Google’s awful developer support removed two apps on the Play Store, but they’re working again

The Google Play Store is where almost every Android client gets their apps, and while it’s a simple and easy process for consumers, the developers don’t have it very well. Google has a habit of dropping the ball, removing apps for unexplained reasons that often seem to be automated. In today’s episode, two more Play Store banhammer apps have been hit for the wrong reasons — although following our initial coverage, both are now back in the Play Store, fortunately.

simple keyboard

The open source app Simple Keyboard is the latest high-profile app to fall victim to Google’s antics. Application and developer full account It was pulled from the Play Store on January 28, 2022, apparently without any reason given. The developer tells us that he did not receive any emails prior to termination and has no way of understanding what exactly he is supposed to have done wrong. However, three years ago the app had some update refusals based on the app icon that was very similar to the Google keyboard (it has since been changed).

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Simple Keyboard is an open source Android keyboard app based on the same open source AOSP Latin keyboard for Android that Gboard uses, but without all the bells and whistles that many people might not need, like emojis, GIFs, spelling and swipe typing. There are many other applications that rely on the same source code. The developer suspects that this might be the reason for deleting their app – for example, if it’s flagged as a duplicate of some other app – but that’s just a theory. The only communication the developer received from Google was an email saying that his account had been terminated, without providing an explanation or justification:

In our view, it appears unacceptable that Google terminates an account without notice of violations or a means to appeal the decision. We have asked the developer for more information – for example, if an email is lost in spam or in another account. But if Google is to blame and there is no communication, it will greatly exacerbate the situation, and give the developer no chance of knowing what he did wrong (even if he did) Any thing error) or what he can do to ease or resume the ban.

At the time of the app’s removal, it had been on the Play Store for eight years, with more than 1.2 million installs and 104 thousand active users, making it one of the most popular Google Play Store developers of all time. Fortunately, the open source app is also available on F-Droid, but the reach of the platform is much smaller than the Play Store.

Shortly after our initial coverage, Google reached out to the developer and returned the blocked account. Then, it took a few days for the app to become available again, as it had to go through the app review process again. For now, the app can be downloaded from the Play Store, which should have been possible all this time. The timing of the restore, right after our initial coverage, is a bit questionable, and while we don’t want to pat ourselves on the back, it would be a shame for wrongly banned developers to rely on media coverage to get their apps backed up on the Play Store in a timely fashion.

Livesnap

The LeafSnap plant-identifying and scheduling app was removed from the Play Store and the Apple App Store on September 3, 2021. Another party wrongly claimed that LeafSnap was infringing its copyright via a DMCA takedown memo, although soon What has become clear is that this third party has targeted the wrong app, working with LeafSnap to remove the error and confusion.

The LeafSnap developers told us that Apple was able to respond quickly and quickly bring the app back, but although the Play Store team received the same details as Apple in roughly the same time frame, the app has yet to be brought back. Five months later. Even a DMCA counter-notice from LeafSnap against the other party didn’t help speed up the process, as Google said it would need to be vetted by the legal department, which appears to have taken more time.

Now, we have to give it to Google that they have been at least responsive and quick to communicate with LeafSnap, with Play Store support representatives in constant contact with the app developers. In the past few days, LeafSnap has assured us that their app has been restarted, but – that’s the main thing – Google needs seven days to review any new submissions, and this apparently counts as one. This means that after months of waiting, the company still He was unable to publish his app to the Play Store again, all without any wrongdoing on his part – this is the experience of supporting the Google Play Store developers.

The developers behind the app tell us that it has had over 3 million downloads, a 4.9 star rating, and was a top 50 educational app in the US. (Recent Internet Archive backup claims slightly smaller numbers, but is still over 1 million and 4.8 stars.) Aside from lost revenue for that period, we also told that their Admob account for monetization was limited, showing obvious losses as a result of Google’s failure to reinstate the app in a timely manner.

Now, the app is finally available on the Play Store again.

These are just the newest and most popular removals from the past few months. There are likely to be many influential developers who do not speak out loud about their problems and many of them may not have the means to fight a long-running battle with Google due to a smaller community of supporters or the lack of a company with a legal department behind them.

To give you some highlights from the past two years:


Given that Google actually earns billions of dollars thanks to its 15-30% cut on all in-app and in-app purchases on the Play Store, the state of its developer support is nothing short of appalling, and the insults by independent developers have to endure in the face of the company’s unsustainable automated systems. acceptable. At the moment, small teams are mainly on their own when their apps are removed from the Play Store, with the help of real Google humans often out of reach, though the company recently set up a problem-solving helpline. Given how meticulously doing moderation is, it’s very unfortunate that Google doesn’t care more about the plight of its developers. Fortunately, if the Open App Markets Act is passed into law, Google will have to allow alternative app stores with the same deep level of integration as the Android Play Store, allowing others to compete – and perhaps treat developers better.

Update: 02/14/2022 04:20 EST BY MANUEL VONAU

Simple keyboard and LeafSnap are back

Our coverage has been updated, noting that both apps are finally restored and made available on the Play Store again.


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