Well, it seems Google has caved… After a long, drawn-out battle between developers and Google, they have promised to make it easier to install new software through third-party apps.
The difficulties surrounding using alternative app stores came to the limelight with Epic, the company behind Fortnite, when they chose to remove the popular game from Google Play due to unfairness in their billing system, and complications within their own app store.
The Fortnite Case
After its release in 2017 and emerging success on all fronts (with more than 10 million players two weeks after the launch), Fortnite refused to make the game available via Google Play, in order to avoid paying a 30% fee on all in-app purchases. The next move from Google was definitely not a wise one: after warning users not to download apps outside the Play Store for security reasons, the community discovered that actually, Google’s app store had quite a few fake (and much more dangerous) versions of Fortnite—not to mention all the other problematic apps available inside their system.
Although Epic continues to battle this giant player, they decided to go back and reluctantly accept the 30% cut they initially refused. Despite this, according to their press release previously discussed in our blog, they insist that “Google puts software downloadable outside of Google Play at a disadvantage, through technical and business measures such as scary, repetitive security pop-ups for downloaded and updated software, restrictive manufacturer and carrier agreements and dealings, Google public relations characterizing third-party software sources as malware, and new efforts such as Google Play Protect to outright block software obtained outside the Google Play store.”
So why are third-party app stores important?
The freedom for users to choose what they install is of course the number one reason. However, the second is definitely the number of blocks Google has due to, what the company calls, security reasons. This unfairness also made users more aware of other possibilities, learning that many third-party app stores are even safer than their own, such as Aptoide.
This particular third-party app store has already won a battle in court against Google, after launching a “Google, Play Fair” campaign that revealed that the big company was deleting Aptoide from users’ phones without their permission.
After all these conflicts, Google is stating that they will fix some of these issues with the launch of the new Android version. But what does Android 12 bring exactly? We can’t be sure until next year (around September/October), but their statement makes us wonder if the security measures, pop-ups, and blocks to install a third-party app store will be reduced.
Google’s App Tax
Unfortunately, the good news from Google ends here. With the launch of this update comes a new mandatory procedure for developers who have apps on Google Play. With Android 12, developers who sell digital goods will have to update their platform so that the payment goes through the Google billing system. This means that huge companies such as Netflix and Spotify, who had payments going through their own system (to avoid the Google fees), now cannot escape the 30% “App Tax” (as referred to by the Coalition for App Fairness) in their profits. Even though this is a battle we’ve seen before, Google seems to be pretty steadfast in this decision.
With all of this news, we can’t wait for the next episode to unfold.