As a blogger focused on Android, I see a lot of spammy app names in the Play Store. Apps with extraneous descriptors trying to pop up in more searches, apps that include the name of other, more popular apps, or even (shudder) emoji in the names. Someone at Google is as tired of all that as I am, because there's a new set of guidelines for developers publishing apps in the Play Store.

The upcoming change will go into effect "in the second half of 2021," and there are some fairly strict instructions for what's encouraged and what's not. The big changes laid out in the new Android Developers post includes, but is not limited to:

  • App titles can be no longer than 30 characters
  • Unnecessary descriptors like "free," "fast," and "download now" are out
  • No unnecessary capitalization (unless it's part of a brand name), punctuation, emoji, or emoticons
  • No text or images indicating performance or ranking on the Play Store, like "#1 Racing Game"
  • No misleading elements in the app icon or screenshots

Google is also encouraging developers to use screenshots that accurately represent an app's features and interface. The post specifically calls out screenshots that are covered in buzzwords and lacking any actual information. I'm hoping this will mean a Store-wide reduction in the kinds of games that fill up screenshots and videos with concept and character art, not actual gameplay.

Hey, some of this stuff sounds familiar, doesn't it?

It looks like Google isn't outright banning the kind of bad behavior it describes. Instead, apps that don't meet its updated standards "may be ineligible for promotion and recommendation on major Google Play surfaces, like Apps and Games home." While that isn't the kind of hardline stance that would make every developer take notice, it's enough to make the bigger app publishers take care to ensure they're in Google's graces, so their apps don't disappear from the Play Store home page and user recommendations.

We might hear more about these updated Play Store guidelines at Google I/O next month.

Dates for policy changes

Google's developer support documentation has been updated, giving more specific dates for when the changes in the Play Store policies will go into effect. Specifically, the changes to app names, icons, and screenshots outlined above will start at the end of September:

We've already spotted some developers (including Google itself) change app names and icons to get in line with the new policy. For example, "Google Tasks: Any Task, Any Goal. Get Things Done " has been retitled simply "Google Tasks." We'll have to wait and see if Google holds true to its word and starts cleaning up the Play Store search results.