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The Difference between compileSdkVersion and targetSdkVersion

Android, Kotlin2 min read

In Android development, developers specify various settings in the project's build.gradle file to configure their apps. Two important parameters that often lead to confusion are compileSdkVersion and targetSdkVersion. While both of them influence the app's behavior and compatibility, they serve distinct purposes. Let's delve into the difference between these two and understand how they impact Android app development.


The compileSdkVersion parameter determines the version of the Android SDK against which your app is compiled. It dictates the set of APIs, libraries, and features that are available for your code to utilize during compilation. This value should typically be set to the latest stable version or a version that provides the necessary features you want to employ in your app.

For example, if you set compileSdkVersion to 31 in your build.gradle file:

1android {
2 compileSdkVersion 31
3 // Other configuration options...

Your app can take advantage of the APIs and libraries available in the Android SDK version 31, allowing you to incorporate the latest functionalities offered by the platform. However, note that setting compileSdkVersion does not guarantee compatibility with different versions of Android devices.


On the other hand, targetSdkVersion specifies the highest API level (or Android version) that your app has been tested and optimized for. It informs the Android system about the level of compatibility your app expects when running on a device.

To demonstrate, consider the following snippet:

1android {
2 targetSdkVersion 30
3 // Other configuration options...

In this case, setting targetSdkVersion to 30 indicates that you have thoroughly tested your app with Android API level 30, making it aware of any behavioral changes introduced in that version. By declaring the target SDK version, you signal to the platform that your app is designed to work correctly on devices up to and including API level 30, while still being compatible with earlier versions.

Implications and Best Practices

Understanding the nuances between compileSdkVersion and targetSdkVersion can help developers make informed decisions during Android app development. Here are some implications and best practices to keep in mind:

1. compileSdkVersion

  • Always aim to use the latest stable SDK version as the compileSdkVersion to access the most recent features and improvements provided by the Android platform.
  • When adopting new APIs, thoroughly study their behavior and ensure they are backward-compatible with the minimum supported Android version targeted by your app.

2. targetSdkVersion

  • Regularly update the targetSdkVersion to the latest stable API level to take advantage of optimizations and bug fixes introduced by newer Android versions.
  • Test your app extensively against the targetSdkVersion to identify and address any compatibility issues or deprecated methods.
  • Be cautious while raising the targetSdkVersion if your app relies on certain behaviors specific to older Android versions. Test thoroughly to ensure those behaviors are preserved or handled appropriately.

Remember that the compileSdkVersion and targetSdkVersion values should be chosen judiciously based on your app's requirements, compatibility goals, and the specific features you plan to leverage.