After some confusion – and after seeing Apple take the heat on its iOS App Store policies – Google clarifies how and when it plans to take its downfall of paid apps in the Google Play Store.
According to one Android Developers blog published today, any developer with an app on Google Play who needs to perform some “technical work” to integrate Google’s billing system has until September 30, 2021 to comply. This means that these developers can continue to collect direct payments from customers without having to give Google its 30% cut for the next year. This deadline is likely to coincide with the release of Android 12; Android 11 rolled out widely earlier this month. Android 12 will also make it easier for developers to offer their apps in third-party app stores.
This new policy is part of a larger push on Google’s side to make Google Play policies clearer to developers and to continue its support for developers who also want their apps in other stores across multiple platforms. The 1-year “get out of jail” card is really for companies with a physical physical storefront that had to move to a fully digital platform to stay afloat during the pandemic.
“We’ve heard feedback that our policy language could be clearer as to what types of transactions require the use of the Google Play billing system, and that the current language caused confusion,” wrote Google Vice President of Product Management Sameer Samat.
Google now requires developers to use Google Play’s billing system for apps and downloads if the system is already integrated with the app, and developers must use this system to charge for features or services in the app. There are a few exceptions to the rules that take effect on January 20, including payment for physical goods and apps that enable money transfers, like Venmo.
While it looks like Google is becoming more like Apple by requiring developers to charge their customers using Google’s billing system, the company could not be more aware of continuing to support Android’s open API platform.
“We believe that developers need to have a choice in how they distribute their apps, and that stores need to compete for the consumer and developer business,” said Samat.
These options include allowing users to set default messages, keypad, phone calls or other app from a developer of their choice.
“This openness means that even if a developer and Google do not agree on business terms, the developer can still distribute on the Android platform,” he added.
A developer does not need to use the Google Play Store to make an app available on Android. Samat pointed it out Fortnite is available on Android via Epic’s website or Samsung’s Galaxy App store; Google removed Fortnite from his shop after the Epic Games deliberately violated its policies. Samat also clarified that developers “can communicate with their customers directly about prices, offers and alternative ways beyond their app via email or other channels.”
Basically, developers are allowed to tell their users about the other places where they can download their app if they do not want their information through Google’s billing system – a practice that Apple prohibits under its App Store policies.
There is an argument to be made about the amount that Google takes from developers, but at least Google offers a solution. It can just save the company from an antitrust decision.