The Google Play Store is the most important app distribution platform on Android, without a doubt. Because of its “official” nature, and the fact that the Play Store is preloaded onto a substantially vast majority of Android devices, the Play Store acts as the central point connecting the user to the app and its developer. Google in this position bears a lot of responsibility to both sides — to protect users from malicious apps, while also letting developers leverage the Store’s reach in a hassle-free manner, relatively speaking. The hassle is likely to increase by a small margin, as Google has begun informing developers that the Google Play Store approval for new apps will now take more time because of changes in the review process.
Choice of Games LLC, known for their interactive text-based games, published a blog post informing other developers about a recent change in the review process for new apps. In the process of publishing a new app, the Google Play Store now displays a new banner:
The “Learn More” hyperlink goes to this Support page, which attempts to clarify that “for certain developer accounts“, Google will take more time to “thoroughly” review apps in order to better protect users. The developers can expect to see a notification on the app Dashboard about how long this would take. The page further advises that developers should include a buffer period of at least three days between submitting the app and expecting it go live on the Google Play Store.
Choice of Games LLC raises a few issues with this banner and the change. The biggest in our opinion is the fact that the warning appears after you submit your app to go live, which is a little too late to inform a developer that their schedule could be affected by the review process. There is also no straightforward way to simply schedule when a new app goes live (though there is a workaround which we will talk about in a bit). The Support page also states that the longer review timeline will be “for certain developer accounts“, a phrase that is very opaque about the criteria that is chosen for this special treatment. There is also no way to expedite the review process, so your existing reputation in the Play Store may be of no use in aiding your new app get published immediately. Updates to existing apps will go through the review process quicker, but new apps start with an empty track record, so these will take some time.
In a bit of a pleasant surprise that indicates a step in the right direction, the blog post by Choice of Games LLC elicited a response from Mr. Jacob Lehrbaum, Director of Android Developer Relations. Mr. Lehrbaum mentions that reviews for established developers are generally quite fast, so the situation with Choice of Games LLC needs to be investigated to see if the review could have been quicker. He also mentions that while it would be ideal for developers to have very quick app reviews, Google also needs to balance it out with the ability to keep users safe. Mr. Lehrbaum also shared how developers can schedule the release of a new app on the Google Play Store, a workaround which should help out developers a lot:
- Create a release in the Closed Alpha track.
- Click “Start rollout to alpha” after saving and reviewing the release.
- Wait for the Alpha release to be approved. This step cannot be timed, but the app is also not available publicly when in closed alpha.
- When the alpha is live, click and toggle Store Presence > Store Listing > Timed Publishing
- Go back to App Releases and create a Production release by clicking through Save, Review and Start rollout to production.
- Wait for the Production release to be approved.
- When the release is approved, click on Go Live.
By publishing an app to a closed testing track first, and then using Timed Publishing for an app update, developers can effectively time the release of a new app. This isn’t a very straightforward method, but it works out. Hopefully, developers are now able to take into account the new review periods for new apps and ensure that they submit their apps well in advance to the Google Play Store.
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