A new day is coming for your Android apps. Google is implementing new Play Store rules for developers as it tries to weed out intrusive ads, impersonators, and VPNService misuse.
Major changes will be rolled out incrementally (opens in new tab) with the first rule taking effect on August 31st and will be completed on July 31st, 2023. Reading through the rules, it seems that some Play Store developers were running away from rude practices, but Google is giving them enough time to clean up the your act. The Play Store is also clarifying the language of various policies as it cracks down on misinformation.
As of August 31st, apps will no longer be able to impersonate another developer/company, nor can they falsely suggest that they are related to something else. Google gives the example of RSS News Aggregator app created by Google Developer (opens in new tab). This is a copycat because the first-party apps on the Play Store are listed under Google LLC. Developers were trying to use Google’s name to sell their product.
Google also points to the YouTube Aggregator app using the official YouTube logo. This gives a false impression that YouTube Aggregator is an official app when it is not. Truth be told, it’s surprising that this file ad rule hasn’t been implemented for a long time, but better late than never.
As of September 30, “full-screen interstitial ads” will no longer be able to appear randomly. Ads will still be allowed; they just can’t show up in the middle of a game (opens in new tab) or how are you scrolling through a product description (opens in new tab). And whenever full-screen ads appear, they must be closed after 15 seconds. Speaking from personal experience, this is a big change because nothing kills a game faster than an annoying 30-second ad that you can’t skip. Also on September 30, applications must make it clear how to manage or cancel a subscription service. Developers will no longer be able to hide the cancellation process in a maze of menus.
Google is also tightening rules on apps that use a VPN (virtual private network) as their primary function. Apparently the developers were using Google VPN Service to collect user data or manipulate traffic through advertisements. As of November 1st, VPNService can only be used for, among other things, parental controls, web browsing and device security applications.
And on July 31, 2023, Google will restrict Exact Alarm Permission so that it can only be used in alarm and calendar apps. According to Mishaal Rahman, Senior Technical Editor at Esper, this restriction will also improve battery life. He explains that if too many apps schedule alarms at different times, it can quickly drain your phone battery. By prioritizing applications where the primary function is to be an alarm, it will resolve this conflict.
Google has also updated many different policies to combat misinformation and ensure things remain appropriate for an app’s user base. There are so many changes, in fact, that we can’t cover everything, so here are some of the most important ones.
Descriptions, screenshots and titles must accurately reflect what the app does. For example, developers will not be able to promote their puzzle game app with action-oriented images to make it more exciting. Ads now need to match the app’s rating. Ads for an adult app cannot be placed in a video game rated for teens. Harmful medical misinformation will also be more strictly enforced. This includes misleading vaccine claims and the sale of prescription drugs without a prescription.
Again, it’s surprising that these changes haven’t been implemented before, but cleaning up the Play Store is always a win on our books.
While we’re on the Google Play Store topic, the platform just turned 10 years old recently and Philip Berne from made a list of the 10 apps that he’s been with all these years.