Epic Games opened a can of worms last month when it added its own payment solution to Fortnite in a violation of Google Play's guidelines for developers. The move has brought discussions on app store policies to the forefront, and now Google is taking the opportunity to highlight Android's open nature — and announce a big change for alternative app stores coming in Android 12.
As Google pointed out in a blog post published today, Android has always been about choices. Users are able to select different default apps from keyboards to phone dialers. And come next year, it looks like app stores might be added to that list. In fact, many popular Android devices already ship with multiple app stores installed: the Play Store and Samsung's Galaxy App store.
Android has always been compatible with 3rd-party app stores due to its inherent open-source nature. However, it requires a bit of tinkering and can compromise device security in some cases. Epic's own app store gives app developers a bigger split than the Play Store, but there's no way for consumers to easily find out about it since Epic doesn't ship phones with the store preloaded. But coming with the release of Android 12 in 2021, Google plans to give the user experience for installing third-party app stores an upgrade.
The end goal is allowing users to choose from different app stores while ensuring that their privacy and security are properly protected. While we don't know the specific improvements being planned just yet, Android 12 already sounds like an exciting update. And I bet this news won't hurt Google's chances of getting Epic's case against it dismissed.