Under threat of regulation, Google announced today it's updating its Google Play billing policies to better clarify which types of transactions will be subject to Google's commissions on in-app purchases. Then you don't have to use it.
One of the differences between Android and iOS is that Google officially lets users (or phone makers) install third-party app stores, while Apple does not. Now Google says the next version of Android will "make it even easier for people to use other app stores on their devices".
The announcement is a little light on details, but Google says that the update will be baked in Android 12 when it ships next year. Check permissions ahead of time on the app's Google Play download page, and pay attention to what permissions an app asks for during installation and the first time you use it.
Of course, the policy is there to ensure that Google gets its cut of 30% for purchases made via apps downloaded from the Play Store, just the way Apple mandates for all apps listed on the App Store. "We have clarified the language in our Payments Policy to be more explicit that all developers selling digital goods in their apps are required to use Google Play's billing system". Of those apps, 97% already use Google Play's billing library.
"We believe that developers should have a choice in how they distribute their apps and that stores should compete for the consumer's and the developer's business", Samat said.
As ZDNet reports, the one thing Google can't do, however, is remove the (now disabled) apps from a device.
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In other words, if you want to offer subscriptions to your music streaming service, online guitar lessons, or gaming platform for 30-percent lower prices to folks who sign up outside the Google Play Store, you can do that.
Zscaler, giving its word of caution, told users to keep an eye on the permissions that any apps were seeking, and look out for suspicious permissions like SMS messages, contacts or call logs, as it could be an indicator of a malicious app. What's more, Google's promise to make it easier to use third party app stores in Android 12 will put Apple in an even tougher place since there's absolutely no way to use a third party app store on the iPhone short of jailbreaking it.
Maybe that'll change when Android 12 rolls around with whatever third-party app store improvements Google has in mind.
The change follows lawsuits by "Fortnite" video game maker Epic Games last month accusing Google and Apple Inc of anti-competitive conduct.