After some confusion, and after seeing Apple warming up to iOS App Store policies, Google is clarifying how and when it intends to take its share of paid apps in the Google Play Store.
According to a Android Developer Blog Released Today, any developer with an app on Google Play that needs to perform “technical work” to integrate Google’s billing system will have until September 30, 2021 to comply. This means those developers can continue to collect direct payments from customers without having to give Google its 30% cut for the next year. That deadline will likely coincide with the release of Android 12; Android 11 released widely earlier this month. Android 12 will also make it easier for developers to offer their apps on third-party app stores.
This new policy is part of a broader push from Google to make its Google Play policies clearer for developers and to continue supporting developers who also want their apps on other stores across multiple platforms. The 1-year “get out of jail free” card is really for businesses with a primary physical store that have had to move to a fully digital platform to stay afloat during the pandemic.
“We have heard comments that our policy language may be clearer about the types of transactions that require the use of the Google Play billing system and that the current language causes confusion,” wrote Sameer Samat, Vice President of Google Product Management.
Google now requires developers to use the Google Play billing system for apps and downloads if the system is already integrated into the app, and developers must use that system to charge for in-app features or services. There are some exceptions to the rules, which go into effect January 20, including paying for physical goods and apps that allow money transfers, such as Venmo.
While it appears that Google is becoming more and more like Apple by requiring developers to charge their customers using Google’s billing system, the company couldn’t be clearer about continuing to support Android’s open API platform.
“We believe that developers should be able to choose how to distribute their apps and that stores should compete for the consumer and developer business,” said Samat.
Such choices include allowing users to set up messages, keyboard, phone dialer, or other default apps by a developer of their choice.
“This openness means that even if a developer and Google disagree on the commercial terms, the developer can still deploy on the Android platform,” he added.
A developer must not use the Google Play Store to make an app available on Android. Samat pointed this out Fortnite is available on Android via Epic website or Samsung’s Galaxy App Store; Google removed Fortnite from his shop after Epic Games deliberately violated its policies. Samat also clarified that developers “can communicate directly with their customers about pricing, offers and alternative ways beyond their app via email or other channels.”
Basically, developers can tell their users about other places they can download their app if they don’t want their information to go through Google’s billing system, a practice Apple prohibits under the App Store guidelines.
There is a debate to be made about the amount that Google takes from developers, but at least Google offers a workaround. This could save the company from an antitrust ruling.