Google has recently been emailing Android developers at their support email address with a reminder about Google Play developer policies.
Most of this policy isn’t new, but a few important things have been added. Google warned that new apps must comply, and existing apps will be removed after 30 days if they are not brought into compliance.
There is some great news for Android users, and a few developers will need to rethink their strategies.
Revised advertising rules for Android devices
Home Screen Icons
Two different sections seem to speak about launcher icons:
Ads must not make changes to the functioning of the user’s device outside the ad by doing things such as installing shortcuts, bookmarks or icons or changing default settings without the user’s knowledge and consent.
Products or the ads they contain also must not mimic functionality or warnings from the operating system or other applications. Developers must not divert users or provide links to any other site that mimics or passes itself off as another application or service. Apps must not have names or icons that appear confusingly similar to existing products, or to apps supplied with the device (such as Camera, Gallery or Messaging).
Hopefully this should help clean up sneaky practices where a search icon magically appears on the user’s home screen after installing an unrelated app. A few ad networks have built their entire business on this practice, such as StartApp.
Next, those annoying notification ads
Ads must not simulate or impersonate system notifications or warnings.
With any luck, this will curtail deceptive push notification ads. AirPush is a big name in notification ads, and they have rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. They’re not the only ones to have implemented notification ads though, and various networks have differing levels of deceptive practices.
Obviously, ad networks that use these practices won’t just roll over and go out of business. They will adapt. They already make an attempt to “warn” users, but now the line has been drawn that this must be very clear to users.
In fact, companies such as LeadBolt have sent notices to their users about changes to ensure compliance as well as instructions to stay in the clear. Hopefully most ad networks will be vigilant in helping developers stay on the right side of this.
A win for consumers
Hopefully these rules will force developers and ad networks to be as up-front and clear as possible – and that’s a win for consumers as well as developers not using these practices.
As you may be aware, my latest book on Android ad networks reviews a number of different ad companies and provides guidance on getting set up quickly. I already steer developers away from these practices (and companies that only deal with these types of ads). However, consider this a friendly reminder to be vigilant in not adding new advertisement types that violate these rules!
In-app billing – a reminder
As I’ve been saying for a long time, I wouldn’t want to build my business on the expectation of not getting caught. The policy is clear that 3rd party payment systems can’t be used for IAP (in-app billing).
A number of payment systems were encouraging developers to use their system for IAP last year at AnDevCon, and I haven’t verified if they have changed their tune yet.
As always, it is the responsibility of the developer to understand the rules of the app market and stay in compliance – no matter what the marketing departments of these companies say.
Know the rules for Google Play
As you may know, I do a lot of research into additional Android app stores to deploy apps into. I pay attention to the rules for each market where I deploy my Android apps. While most guidelines are obvious, a few differ between each market. It is important to avoid problems – both with quality assurance rejections and having your app forcibly removed from a market.
So, take another look at the Google Play developer policies and be sure your apps are compliant, particularly with the new rules regarding ads in Android apps.