Google flirts with Apple-style app approval process
Depending on whom you ask, the degree of control Apple exerts over its app selection is either a blessing or a curse. Apple’s policies help keep its iOS App Store one of the high points of smartphone software in general, full of plenty of really polished titles. But there’s a dark side to Apple’s oversight, and devs don’t find themselves free to to release any type of program they choose: things like tethering apps and emulators have long been in Apple’s crosshairs. With Android, on the other hand, Google’s been far more lenient with the software it lets devs distribute through the Play Store, and while we’ve seen it take issue with the way certain apps were presented, or scan apps for malware, it rarely has anything to say about legitimate software functionality. But now a new Google practice is starting to raise a few eyebrows, as the company starts putting certain Android apps under the magnifying glass before approving them for Play Store distribution.
The issue at hand concerns Android TV, the platform used by the new Nexus Player. Now, as a home entertainment device, this one’s outside our mobile-focused coverage, but this time we’re making an exception as we’re interested with what fallout this practice might have for Android on phones, tablets, and wearables.
Google’s dev rules for Android TV software explain that Google gets to review apps, giving them the thumbs-up for proper operation with a remote D-pad or a gamepad, as well as meeting not-further-defined “other quality guidelines” before they can be sold in the Play Store.
That’s a big deal, and while there’s not yet any direct indication that we could see this level of oversight extend to mobile Android devices, it’s not so crazy to wonder if that could one day become a possibility. Might Google codify and enforce something like Material Design UI standards? Could it dictate a specific way in-app menus should look and feel? Again, there’s no proof that this is where Google’s headed, but with it opening the door for app vetting like this, it’s something we find ourselves forced to consider.