Every other month, a legitimate, useful app gets kicked off the Play Store while sleazy applications with bad intentions thrive. Google's removal algorithms often cite arbitrary reasons as in the recent case of Slide for Reddit. The third-party client was removed for including a screenshot of an article in its listing that contained the word "ISIS" (which had been there for years). The latest app to be hit by Google's automated patrol is YouMail, a visual voicemail service that offers spam call protection. It has been booted from the Play Store because Google supposedly couldn't find evidence it's actually blocking spam.
YouMail has been installed over a million times before its removal and has been featured by renowned outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, CBS, and others. According to a Play Store email to the developers, all of these outlets must've spread misinformation, as Google "couldn't find evidence that the app offers the declared core functionality" — spam protection and caller ID information.
The underlying problem is Google's policy that restricts third-party access to call logs and SMS. Developers have to apply and await review until they can use these permissions. It looks like YouMail originally got in on the exemption, but apparently, an automated re-check from Google bots went haywire. It's certainly a good idea to restrict access to these permissions to preserve the privacy of smartphone owners, but outright removing a previously greenlit app from the Play Store without prior notice is a harsh, developer-unfriendly move. Google could've reached out and asked for comment prior to outright banning the service.
@GooglePlay pulled our @Android app for now because during their review process (and appeals) they can't verify we detect/block phone spam (like robocalls). They probably can't verify Spotify streams music either. Time for our users to tell them: #YouMailBlocksMyRobocalls! pic.twitter.com/hUgQbdc3i2
— YouMail (@youmail) February 15, 2020
Let's hope the issue will be resolved quickly and the app will be back on the Play Store soon. Google's algorithms might keep the distribution platform relatively clear of malware, but the repeated, poorly communicated removals of legitimate products are a huge problem the company finally needs to tackle. In the meantime, you can download YouMail over at APK Mirror.
YouMail is back on the Play Store. While the app's official Twitter account didn't clarify what the solution was, at least it can be downloaded again.
After 2 weeks of being stuck in the appeal process, we're excited to announce that...
Thank you to all our users for their patience. https://t.co/TJ6nY8eQ9J
— YouMail (@youmail) February 27, 2020