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We are in a moment where app store lock-in is raising all kinds of questions, and Google for its part would like to get ahead of regulators by addressing developer concerns themselves.
In a blog post, the company announced that it will make it easier to install alternative app stores on Android 12. The company notes that most Android handsets come with at least 2 app stores pre-installed and that those stores are able to use their own business model.
For its part, Google insisted that apps distributed via its Google Play Store use Google Play’s billing system and pay a “service fee” when they offer in-app purchases of digital goods. Google notes those apps who do not wish to play ball can always distribute via alternate app stores.
Google is however giving developers who are not currently compliant until September 30, 2021 to get in line, or presumable face being kicked off the Store. Google said companies who have freshly moved online can use this grace period to sell online services without Google Play billing, and without having to pay Google’s “service fee” tax.
Google dances around the topic, but it appears Google still forbids developers from letting users know about Google’s “service fee” tax in the app, but Google says developers are free to let buyers know of alternate purchase opportunities via email promotions or their website.
In many ways Google’s posture is much the same as Apple’s, but with the crucial difference than developers can opt-out by distributing directly to buyers, which in the end makes all the difference.