Answering your FAQs about Google Play billing

Copy paste programmers

Posted by Mrinalini Loew, Group Product Manager

We are committed to providing powerful tools and services to help developers build and grow their businesses while ensuring a safe, secure and seamless experience for users. Today we are addressing some of the most common themes we hear in feedback from developers. Below are a few frequently asked developer questions that we thought would also be helpful to address.

Q: Can I distribute my app via other Android app stores or through my website?

A: Yes, you can distribute your app however you like! As an open ecosystem, most Android devices come preinstalled with more than one store – and users can install others. Android provides developers the freedom and flexibility to distribute apps through other Android app stores, directly via websites, or device preloads, all without using Google Play’s billing system.

Q: What apps need to use Google Play’s billing system?

A: All apps distributed on Google Play that are offering in-app purchases of digital goods need to use Google Play’s billing system. Our payments policy has always required this. Less than 3% of developers with apps on Play sold digital goods over the last 12 months, and of this 3%, the vast majority (nearly 97%) already use Google Play’s billing. For those few developers that need to update their apps, they will have until September 30, 2021 to make those changes. New apps submitted after January 20, 2021 will need to be in compliance.

Q: Many businesses have needed to move their previously physical services online (e.g. digital live events). Will these apps need to use Google Play’s billing?

A: We recognize that the global pandemic has resulted in many businesses having to navigate the challenges of moving their physical business to digital and engaging audiences customers in a new way, for example, moving in-person experiences and classes online. For the next 12 months, these businesses will not need to comply with our payments policy, and we will continue to reassess the situation over the next year. For developers undergoing these changes, we’re eager to hear from you and work with you to help you reach new users and grow your online businesses, while enabling a consistent and safe user experience online.

Q: Do Google’s apps have to follow this policy too?

A: Yes. Google Play’s developer policies – including the requirement that apps use Google Play’s billing system for in-app purchases of digital goods – apply to all apps on Play, including Google’s own apps.

Q: Can I communicate with my users about alternate ways to pay?

A: Yes. Outside of your app you are free to communicate with them about alternative purchase options. You can use email marketing and other channels outside of the app to provide subscription offers and even special pricing.

Q: Can I communicate with my users about promotions on other platforms?

A: Of course. We’re an app developer too, and we know how important it is not to restrict your ability to communicate with your users. You can email them or otherwise communicate outside of the app information about your offerings, even if they are different on Google Play than in other places.

Q: Can I have different app features, prices and experience depending on the platform?

A: Yes. It is your service and business, it is up to you. We do not require parity across platforms. You can create different versions of your app to support different platforms, features and pricing models.

Q: Can I offer a consumption-only (reader) app on Play?

A: Yes. Google Play allows any app to be consumption-only, even if it is part of a paid service. For example, a user could login when the app opens and the user could access content paid for somewhere else.

Q: Does your billing policy change depending on what category my app is in?

A: No. Business or consumer apps, and verticals like music or email are all treated the same on Google Play.

Q: Can I offer my customers refunds directly?

A: Yes. We understand the importance of maintaining the relationship with your customers. You can continue to issue refunds to your customers and other customer support directly.

Q: Will Google Play allow cloud gaming apps?

A: Yes. Cloud game streaming apps that comply with Play’s policies from any developer are welcome on Google Play.

For more examples and best practices for in-app purchases, visit this Play Academy course and watch this video.