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Outdated apps to be cleared off from Google Play Store starting November this year

The virtual purge is likely to result in a loss of several apps in the next few months.

Google has announced that it will be preventing the discovery and installation of outdated apps on Play Store starting on November 1, 2022, according to a blog post by Google’s Director of Product Management Krish Vitaldevara on April 6. It will affect users who update their Android phones with the latest software or have purchased new Android phones.

“…existing apps that don’t target an API level within two years of the latest major Android release version will not be available for discovery or installation for new users with devices running Android OS versions higher than apps’ target API level.” — Google

Vitaldevara added that a majority of apps abide by the company’s standards. The company said that the developers have been notified well in advance in case their app is not compliant. It will also provide resources to developers to make the transition.

The adjustment is not expected to be too much of a disruption for developers as Google requires new apps and app updates to target an Android API level within one year of the latest major Android OS version release, TechCrunch revealed in its report. Moreover, Vitaldevara wrote in the post that current users of outdated apps will be able to “discover, re-install, and use the app on any device running any Android OS version that the app supports.”

The requirement is expected to hit apps that have been abandoned by their developers, and the ones which do not keep up with the latest Android API updates, TechCrunch reported. It may help secure the data privacy of users who may have outdated apps installed on their devices that pose security risks.

Steps taken by Google to clean up Play Store

Google kicked out dozens of Android apps from the platform after finding out that the apps included a line of code that was harvesting user data secretly, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The report revealed that some of these apps were Muslim prayer apps downloaded more than 10 million times. A popular highway speed trap detection app and a QR-code-reading app were also found to include the data-scraping code.

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The line of code was found to be gathering data such as location information, email and phone numbers, nearby devices, and passwords. It was also capable of scanning for WhatsApp downloads, the report added.

How has Apple carried out an app purge in the past?

Apple cleared out thousands of outdated, abandoned apps in 2016 that did not meet its guidelines or did not function as intended, TechCrunch explained. It reported that 47,300 apps were removed from the App Store, as per data from Sensor Tower, an app intelligence firm.

Google’s goal was similar to that of Apple’s at the time as outdated apps are a potential security risk. But, while there are issues with Android malware, these “malicious programs” are not always found in outdated apps, TechCrunch said.

“Instead, they often prompt the user to allow it to use the high-level permissions it requires, and the user agrees,” the report explained.

Will Play Store lose more apps due to its billing policy?

The company has been under pressure as regulators around the world scrutinise its policies for antitrust issues after Google Play’s billing payments policy went into effect this month around the world.

The company has mandated that developers with apps selling digital goods and services will be required to use Google Play’s own billing system. Non-compliant apps will be removed from the platform from June 1, 2022. Indian developers were given time till October 31st, 2022, to comply “due to unique circumstances with the payments landscape in the country”.

It must be noted that Google is taking steps to offer relaxation to app developers who can now provide alternative payment options to users making in-app purchases. It has launched a pilot that “will allow a small number of participating developers to offer an additional billing option next to Google Play’s billing system”, according to a blog post by the tech giant on March 23rd. Music streaming platform Spotify is the first to sign up for the pilot, it added.

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The announcement comes months after it offered the same option to developers in South Korea, in compliance with a local law aimed at opening up app stores run by Google and Apple.

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I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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