Google to Review Android Apps Before Allowing Them on Play

With the new review process, Google aims to improve the quality of its application catalog and catch policy violations earlier in the application lifecycle.

Google Android Apps

Google has added a new review process for vetting Android applications for policy violations before permitting them on its Google Play application store.

The company has apparently been using the process quietly for the past several months, but disclosed it only Tuesday in a blog post on its Android Developers Blog.

The new process involves a team of experts from Google reviewing applications for compliance with its laundry list of policies pertaining to content, network usage, repetitive or irrelevant posting, application promotion and various other items. The goal is to improve the overall quality of Google's app catalog and to catch policy violations earlier in the application lifecycle.

The application review process will not materially affect the ability of Android app publishers to get their products in the Google Play store quickly. "We value the rapid innovation and iteration that is unique to Google Play, and will continue to help developers get their products to market within a matter of hours after submission, rather than days or weeks," Eunice Kim, product manager for Google Play, said in the blog post.

"In fact, there has been no noticeable change for developers during the rollout," Kim noted.

A company executive told TechCrunch that Google uses an automated tool to do a quick preliminary screening of applications for obvious red flags like malware, sexually explicit content and copyright violations. Google's review team is presented with applications for review only after the automated system has completed the screening process and eliminated the obvious policy violators, the executive told TechCrunch.

As part of the new process, Google will give application publishers more information on why a particular application might be rejected or suspended from Google Play so they can address the issues more easily, Kim noted.

In addition to the app review process, Google has also added a new application content rating system for apps and games that are available through Google Play. The new age-based rating system is designed to give application developers an easier way to communicate locally relevant ratings for their content.

Google has provided a content rating questionnaire that application publishers can use to rate their content. The rating system allows Android application developers to rate their apps and games based on standards from the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) and participating bodies like the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).

The ratings will become available on all Google Play apps in all regions in the next several weeks. Android developers have until May to fill out the rating questionnaire for each of their existing applications on Google. Starting in May, applications that do not have a rating will be marked "unrated" and be potentially blocked from download in regions where a rating is necessary. All new applications and those that are being updated will require a content rating before being permitted into the Google application store.

For Google, the review process marks a significant change from its longstanding strategy of letting developers publish applications on Google Play with little oversight. That policy has contributed to an overwhelming number of applications being developed for Android over the past several years.

Statista, a Website that maintains data on numerous topics, estimates that a staggering 1.4 million applications have been made available through the Google Play Store between 2009 and Feb 2015. In the last year alone, Google said it paid more than $7 billion to Android developers.

In contrast, Apple has long had a far more formal review process for vetting applications designed for its app stores for the Mac and iOS. Apple's guidelines cover everything from user interface design, content and application functionality to trademark guidelines and license agreements. The company maintains a long checklist of items that developers can quickly use to ensure their applications do not get summarily rejected.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.