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How to Meet Google Play Requirements?

App Store is all about revenues. However, it’s Google Play that generates 75% more downloads. Thanks to the emerging markets (especially Asia), Android smartphones will retain their 81.1% market share until 2019 and beyond. How to put an Android app on Google Play? What apps are typically rejected by the publisher? We’ve got the answers!

An insight into Google Play submission guidelines

A little over a year ago, there was nothing easier than to publish an Android application. As a result, Google Play was stuffed with low-quality mobile software and had to delete non-compliant apps on a regular basis.

In order to keep up with the high standards set by Apple, the company introduced the manual review process & rating system based on apps’ age and official ranking from Entertainment Software Rating Board (US) and Pan-European Game Information (EU). However, the Google Play approval process still takes 4-5 hours on average (compared to 4-6 days on the App Store).

You can distribute Android apps via Google Play or an independent store. For example, China (the largest mobile game market in the world) has approximately 250 publishers. Even if you partner with a large company like D.cn (sells the Angry Birds freemium app on behalf of Rovio), working with Google Play is still the quickest (and safest!) way to make your app available to a larger audience (don’t forget about fixed transaction fees, too).

OK, what Android apps usually get the green light?

How to Meet Google Play Requirements

Android app requirements: functionality

  • Are written in Java, use Android APIs and XML for layouts. Android apps can also be created with Corona SDK (the LUA programming language), PhoneGap, Titanium, Gamesalad and HTML 5;
  • Do not exceed the size limit of 100 MB (If your application contains high-resolution graphics, your vendor can enable extra storage through Expansion files. Still, you’ll have to host & serve additional data yourself);
  • Use the whole screen in landscape and portrait orientations & handle rapid transitions between them correctly;
  • Do not crash, “freeze” or behave abnormally in any other way;
  • Display text and images without blurring, distortion and pixelation;
  • Do not play audio behind the locked screen (unless it’s a music player application);
  • Load fast/notify users if the process takes longer than 2 seconds;
  • Do not meet the basic functionality requirements/are considered “beta”.

Google Play content submission guidelines

  • Have clear description (with no references to third-party publishers and services);
  • Do not promote sexually explicit content (including pornography, user-generated sexual content and promotional images of sex toys). The store also prohibits online gambling, child abuse, bullying and harassment. Apps that feature controversial content must have appropriate ratings;
  • Do not infringe intellectual property rights. In case you have permission to use names, images and other intellectual property owned by another company, you should inform Google Play about it prior to app submission.

* In fact, this is the most common reason why developers fail to meet the Google Play content quality requirements. And sometimes it happens by pure accident! The AutoSpotify app was built with Spotify APIs, and the service logo appeared on the login page automatically. WhatsTools was rejected for using WhatsApp name and screenshots. The store also scraps applications that contain pictures of well-known people – even if you’ve taken them from public sources.

  • Do not encourage users to illegally stream/download music, videos and books. In 2014, Google Play suspended Vibe Vault – a free application which allowed users to stream, download and share files from Live Music Archive. Although the store cited “violation of the spam provision” as the reason for removal, the actual problem might’ve been the core function of the service, since the app didn’t employ any ads or notifications;
  • Do not promote violence, alcohol and drug usage. In 2015, Google rejected the Postal app – a mobile game where you play as a dangerous lunatic who runs around the streets killing people. The app was submitted to Google Play right after the new approval process had been introduced and obviously didn’t meet the requirements. However, the vendor decided to leave the game as it is and try his luck with other publishers.

Android In-App Purchase requirements

Google Play urges developers to be transparent about how they use personal data & employ secure encryption protocols.

If your application handles user information (including phone & credit card numbers), you should publish a comprehensive privacy policy guidance.

Google encourages all types of app monetization strategies, including paid applications, freemiums, in-app purchases and ads. Unlike the App Store, Google accepts apps built primarily for advertising; the policy is, of course, not applied to “adware” (malicious programs that redirect users to other applications and websites). However, the store has the same 30/70 revenue split policy and doesn’t allow vendors to use third-party payment mechanisms.

If you’re not going to distribute mobile software through Google Play, it’s technically possible to pull an Uber and enhance your application with the PayPal payment system.

Otherwise, you’re obliged to use Google Play In-app Billing as a means of payment.

Here’s what you can sell via an Android application:

  • Virtual game products (like artefacts, currency and levels; in-app currency can only be used within an application);
  • Content and enhanced functionality (like “Remove Ads” option);
  • Digital content available on subscription basis (steaming music and videos; e-books; digital publications with/without a physical copy);
  • Cloud services and applications (extended storage; business productivity and finance management software).

In-app Billing does not support:

  • Retail merchandise (groceries, clothes and electronics);
  • Service fees (like taxi, cleaning services, food delivery);
  • One-time membership fees (loyalty programs, gym membership, etc.);
  • One-time payments (including donations);
  • Electronic bill payments.

App Promotion Policy

The store rejects mobile applications that:

  • Use ads resembling system alerts and notifications;
  • Redirect users to Google Play or download other apps without user consent;
  • Promote goods/services/mobile software through SMS.

Developers are responsible for ranking their applications according to Google Content Rating Guidelines. The rating system has 4 levels:

  • High maturity (for example, apps that refer to or focused on drug, alcohol and tobacco consumption);
  • Medium maturity (mobile apps that simulate gambling or feature gambling themes);
  • Low maturity (software that accesses user location data);
  • Everyone (no controversial content).

Although the store doesn’t remove unrated applications, they can be blocked in some countries.

2016 is a turning point for Android developers. After a long break, Google is expected to re-launch its store in China. As of now, Chinese users cannot download paid Android apps – and that’s the reason why they buy more iOS applications than Americans. The combined revenues of China’s largest Android publishers (including Baidu and Tencent) leave Apple sick with envy.

Google Play guidelines are less strict than those of the App Store. But it doesn’t mean the company won’t change its policy in the near future; remember the 2015 approval process? No need to worry, though. Provided you find an experienced vendor who follows Android trends and knows how to put an app on Google Play, your project is doomed to success.

We don’t peddle trends. We streamline business.