Google has updated its Play Store developer policy with some tweaked language and a few new sections. As usual, Google is making changes to address worrying trends it is seeing in apps. Developers whose apps are not in line with the new policy risk getting booted from the store. Perhaps the most interesting alteration is a new section outlining unacceptable app promotion techniques.

Let's go through the changes point by point.

App Promotion (all new)
Apps published on Google Play may not directly or indirectly engage in or benefit from the following behavior:

  • Promotion via deceptive ads on websites, apps or other properties, including simulated system, service, or app notifications or alerts.
  • Promotion or install tactics which cause redirection to Google Play or the download of the app without informed user action.
  • Unsolicited promotion via SMS services.

It is your responsibility to ensure that no ad network or affiliate uses such methods to direct users to pages that make your app available for download.

It is no longer acceptable for apps to fool you into downloading an APK or going to a Play Store page. That old trick where an ad mimics a system dialog is specifically cited as not okay. This applies everywhere, not just in apps. Apps also can't use your SMS capability for promotion/sharing without getting explicit consent. These are the big changes, but there's more to see.

Sexually Explicit Material section
New: Apps that contain or promote pornography are prohibited; this includes sexually explicit or erotic content, icons, titles, or descriptions.
Old: We don't allow content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material.

A little more detail added here. Google is making clear it's not just the content of the app that counts, but the icon, description, and so on. There was probably not much confusion about this, but you never know.

Dangerous products section
New: Don't transmit or link to viruses, worms...
Old: Don't transmit viruses, worms...

Again, probably was pretty self-explanatory before, but stronger language always helps reduce misunderstandings. You know, like if you thought linking the user to your malware instead of downloading it directly was okay somehow. Okay, then.

System interference section
New: Apps and their ads must not modify or add browser settings or bookmarks, add homescreen shortcuts...
Old: Apps and their ads must not add homescreen shortcuts, browser bookmarks...

Those apps that sneakily add links to content partners to your bookmarks or home screen were already banned, but now Google has included the requirement that apps not modify existing data either.

Paid and Free Apps section

New: If your product description on Google Play refers to in-app features to which a specific or additional charge applies, your description must clearly notify users that payment is required to access those features.

This is another interesting one that likely has something to do with the increasing use of in-app purchases. Google is now mandating that if your app description includes features that are behind an IAP paywall, the text must disclose that up front. A better way might be for Google to list IAP content in the Play Store like Apple does, but it's better than nothing.

Ads context section

New: It must be clear to the user which app each ad is associated with or implemented in.

This was added as an addendum to language that points out you can't impersonate system elements or alerts. So this is just strengthening that prohibition. No pretending that ad doesn't come from your app.

Google has also clarified when this is taking effect, so developers take note.

Any new apps or app updates published after this notification will be immediately subject to the latest version of the Program Policy. If you find any existing apps in your catalog that don’t comply, we ask you to unpublish the app, or fix and republish the app within 15 calendar days of receiving this email. After this period, existing apps discovered to be in violation may be subject to warning or removal from Google Play


Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Keesmcqueen

    This is great, I hate the ads that tell me apps like WhatsApp aren't up-to-date.

    • Tomáš Petrík

      I don't know what kind of apps you install, but I have never seen such ad.

      • Tapewormlatvia

        My guess is those apps can be found scrolling past #100 in the Free Apps category.

        • Tomáš Petrík

          Someone actually browses any of those categories? :O

          • Tapewormlatvia

            Any of those categories? I sometimes browse Top Paid, and New Paid. Maybe something pops up that I've missed in all these web posts. But free apps...pffff. Nope.
            But on the other hand, there are a lot of great free apps/games, but you wouldn't find them (that easy) in those lists.

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/77537273@N03/ Herman

            Sometimes you're searching for a specific, less popular app :)

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    Some very needed changes to policies app developers need to abide by here.

    The most important one being a whole new section for apps that are promoted via pop-ups, APK downloads, redirects, and other deceptive practices that don't require user interaction. Now developers who are using these techniques will face potential Play Store bans.

    That's right. Fuck you, deceptive mobile ads!

    • crackinthewall

      More like fuck you Mobogenie! Mobogenie really say they're not aware that their ads does this because they also do this on Windows. Clean Master have also dabbled in deceptive ads but it seems like theythey have stopped doing that.

      • https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=iWizard Bikram Agarwal

        Has anyone noticed that KS Mobile (the makers of Clean Master) has FOUR developer accounts in the play store and all 4 are legit. And KS deals in security software. The irony....

        • Karlo

          The problem is that they put AD saying you have a virus or you may have virus.
          And then people who dont know anything about tech(my dad) thinks he has virus and downloads asap.
          Same goes to Mobogenie but its market is full of viruses( this is hosted on unsecured sites) and maleware and then people who download those kinds of apps goes around and says Android is crap,viruses,ect..

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        Yup, Mobogenie can go to hell.

    • Роман Конфиденциально

      You just stupid. That opens path to hell war. Tell me what is your app - I'll run some "bad ads". And you're banned. BOOM baby.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        Thank you for your valuable insult.

        • Роман Конфиденциально

          It's indeed valuable. Besides the insult, can you say smth on the topic? Am I wrong? I don't think so.

  • Andrew Vrba

    Good deal. The old toilet needed a good flushing!

  • MaD

    So what about all those "kamasutra" apps ? Will they just be banned ?

    • xHabeasCorpusx

      They will be fine as long as they are truly are Kamasutra apps (and don't use any real actors/images.etc). They don't "promote" sexually explicit images. They are informative usually using some representative human being to show the different poses. The part I always found annoying is the supreme courts ruling on what is considered to be pornography and what is considered to be art/informative material:

      "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description "hard-core pornography"; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, ..."

      In layman's terms: "I can't describe the difference between porn and not porn but when I know it when I see it."

      Google would probably apply the same logic. A user reports an app for obscene material. They apply Judge Potter's views on it, and decide what to do from there.

      • MaD

        OK thanks that's just because there are so much of them... And there are not all bad apps full of ads and nudity. My fear was to see Google becoming like Apple concerning things "below the belt"

    • Mike Reid

      Do they "promote pornography" ?? I note that "promote" is new, and IMO nebulous.

      Both of those 2 words can be hard to define.

      Perhaps this might affect ads also.

      • MaD

        That's the question what's the meaning of "promote"

  • Diacritical Update

    Correction to browser portion - they're actually *tightening* what is allowable. They've gone from saying ads can't modify bookmarks to essentially, Ads may not modify any part of your browser (bookmarks nor homescreen, nor search, etc..)

    • Tomáš Petrík

      I understood it correctly and I didn't actually notice that Ryan misunderstood it.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Pretty sure you're right. Pinged Ryan.

  • xHabeasCorpusx

    Does this MoboGenie is going to get a black eye? I want to give them another one.

  • https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=iWizard Bikram Agarwal

    Yea, if developer would list free and pro features separately in the app description - that would be great.

  • http://www.bordersweather.co.uk/ Andy J

    Next - they should clean up the music section. I popped on this morning around 1am with a simple goal, find some compliation albums of 90's music, and hopefully 90's dance tracks. Sounds easy enough.... nope by 5am I had found Ministry of Sound and a couple of other albums that were legit - and about a thousand that were basically DJ's remixing the original track - but the vocals were NOT the original singer/artist. Lots of the albums had reviews from people complaining that they were basically cover versions - but nowhere in the description was there any mention of the albums being cover versions. At the very least - it's about time Google mandate that cover versions be labelled appropriately. Here is an example of one such album - https://play.google.com/store/music/album/Ibiza_Dance_Party_90_s_Dance?id=Begxm7nlu2yhfypegtrrqol6mme

  • 2ma

    So if I have a free and a paid version of my app, and I have buttons in the free version which open the play store and show the paid version is that breaking the app promotion rules?

    • PhilNelwyn

      Only if it does this "without informed user action," as mentioned.
      If the user has to tap a button and it's clear to him what this button does, that's not deceptive.

      • 2ma

        The button says buy pro version, so I hope that's information enough.

  • Passerby

    Good thing Google clearly state that they will ask first through e-mail to unpublish the app, with time limit of 15 days.
    I hope we'll never see again such case when goodstanding app in playstore immediately taken down without notice.

  • Rasel

    "It is your responsibility to ensure that no ad network or affiliate uses
    such methods to direct users to pages that make your app available for
    Based on this comment i am worried about my apps.

    I have two links in my apps
    1.Rate this app-Redirect to the app page of google play.
    2.More apps-Redirect to all my apps of google play.

    Is these policy violation now?

    • Adnan khan

      i have also this issue. please help me. thanks

    • tlingitsoldier

      I think some people mentioned something similar earlier. I believe your two scenarios are acceptable as long as there is no automatic redirection, and the user has been explicitly informed of what they are being redirected to. So as long as you have a button the user has to press with a clear explanation of where you are sending them to and for what, you should be fine. It sounds like this is for apps like Mobogenie that force redirect you to the Play Store or download the apk without telling you anything.

      • James Jones

        Thanks for this explanation - so basically we should not be worried if we have in-app links to our other apps and the user has to tap on them.

  • Barry Ray

    What'd I really like to see is banning apps that request or reward 5 star ratings on the Play Store itself, and maybe a requirement that you use the app for 15 minutes before you can rate it (ie, no more "This app is incompatible with my 4 year old phone so I'm giving it one star" reviews).

    • primalxconvoy

      Except that the devs should have tested it to work on a 4 year old phone and/or blocked that phone from accessing said app, so I've no sympathy for the game or app that gets such reviews.

      • Evan Knofsky

        Do you honestly expect a developer to be able to test an app with every possible phone?

      • 2ma

        Yeah, did you submit any apps to the play store? I have apps where the listing shows it supports 5444 devices. How to block/test that many?

  • Sahil Jagtiani

    Can someone please clarify on a couple of things for me in relation to this new policy:

    1. Does this mean that if after 10 uses, my app gives a pop-up saying, "It looks like you're enjoying using this app, can you please do take out the time to rate our app on the Google Play.", my app will get removed from Google Play?

    2. I use Startapp in my apps which implements a Search Box feature which is basically a slide out search box within the app. It pays a decent CPI so I have implemented it in most of my apps. Google Play earlier required an EULU Agreement at the start of the app in order for it to be displayed within the app, which we have implemented. I can't see anything in the new policy that would ban my apps but really am not sure on this.

    Can someone please provide clarity on the above.


  • godutch

    No more porn!? Couldn't google just make a porn section which you would need to enable in the play store settings?

    • primalxconvoy

      It's called a "web browser" and "bookmarks". Look it up.

      • godutch

        Well it's not that I am interested but I dislike the idea of some content not being allowed, that sounds almost like Apple

  • Carey Keller
  • primalxconvoy

    Hurrah! I hope this means the end of candy crush redirects to Google Play whenever I go to a web sitein my phone. For a long time, I thought that "game" was made by some two bit Chinese knockoff company (even though it's actually made by some two bit British knockoff company).

  • michael

    Most of this is because of kabam. Kabam uses betaplayers to make paying players spend more money ingsme to win tournaments. Google and apple wur flooded with calls for refunds by thousands of ppl a few days ago. Apple handled it well by giving refunds. Google is not doing the same. Google has all the proof of kabams fraud yet tells users to go to kabam for refunds. After this ill definitely be getting an iPhone

  • http://www.geordienorman.com/ George Byers

    Great! Now Google Just needs to enforce these policys along with all the other ones.

  • Anton

    I have a doubt about Sexually Explicit Material section. I am the developer of an app that contains no sexual material at all but the name is FuckList because it is an agenda where you can keep track of the persons that you have had any relationship with. I don't know if they could ban it just because the name. Should I find another name??

    • James Jones

      If you want to be on the safe side, then definirely yes. It's sexualy explicit images and langiage (like sexy, etc.).

  • didibus

    Uh, the play store doesn't support sexually explicit content, that's a bummer. I feel like it should support these type of apps, but it should have it's own section and be age restricted. The reason is, those apps tend to be the easiest one to exploit by having users download them from illegitimate places, it just helps the spread of malware and viruses. If the play store had a proper section for them, at least Google would have a bit of a quality control on them.

  • Tong

    I would like to know that my Ads media like inmobi, leadbolt, airpush, are comply with new rule of google play store.

  • Michael Au

    I'd like your opinion please. I'm planning to put cross promotion for My Apps only on Google Play. For example, users click open the app and there is a section where they can click on previews of my other apps and it'll take them to Google Play store to download my other apps. Do you think it will violate Google Play Developer Content policy? Thank you and value your opinion.

  • koskhandeh

    It's really ridiculous that from one side vendors are tying your hands punishing you for rooting to get over ads (see Samsung Knox) and on the other side of the coin devs and companies and governments are turning your smartphone you paid 700 dollars for into their own playgrounds (half of the screen space on my browser is usually occupied by mobogenie and adchoices/adsense by Google). To be frank the android experience has never ever been THIS MUCH SHIT before... Some damn thing has to be done about this...