Over the years, Google’s Android and Google Play teams have not exactly gained the best reputation among Android developers. The company is now seeking to reshape this image with new developer relations policies going forward, including increased human interaction in the decision making process.
In a new post on the Android Developers Blog, Google acknowledges how some of their recent actions and decisions have strained their developer relations. In particular, they noted a few areas they will improve on over last year’s sudden change to Android’s Call and SMS permissions, which forced some developers to massively overhaul their apps to comply with the new requirements.
Some developers who needed to seek an exemption for their app, Tasker being a good example of this scenario, found difficulties in both filling out the declaration form and appealing a negative decision. Google has promised to make future forms clearer for developers to understand, and to also include the necessary appeal information in “all enforcement emails.”
Towards the end of the post, Google attempts to reassure the community on a point that has been hotly contended for the last few years. The r/AndroidDev subreddit is riddled with examples of developers whose Google Play Developer accounts have reportedly been wrongly suspended, sometimes just for supposedly being “associated” with another infringing account.
To counter this, Google shared the statistic that over 99% of their suspensions are valid, and that appealing such a decision is always allowed. They also assure developers that every case is handled by a team member, not through automation. That being the case, the Google Play team is going to communicate the reasoning behind their decisions more clearly and will be hiring additional members, both of which should make for better relations with Android developers.
Overall, the changes being announced seem aimed at giving the Android and Google Play teams a human face, to contrast what some developers may see as an automated process.
One important aspect of the Call and SMS permissions fiasco that Google did not mention in the blog post was their timing for the change. By announcing the policy change in October, combined with a roughly three-month deadline to fix any non-compliant apps or be removed from the Play Store, some developers were forced to resolve the issues during the already busy holiday season.
I hope this will also be a consideration going forward, as it would go a long way to humanizing the Android and Google Play teams to developers.