A recap of Google’s Android Dev Summit 2021

App Store Optimization (ASO)

November 23, 2021

Google hosted the 2021 edition of its Android Dev Summit on the 27th and 28th of October. This year’s theme was Excellent Apps, across devices and it was, once again, held online. With over 30 workshops, they talked about adapting apps for Android 12 and large screens, everything new coming to the Play Store and so much more!

We dived in and selected all the ASO news you need to know!

The data safety section is here!

We introduced Google’s new safety section in a previous article, it’s finally here! To recap, the safety section will appear on every app’s listing page and share information such as how the data collected is used, if it’s encrypted, what the privacy policy is like, and if the app complies with Google’s family policies.

It will be mandatory for all developers, if you don’t have an approved safety section apps and updates may be denied, starting in April 2022.

source: Google

You can already start filling the safety section in the Play Console and submit it for approval. Once it’s been reviewed, it will show up on your app’s listing page at the beginning of 2022. 

Make sure you consider the reviewing delay when planning to declare your safety section. Developers who did not submit the necessary information will have an empty section on their app’s listing page in the meantime.

Update your emojis

The first policy change announced by Google is about “giving users an inclusive and consistent experience” with emojis. Starting February 2, 2022, apps running on Android 12 and above will have to comply with Unicode’s most recent emoji version. Developers will have to do so in a four-month window after the release of the new emojis. 

There are several options to ensure your app’s compliance with this new rule:

  • If you’re currently using AppCombat, you just need to enable emoji
  • You can also use an existing EmojiCompat library for custom views that use StaticLayout
  • Or you can update the handling and font/images for emoji with every version of Unicode that comes out

To see if your app is up to date with the latest emojis, use this reference table:

source: Google

New hostile downloader section for the Mobile Unwanted Software Policy

Google’s Mobile Unwanted Software Policy (MUwS) will have a new section starting February 2, 2022. The hostile downloader section will prohibit “code that isn’t in itself unwanted software, but downloads other mobile unwanted software”.

A code may be considered a hostile downloader if at least 5% of apps downloaded by it are MUwS (with a minimum of 500 total apps downloaded), if it’s believed to spread MUwS, has downloaded MUwS, or if it contains code that could download and install apps.

However, browsers and file-sharing apps aren’t considered hostile downloaders. They just have to be careful to avoid driving downloads without user interaction and ensure all software downloads are initiated by consenting users.

Tighter rules for kids apps

Apps aimed at children are already subject to specific requirements, but two new rules will be added soon.

Starting April 1st, 2022, kids apps that have social features will need to feature in-app reminders for safely engaging with others online. Quick reminder, the Play Store doesn’t allow apps that let kids chat with strangers.

The other new rule is that kid users will now need adult approval before children can share personal information.

Added clarifications to Play Store policies

Clarifications and examples have been added to three Play Store policies. These aren’t new policies, only added details on existing ones. Enforcement standards and practices will not change as a result of these updates but the changes are already effective.

The subscriptions policy will now more explicitly prohibit apps “that subject users to deceptive or manipulative purchase experiences (including in-app purchases or subscriptions)”.

source: Google

In the Families Ads and Monetization policy, Google clarifies that it is required that all monetization and advertising happening inside apps that target children must comply with the policy.

The heading for the Data safety section is changing in order to define the references to User Data. Google is also adding a link to a help center article.

New and existing apps will receive a grace period of at least 30 days from October 27 to comply with the updated policies.

Upcoming changes to the Play Store

Starting this month, reviews and ratings on the Play Store will be specific to the user’s country. In 2022, they will also be specific to a user’s device (tablet users will only see tablet ratings and reviews from their own country for example).

In addition to that, Google is allowing in-app messaging to deal with subscription payment issues. Developers can now contact users who encounter these problems directly in the app and fix the issue without them needing to leave the app and go back to the Play Store.

Several other policies will be updated on December 1st:

Get certified as an app store marketer!

Last but not least, you can now get certified in Google Play Store Listing best practices! Google announced a new certification called the “Google Play Store Listing Certificate”.

Making your app’s listing page successful is no small feat and thanks to that certification you can now test your knowledge in digital mobile marketing best practices. Just like other Google certifications, this one is completely free of charge. 

The training covers:

  • The role of the mobile marketers when creating a store listing
  • Avoiding the most common Play Store policy violations
  • Telling a story with your store listing creative assets
  • Tools to help you grow your app
  • How to promote your app’s listing page to a global audience

The exam lasts 5 hours and you’ll be evaluated on specific topics related to the Google Play Store. If you succeed, the certificate is valid for 12 months and comes with a digital badge, a digital certificate, and a link to opt-in to the Google Developer Alumni Directory.

Are you going to get certified as a Play Store app marketer? Did you note any additional info from the Android Dev Summit? Tell us in the comments!

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