Google Play has announced new changes this week that aim to enhance app quality and user safety. However, these modifications might not be as beneficial as they seem, especially for independent developers. In fact, they are probably a huge step back.
One of the key changes is the introduction of mandatory app testing for all new personal developer accounts. Google Play argues that apps using their testing tools generally perform better, with three times the amount of app installs and user engagement. Accordingly, new developers must now test their apps with at least 20 people for a minimum of two weeks before accessing the production environment.
While this requirement is intended to improve app quality and user experience, it poses significant challenges for independent developers. Small-scale developers, often with limited resources, might find it difficult to gather a sizable group for testing, especially within the specified timeframe. This could delay app launches, impeding the ability of these developers to compete in the market. Not to mention, many people upload apps they made to add to a portfolio for their resume. All this is likely to do is create new middleman services that you pay to test your app on 20 unique devices.
It also makes no sense that this requirement is only going to be put on individual accounts - business accounts won't have to meet them. It's almost like Google just doesn't care about indie devs.
Google Play is also increasing its investment in app review processes. This is a response to the growing sophistication of mobile apps and the corresponding rise in abuse methodologies. The review teams will now spend more time assessing new apps, especially those designed for children or requesting certain device permissions.
This increased scrutiny, while crucial for maintaining a safe and trusted user experience, could lead to longer review times. For independent developers, time is of the essence. Delays in app review and approval can be detrimental, hindering their ability to quickly adapt to market trends and user needs. It also hurts businesses too – especially when you have a crash that you have reproduced and fixed, and you go to upload an update and it takes days to get it approved. It's amazing that Google isn't able to replicate any of the workflow Apple has integrated into their review process. It's like they just want to automate as much as possible and have no human oversight. Developers have been complaining about this for years, but they haven't really done anything major to address it at all.
While Google Play's new policies aim to enhance overall app quality and safety, they inadvertently (or maybe it is on purpose?) place a heavier burden on independent developers. The mandatory testing requirement and prolonged app review process could introduce significant hurdles for these developers, potentially stifling innovation and limiting the diversity of apps available on Google Play. In the rapidly evolving app market, it's crucial to find a balance that promotes quality and safety without disadvantaging the creative and dynamic independent developer community.