When you're about to take a two-week vacation to the Caribbean, you're probably not going to cancel your newspaper subscription and then start a new one as soon as you get back. No, you're just going to call up and have them suspend deliveries for a couple of weeks. Why should your digital subscriptions be any different? A recent update to the Play Store suggests Google is asking the same question.

Teardown

Disclaimer: Teardowns are based on evidence found inside of apks (Android's application package) and are necessarily speculative and usually based on incomplete information. It's possible that the guesses made here are wrong or inaccurate. Even when predictions are correct, there is always a chance that products could change or may be canceled. Much like rumors, nothing is certain until it's officially announced and released.

The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk. All screenshots and images are real unless otherwise stated, and images are only altered to remove personal information.

Putting subscriptions on hold

New text in the APK shows signs that an option will be added to allow people to temporarily suspend their subscriptions. Judging from the phrasing, it looks like users will be offered an option to pause subscriptions as an alternative to cancelling them. In fact, that option may only appear after users request to cancel. According to the description, subscriptions can resumed at any time and payment history will remain intact.

<string name="subscription_ask_to_pause_title">Would you rather pause your subscription?</string>
<string name="subscription_ask_to_pause_description_1">Pause for seasonal usage or to save money</string>
<string name="subscription_ask_to_pause_description_2">Resume anytime</string>
<string name="subscription_ask_to_pause_description_3">Keep your payment history</string>
<string name="subscription_ask_to_pause_primary_button_label">Pause</string>
<string name="subscription_ask_to_pause_secondary_button_label">No thanks</string>
New layouts:
/layout/subscription_ask_to_pause_activity.xml
/layout/subscription_ask_to_pause_description_row.xml

By now, you might have spotted the flaw in that newspaper analogy. Digital subscriptions generally don't require time on a phone call to restore service, so why not just cancel and resubscribe like we currently would? One possible explanation is that this might be a way to maintain grandfathered subscription pricing like the original $7.99 deal for Google Play Music, which now runs $9.99 per month.

There are a few details left unanswered by these strings, like if there's a maximum time limit or if you can pause in the middle of a long subscription and pick back up where you left off. But those pale in comparison to the biggest question of all: What types of subscriptions can be suspended?

The text is annoyingly non-specific. Is this just for magazines? Can it apply to something like the Google Play Music / YouTube Premium subscription? What about in-app subscriptions for features or content, and if so, could developers choose whether or not to allow that? There could be very real business implications or costs associated with pausing subscriptions, and possibly even avenues for abuse if it's not handled properly. We'll need a few more details to determine if this is actually a good thing or a bad thing.

Notification channels (v12.1)

It's a smaller detail, but worth quickly mentioning. If you don't like seeing notifications for certain types of download activity from the Play Store, you'll be able to selectively filter it. There are new notification channels for pending, active, and finished downloads. Perhaps you will want to prevent the little animated icon from showing up for active and pending downloads, and just see when some have been finished.

<string name="notification_channel_active_downloads">Active downloads</string>
<string name="notification_channel_finished_downloads">Finished downloads</string>
<string name="notification_channel_pending_downloads">Pending downloads</string>

The notification channels don't appear to be live yet, but it's possible these will be enabled remotely.

Wi-Fi required?

Most of us have probably been prompted if we want to download certain things only over Wi-Fi, but I don't recall ever being told it would be a requirement for a download. However, that might be in the cards for some apps. A new line explains that a download may require Wi-Fi due to its size.

<string name="download_size_requires_wifi_title">Download size requires Wi-Fi.</string>

This probably only applies to very large games that might have as much as 4 GB in additional files on top of the base APK. These types of downloads could quickly burn through a month of data in an afternoon, so it makes sense to have this feature.

Download

The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.