Google has outlined the changes it has brought to its developer policies. The company has pledged to make it easier to use third-party app stores on Android 12.
The announcement addresses recent concerns and issues with Android app development, including a struggle with alternative in-app payment systems and challenges faced by businesses transitioning to the internet due to COVID-19.
Android users can already install apps through third-party stores such as the Samsung Galaxy Store. In response to developers’ feedback, Google says it will add features to next year’s version of Android 12 that will “make it easier for users to use other app stores on their devices while being careful not to compromise the security measures Android has.” The company will publish more details about these changes in the future.
On the contrary, Google does not relax its control over in-app payments for Play Store apps. The company says “all developers selling digital products in their apps should use Google Play’s billing system” and tweaks its payment policy to clarify this. Applications that do not currently use the system for digital products will need to add this by September 30, 2021.
This has become a major mainstay for Epic Games, who dropped this game from the Play Store after it added support for an alternative billing method to its game called Fortnite last August. Fortnite is currently only available in third-party stores and on Epic’s website, and Google doesn’t seem to be taking a step back. An example that specifically refers to Fortnite is that “a developer and Google can distribute on the Android platform even though the developer cannot agree on the terms of the developer”.
There is one particularly complex category of in-app purchases: businesses that started selling “virtual” versions of their normally non-digital products to users during the coronavirus outbreak. These companies, including Airbnb and ClassPass, had complained that they were asked to pay a new service fee on iOS.
Apple has begun to waive these fees in some cases, and Google says these businesses will not have to use Android’s Google Play billing in the near future. “We know that the global pandemic has resulted in many businesses moving their physical business to digital and masses having to overcome challenges such as attracting customers in a new way, such as moving face-to-face experiences and lessons online.” said. “Over the next 12 months, these businesses will not have to comply with our payments policy, and we will continue to reassess the situation over the next year.”