Earlier this week, news that Google was implementing an Apple-like app review process began to spread. According to a report from Android Police, the company was now screening and approving apps for Android TV before they were allowed into the Play Store. Of course, any sort of review process like this, at first glance, seems like a big strategy shift for the company, which famously – and sometimes dangerously – doesn’t pre-approve Android apps before they go live. Could this signal a change in direction for Google, with Android TV as the early testbed?
The answer, as you may have guessed, is “No.”
First of all, let’s point out that Android Police’s report (which was regurgitated by a number of Android blogs) was based on a section of the Android developer documentation which stated that Google’s team “reviews apps for usability” for Android TV:
Before distributing apps to the Play Store on Android TV devices, our team reviews apps for usability with a DPAD (apps) and Gamepad (games only) and other quality guidelines.
Those guidelines were actually posted before Google announced the Nexus Player in October, so they’ve been live for some time now. This is not new information – it was just not common knowledge.
Android Police’s report calmly clarified that it actually makes sense to review TV apps beforehand, and that does not necessarily mean that other platforms, like Android or Android Wear (wearables), would also soon see similar app review processes put into place. That didn’t stop others from wondering about the possibilities, however.
But after asking around, we understand that, indeed, Google has no current plans to review Android apps in other product categories prior to acceptance into the Play Store. In fact, it doesn’t even have a dedicated review team for the Android TV apps the way Apple has “App Store reviewers.” At Apple, there are dedicated personnel devoted to reviewing an app not just for functionality, but also compliance with a number of developer guidelines and other terms of service, like not allowing adult content, for example.
Meanwhile, at Google, checking these apps for proper functionality is just one of many tasks these Googlers handle.
The only reason Google is even reviewing TV apps in the first place is that these apps are quite different from other Android apps – there’s no touchscreen, and the apps need to adhere to some basic TV standards and Android TV design guidelines. They need to work with the DPAD (apps) and Gamepad (games), as stated above.
The staff is only making sure the apps work properly. They aren’t judging an app’s quality.
Explains a person familiar with the team’s thinking: “If it’s a fart app for TV, then it’s a fart app for TV.”