Google’s App Store Developer Policy Changes

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On Monday, September 28, 2020, Google released a statement about their newly updated developer program payment policy for their app store. Google’s App Store policy change comes on heels of a well-publicized brush-up between Apple and Epic to prevent app developers from using third party payment systems. Google stated that this policy change would affect less than 3% of developers as 97% already use Google’s in-app billing.

Google has put forth two main indicators for developers having to use their in-app billing. According to to the new policy, developers releasing apps on Google Play must use Google Plays in-app billing system if:

  • They charge users to download their app from Google Play
  • They sell digital merchandise within their app such as:
    • Subscription services
    • Ad-free versions of the app

There are some instances where in-app billing can’t be used:

  • Buying physical merchandise
  • Online auctions
  • Gambling
  • Person-to-person paymentsGoogle updates payment policy for app developers

Due to Covid-19, Google is giving all existing apps until September 21, 2021 to be in compliance with the new policy. All new apps added to Google Play after January 21, 2021 will have to integrate its billing system on their platform. Some companies, liken Spotify and Netflix, have used a third-party pay system to allow consumers to pay them directly and bypass paying Google entirely.

Both Apple and Google have been under increased scrutiny in recent years over anti-trust law concerns and how they assert dominance in the world of walled app gardens. Since the update to their payment policy would require app developers to use only their in-app billing system, it’s likely that they’ll draw even more criticism. Part of Google’s new policy specifically precludes developers from leading customers to any other third-party billing apps. Since these two app stores are the only way developers can effectively distribute their apps, there doesn’t seem to be any positive news coming out of this announcement.

While Apple has had similar policies in place for years, Google’s recent move is a nail on the lid of freedom of choice when it comes to app monetization.


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