Google ‘Clarifies’ Play Store Policies, Ending Spotify, Netflix, and Apple Music’s Use of Their Own In-App Billing Systems

Sameer Samat, vice president of product management at Google, on Google’s Android Developer Blog:

We want to be sure our policies are clear and up to date so they can be applied consistently and fairly to all developers, and so 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.

Again, this isn’t new. This has always been the intention of this long standing policy and this clarification will not affect the vast majority of developers with apps on Google Play. Less than 3% of developers with apps on Play sold digital goods over the last 12 months, and of this 3%, the vast majority (nearly 97%) already use Google Play’s billing. But for those who already have an app on Google Play that requires technical work to integrate our billing system, we do not want to unduly disrupt their roadmaps and are giving a year (until September 30, 2021) to complete any needed updates. And of course we will require Google’s apps that do not already use Google Play’s billing system to make the necessary updates as well.

This whole blog post is rather opaque. Basically they’re saying two things. First, big whales like Spotify and Netflix that have been using their own credit card processing in their Android apps need to switch to Google’s system for the apps they distribute via the Play Store by next year. Most reports are mentioning Spotify and Netflix here, but unless I’m missing something this policy change (or as Google claims, “clarification”) will also apply to Apple Music — the Android version of which charges users who sign up in the app directly, not via Google Play. The fact that Apple forces all subscription streaming services to use Apple’s in-app payments on iOS but doesn’t use Google’s on Android for Apple Music has been a source of much heckling.

Second, in a masterful jujitsu move turning Epic’s own language about “fairness” to its own advantage, Google is making a vague promise about making it easier to use third-party app stores on Android:

In response to that feedback, we will be making changes in Android 12 (next year’s Android release) to make it even easier for people to use other app stores on their devices while being careful not to compromise the safety measures Android has in place. We are designing all this now and look forward to sharing more in the future!

There are no additional details, just that. But they’re presenting it as the main thrust of today’s announcement, not the move to require Spotify/Netflix/et al to use Google’s payment system for apps in the Play Store.

Monday, 28 September 2020