Google to make third-party app store use easier with Android 12 – GamesIndustry.biz
Google has stated that beginning next year with Android 12, it will make it easier to use third-party app stores on Android — but it’s also doubling down on its existing requirement that it get a 30% cut of Play Store sales.
As reported by Android Central, Google confirmed a Bloomberg report from last week saying that by September 2021, all apps selling digital goods through the Play Store will be required to go through Google’s payment system.
Though this does not impact the vast majority of developers who are already using this system, a handful of companies including Netflix, Spotify, and Tinder have bypassed it by permitting direct payments in their apps.
Epic Games attempted a similar thing with Fortnite back in August on both iOS and Google Play, and was removed from both storefronts.
Additionally, Google has issued a statement promising that it is planning to make third-party app stores on its platform easier to use for customers in the future.
“We will be making changes in Android 12 (next year’s Android release) to make it even easier for people to use other app stores on their devices while being careful not to compromise the safety measures Android has in place,” the statement reads. “We are designing all this now and look forward to sharing more in the future!”
These moves appear to be directly in response to the ongoing conflict between Epic and the mobile platforms, which has escalated into a legal battle between Epic and Apple, but which Google has requested to stay out of in favor of handling its own case separately due to differences between its business model and Apple’s.
Google currently already allows third-party app stores on its platform, and Fortnite itself is accessible via Epic’s website in the browser on Android, while Apple does not permit third-party stores at all.
Google to enforce 30% cut on in-app purchases next year – CNBC
The move means developers have until Sept. 30, 2021 to use Google’s billing system, which takes a 30% fee from payments, instead of independent payment systems. The announcement brings Google Play’s policies in line with Apple’s App Store policies, which have come under fire from developers and regulators over several issues, including its own 30% cut.
Apple has argued against scrutiny of its App Store by pointing out that other app stores, like Google Play, also take a 30% fee from in-app purchases.
Google didn’t name apps that had been skirting the rule. It said 97% of developers selling digital goods already comply with its policies. Netflix and Spotify prompt users inside their Android apps to use a credit card to pay them directly.
“We want to be sure our policies are clear and up to date so they can be applied consistently and fairly to all developers, and so we have clarified the language in our Payments Policy to be more explicit that all developers selling digital goods in their apps are required to use Google Play’s billing system,” Google said in the announcement, signed by Sameer Samat, a VP of product management.
Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, updated its Android software in August to allow gamers to directly pay Epic for in-app purchases of digital goods like colorful outfits, which circumvented Google Play billing.
Google responded by removing Fortnite from the Play Store. “While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies,” Google said at the time. Epic Games sued Google.
Apple also removed Fortnite from its App Store and is embroiled in its own legal battle with Epic Games.
Google’s Play Store doesn’t attract as much attention as Apple’s App Store
Google has received significantly less attention than Apple over its 30% cut, even though its policies are similar to Apple’s.
One core complaint from Apple developers is that Apple takes 30% from digital purchases made within the app, which can hamper services like Spotify, which have significant costs associated with their services like rights to music.
Android allows users to install apps without using the Play Store, including apps that distribute other apps, such as Samsung’s Galaxy App Store, the company pointed out in its Monday blog post. But, the Google Play Store is the way most users download applications on an Android phone.
Google hasn’t taken as much heat on its cut of in-app purchases, however.
And, when Apple CEO Tim Cook testified in front of the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust this summer, he answered specific questions about which apps Apple allows on its platform and how it uses its power to hamper smaller developers.
When Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified at the same hearing, he faced questions about Google’s role in advertising, search, and data collection, instead of how much Google charges app-makers to use the Google Play store.
Google said next year’s Android release will “make it even easier for people to use other app stores” without compromising user security.
Roku launches Streambar to bring a smarter soundbar to Canada – MobileSyrup
Roku is looking to bring more value to soundbars with a new product called the Streambar. It’s a two-in-one 4K streaming device that’s aimed at improving the experience of lower-end TVs.
The company says that over the years, TV speakers have gotten thinner and that as a result, the speakers within them have become worse. In an effort to help solve this problem affordably, the company is releasing a $189 smart soundbar.
Packed inside this remarkably small soundbar are four 1.9-inch drivers that support basic Dolby Audio, but nothing fancy like Atmos. Still, for just under $200, that’s expected. To help compensate for this limitation, Roku says it’s using software to help increase the sound of the speaker while adding clarity to voices in shows and depth to music playback.
Beyond that, Roku says the Streambar also features a night mode for quiet listening and that it can automatically lower the volume of loud commercials.
Something that might make this a lot more interesting to people is that the Streambar supports Apple’s AirPlay 2 standard, HomeKit, Spotify Connect and Bluetooth. This means that regardless of how you want to connect to the Streambar, you’ll have several popular streaming options. That said, AirPlay and Homekit are coming as updates later this year.
On the video side of things, the soundbar can stream 4K HDR10 content. While this isn’t the top of the line version of HDR, I think it makes sense considering the TV models that this device targets.
It’s clear more expensive TVs that support Dolby Vision and HDR10+ are not the intended market for this $189 soundbar. It makes more sense to add this speaker to cheaper 4K sets from brands like Insignia, Hisense and RCA. Since these ultra-cheap TVs often don’t come with smart features or good speakers, the Roku Streambar is the perfect upgrade.
The Streambar can connect to a TV with an optical audio cable as well as with HDMI, but you can’t use it as a streaming device if you use the audio-only cable. Other notable features include a USB port that can play media from a USB stick and mounting holes so it can be wall-mounted.
This isn’t the first smart soundbar to make it to Canada. Last year, JBL brought the Link Bar to Canada, which is very similar to Roku’s Streambar and acts as a Google Assistant-enabled smart speaker that runs Android TV instead of RokuOS. However, this device was aimed at the mid-range soundbar market.
This tiny soundbar looks super appealing and should come out near the end of October, according to Roku. MobileSyrup will be going hands-on with the Streambar later this fall as well.
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