From mid-March, the app approval process at the Play Store has been considerably tightened up by Google. Gone are the days when newly submitted applications were only screened by a software and showcased at the store. In a bid to improve the quality of the Android app catalog and to cut down on infringements of copyrights, Google has announced that each app would now be reviewed manually after submission. It has not exactly been surprising that many mobile app companies have reported cases of app rejections at the Play Store, from the start of April (till then, app rejection was something associated almost exclusively with the Apple App Store). Anyhow, the fact of the matter is – getting Android applications approved at the store is no longer as easy as it was earlier, and in today’s AppBoard Tuesday (ABT), we share a few tips to avoid rejection risks there:
- Fill up the app rating questionnaire – This is something Google has started from this month, as a replacement of the generic Google Play rating scale that used to exist earlier. Non-completion of the questionnaire increases the chances of apps being labeled ‘Unrated’ at the store, and rejection, more often than not, follows. Android app developers need to log in to their Google Play Developer Console, select their applications (new and existing), and fill up the questionnaire for each of them. The content rating questionnaire has to be completed at the time of releasing app upgrades too.
- Do not pose as someone else – Google terms this ‘Impersonation’ – something that mobile app companies serving multiple clients have to be very wary of. At the time of submitting apps at the Play Store, it must not, in any way seem, that a developer/company is trying to pose as someone else/some other organization. False authorization claims are also sureshot ways for your app being ousted from the Play Store. Apps must not be created with the sole intention of diverting people off to specific websites, and all accompanying material (right from the text description and title, to icons and screenshots) should provide accurate information.
- Be careful about app’s network usage – Taking a leaf out of Apple’s book, Android has also set standards regarding the network and bandwidth requirements of new apps. In case the app you have submitted has any sort of unfavorable effect on the network of devices, or causes the service charges to escalate, it is likely to get rejected forthwith. Experts from the field of Android app development advise new developers to get familiar with the service terms and conditions of the authorized carriers first – and then create their apps accordingly.
- Violence and obscenity – It is fairly clear that the new local content rating system for Android apps has been put in place primarily for parents looking to download suitable mobile apps for their kids from the Play Store. In general too, a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy towards all forms of pornography and/or titillating content in applications has been announced. Developers have to ensure that their apps do not, in any manner, hurt the sentiments of any particular race, gender, or ethnic group (e.g., the villain of a mobile game being of a certain skin color). There should not be any scope for a person to use an app to bully fellow-users either. If any form of hate speech is found in a freshly submitted app, it will never be approved by the human editorial team.
- Using the payment system of Google Play is mandatory – This is for Android developers who wish to submit freemium apps (i.e., free-to-download applications with digital content that can be purchased by the users from within the app). It is compulsory to use the in-app billing service of the Google Play Store for including in-app purchase features in an app. What’s more, developers must fully clarify all the charges that are applicable on the in-app purchases. Any form of misleading information can get your app rejected. The in-app purchases should not involve transaction of physical items, or any type of purchase OUTSIDE the app.
- Showing ads in Android apps – Advertising is a valid mobile app monetization strategy (and certainly a more popular one than going for the paid downloads option). However, mobile app developers have to be more careful than before in this regard as well. Ads that either simulate the layout of the app itself, or affects the performance of other applications (or the device the app is installed on) are strictly prohibited, as are the advertisements that seek personal information from users, so that the latter can get full access of the app. For in-app advertising as well as mobile analytics tracking, the Android advertising identifier ID (along with new APIs) was introduced in v.4.0 of Google Play services. Interstitial ads, if any, should be displayed inside the app only.
- Say ‘no’ to spamming – Along with duplication. Do not submit an app that has the same name as other application(s) already present in the Play Store. Create unique, user-friendly, informative descriptions for each app – instead of simply copying and pasting the descriptions of your previous applications and/or spamming the content with excessive keywords. The title, metadata and description of a newly submitted Android application should not seem to be trying to influence its a) positioning and b) rating in any way. Publication of fake reviews – unfortunately a widely prevalent practice to date (have you seen the scores of app review exchange communities on FB and Google Plus?) – has become an absolute ‘no-no’ as well. Everything about your app has to be genuine….you manipulate, your app perishes!
- Stay away from copyright infringements – Protecting the intellectual property rights of developers and coming down hard on copyright violations were the key reasons for revamping the app review guidelines at Google Play. Android app developers have been strictly cautioned against misusing/violating the patents, trademarks, copyrights, or any other proprietary material of other app-makers. In addition, every developer now has the right to file a DMCA request, if and when doing so is deemed necessary.
- Apps should not share confidential information – Unauthorized sharing of any form of personal user information – credit card details, location data, contact lists, license numbers, and the like – is prohibited by the Google Play terms of service. Any app that accesses and shares such information (for commercial purposes) without users’ knowledge and consent is likely to be banned immediately. In general, any information that is not available publicly should not be accessible to third-parties via mobile apps. With mobile payments gaining in popularity, the strong stance of Google against random information-sharing makes a lot of sense.
- Avoid shady marketing tactics – Another fairly common ground for Android app rejections has been the presence of misleading/deceptive information on websites – from where it is possible to directly download the app under question. Many freelance developers often resort to underhand tactics to promote their apps (getting the app downloaded on devices without asking for the user’s permission, for instance). These strategies have to be stopped as well. Apart from such unsolicited app installations, mobile app marketing campaigns through bulk SMSes are not looked upon kindly either by the Google authorities.
- Keep things legal – Android app development experts would be well-advised to stay away from creating betting, lottery or mobile casino apps – which involve exchange of actual currency. Also, an app should not promote or directly sell prescription drugs. During the manual app review procedure, if any spyware, malware, phishing software, or links to common viruses are detected, the application will have no chances of being approved. Android allegedly has more cases of malware attacks, and Google is clearly trying to tackle this problem.
- Apps must not have system-level interference – An Android app is not permitted to have any impact on the devices it is downloaded and installed on. For example, an application should not affect the performance of other apps and/or widgets in the users’ handsets. It should not change the default settings of the phone browser. App developers have been cautioned against making any apps that encourage the deletion/installation of other third-party applications. As already stated above, all advertisements also have to be at the app-level, and not at the system-level.
In case a mobile app agency flouts the Content Policy and/or the Developer Distribution Agreement of Google Play multiple times, its official developer account can be terminated. Whenever an app is rejected or removed from the store, the concerned developer is informed via email. The new app review system at Google Play Store would, hopefully, raise the quality of apps showcased there – and that’s good news for any app-lover.
So, that’s more or less that in this week’s edition of AppBoard Tuesday. If you are into making Android applications and have faced app rejections recently – do share with us the cause for that. If you are aware of any other probable causes for an app getting rejected at the Play Store, let us know about them too. We love to learn!
ABT will be back next Tuesday with a new topic related to mobile apps under the spotlight. (and yes, you can suggest topics as well). Till the next time, you know you have to love thy apps!
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