Apple for years has provided software developers with the ability to use promo codes to promote their paid iOS or Mac applications.
Developers can basically use the codes to provide a potential customer or a reviewer with a free copy of their software. The codes are usually redeemable through any outlet where the app is available.
Until now, Google, whose Android OS is more widely used than any other mobile platform, has traditionally not provided developers with the same ability to market their products.
However, this week Android Police reported on a new option available on the Google Play Developer Console that makes promo codes available to developers of Android applications. The codes can be used to promote new paid apps as well as in-app purchases.
Google did not respond immediately to a request for comment. But its Developer Console Help page and a page set up for in-app promotions offered details on the promo codes and how developers could take advantage of them.
"Promo codes let you give content or features away to a limited number of users free of charge," Google said in its page detailing the in-app promotion offer. "You can use promo codes in many ways to creatively engage with users."
Developers can create up to 500 promo codes per quarter for paid apps and in-app promotions, compared to the 100 offered by Apple. Developers can choose how they want to use the codes. For instance, they could use all of the codes for a new app promotion, or they could split the codes so half go toward promoting an app while the rest go to marketing an in-app product.
The promo codes are available on a use-it or lose-it basis. Developers cannot accumulate any codes that remain unredeemed at the end of a quarter and carry them over into the next quarter. Developers who want to use the promo codes for in-app products need to first integrate separate support for that in their applications.
By supporting promo codes for Android apps, Google is finally responding to something that developers have been seeking. Questions posted by Android developers on chat boards and elsewhere show that people have been looking for ways to promote their apps and in-app products through promotional offers for several years.
Comments posted on these boards suggest that some developers have been using workarounds of their own to give potential customers, reviewers and others a way to get their apps for free. How-to articles, like this one, offering advice on generating promo codes and ways to refund beta testers for Android applications they might have downloaded for testing purposes, have been circulating for years.