated version of Apktool be made available for modders everywhere. It is just one of many tools in a modder’s toolkit including JADX, vdexExtractor, and more, but it is one of the most vital for users to learn to use.