Google have recently done an Extreme Makeover Edition of their Play Store developer policy, completely redesigning the policy website. If you hadn’t taken a look, you should. Starting March 1st, policies and regulations have been made much clearer, and the Google Play experience has been almost completely revamped to become much more developer friendly.
While it may be the facelift that draws you in (the new site is definitely an upgrade to the long list of bullet points it was in the past), it’s the context that should catch your eye. When you look deep down beneath the surface, you’ll see the change to policies themselves is relatively minor. It’s the overall attitude that changed.
If I have to summarize the new policy website in just one word, it would definitely be – transparency.
Good Cop, Bad Cop, Google Cop
Let’s be honest – we live in a world where Apple and Google would always be compared one against the other. Being the two strongest players in today’s most widespread gadget – the mobile phone – makes it almost an axiom. But while Apple is always perceived at the stricter regime, Google got a bad rep for being too lenient – The AppStore’s review process is one to be feared, Google Play’s isn’t.
And that hasn’t changed with the new policies. In fact, Ronnie Sternberg’s previous post about risks and pitfalls is still very true. Yes, there are some new regulations (which I’ll get to shortly), but the change isn’t about becoming more strict. It’s not about being revered yet feared. Quite the opposite. With this new policy, Google strives to be the better cop. The one who doesn’t just write you a ticket, but also takes the time to explain why.
The policy’s site headline says it all – “Let’s build the world’s most trusted store for apps and games.” When you get down to it, it’s really what it’s all about.
A Friendlier Court
Answering criticism that their play store’s border is wide open and that Google Play is littered with low-quality apps, Google introduced a review process about a year ago. Each app wanting to be published in Google Play, and each app update, are checked by the Google team to make sure it upholds some basic standards of quality and that it doesn’t bluntly violates any policy.
The new policy website takes it a couple steps forward, providing you detailed information about both the violations that got your app rejected, as well as details on how to resolve these issues.
If in the past you had to send an email and contact the Google review team, only to wait and get a reply which pretty much iterated the sometimes obscure rejection reason, today things have changed. Not only by the reply you receive, but also by the fact that the policies have been made much more detailed and clear.
The policy is broken down into categories and subcategories.
You get a long list of possible violations, accompanied by detailed imaged examples.
You also get a list of best practices when Google has some to offer.
When you are rejected, you get referenced to the policy which you violated. When that policy is clear and accessible, the rejection is much softer.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the highlight of this renovation. Lowering developer’s frustration when their apps do get rejected, and offering much more information to help them overcome these issues. As I’ve said, it’s about creating a friendlier developer experience.
The New Policies
But, as I’ve said, there are also some changes to the policies.
First and foremost, Google will be much stricter about apps that attempt to look like other apps, especially system apps (and thus look more reliable to users). If an app’s name or logo looks too similar to that of an official app, it will get rejected. In fact, any kind of copycatting of other apps is strictly forbidden.
Regulations concerning ads have become stricter as well. Ads cannot attempt to look like official device notifications and must always provide a way to easily dismiss them. Anything that forces the user to click on the ad in order to dismiss it is completely prohibited.
SafeDK’s In-App Protection will tell you if an SDK is accessing the list of installed apps, as well as provide you with the option to remotely deactivate the SDK from accessing said list without releasing a new version
Apps are not allowed to attempt to bypass system power management. After the introduction of Android Marshmallow, many apps popped up claiming to mimic Doze for pre-M devices. Not only is that false advertisement (as it’s not possible to truly achieve that functionality), it is also prohibited.
Transparency, Transparency, Transparency
As I’ve said, while the change in looks is very nice (and I certainly don’t underestimate the importance of first impressions!), when you look beneath the surface you discover that Google’s change to the developer policy is about making life easier for both developers and end users.
By making the policies more readable, by breaking it down to categories and providing examples, as well as explaining the review process and making it rejections clearer, Google significantly improved developer experience. By introducing the review process and setting a threshold for which apps get through, it has took a step forward in protecting users and giving them a selection of higher quality apps.