Google today made a huge announcement regarding the way they handle app submissions in Google Play. To now, the company has been lax about letting developers upload applications and only looked to remove apps in hindsight if they were found to have violated Google Play’s developer policies.
But it seems Google’s tired of that approach — they’ve gone ahead and created a bit of a walled garden for Google Play not unlike the one Apple employs for their App Store (that is to say, they’re now reviewing apps before letting them into Google Play). Google says this move was made to better protect users and to ensure the quality of apps in Google Play remain top notch.
Google said this process actually started a few months ago, and developers have yet to even notice. Their crack team of “experts” are able to review a large amount of apps in very quick succession so apps still appear in Google Play just mere hours after submission.
This sounds scary at first, we know. It’s a road we never thought Google would take, what with their emphasis on Android being “open” and “free.” But malware, hordes of apps that don’t work, and other toxic material in Google Play is counterproductive to the company’s goal of making Android even more fit for the mainstream than it already is. Example: what workplace is going to want to participate in Android for Work if their employees’ devices are exposed to potentially harmful apps?
Google hasn’t further detailed their review process, though they ensure us that the only thing they’re looking to do is make sure developers’ apps adhere to the developer policies outlined here. This isn’t going to be some Apple-like affair where they turn apps away for “duplicating functionality” or other nonsensical reasons.
To drive that point home, Google also mentioned that they will now be more upfront and clear about why your app may have been rejected or removed from Google Play. Furthermore, they’ve made it easier to resubmit apps for review after they’ve been rejected, so the fear of being exiled from Google Play forever should you make one tiny mistake should now evaporate.
No one is more thrilled to hear that than us, of course, as we’ve been the unfortunate recipients of Google Play banishment in the past.
Our issue was never that our apps were removed in the first place. We’d eventually accepted and corrected our mistakes after having to comb through the developer policy ourselves and simply guess what we were doing wrong. It was Google’s lack of clarity as to why our apps were removed that drove us crazy, and that they didn’t make it easy to rectify the issue after identifying and fixing it didn’t help.
If what Google says is true, then we — and any other developer who has ever been in our shoes — should have a much easier time creating quality apps and uploading them to Google Play, even if it has to go through a very reasonable review period. And in the event that you do make an honest mistake and accidentally violate Google’s developer policies, it should be no sweat off your brow to get it fixed. This is great for developers and users alike, and it’s our hope that Google Play will become even stronger because of it.
PS: Google also detailed a new content rating system based on existing digital content guidelines established in each region. Developers will be asked to submit questionnaires about their apps and games, after which it will be given an age rating by an appropriate ratings board for each region the app is available in (ESRB in North America and PEGI in Europe, for instance).
The questionnaire isn’t required for existing apps right now, though Google notes that any apps without a rating may be blocked in certain countries where distributing unrated content is prohibited. The questionnaire will be required for all new apps and games uploaded to Google Play starting in May. Be sure to get your app situated by submitting questionnaires (available through the developer console) as soon as possible.