The New Policy - Update vs. Re-publish

Hi All,

I had many discussions with dozens of developers in the past week about this new reality we are all facing. Mostly things are pretty clear and it’s a no brainer on what developers and networks need to do.

Today, one of our developer asked me something and I didn’t really know what’s the correct answer, and I wanted to get your feedback.

He has a lot of apps with a lot of active users, and generating over 100K daily downloads. He directed me to re-read the message posted by Google in the dev account -

“we ask you to remedy and republish the application within 30 calendar days of the posting of this notification. After this time period, applications discovered to be in violation may be subject to removal from Google Play. Any newly published applications must adhere to the latest version of the Content Policy for Google Play.”

He asked - Do they really mean “republish” or update? He said that if he unpublished the old version, and re-published a new one, he could have many many thousands of users still getting notification ads (they can’t update the app, and many will not uninstall it for a while), and if he updates, than many will immediately update and he will lose a lot of users with ads and thus thousands of dollars.

On the other hand I told him, by un-publishing the old version you are losing all those active users and have NO way to reach them and add new monetization models. ever.

So what do you think? What’s the OK thing to do in terms of the policy, and if both are acceptable, what would you do?

Hope this is clear.

It’s never boring in our industry, that’s for sure!


I think they mean update. When you update you basically “republish” the app (if I remember correctly you hav eto click “publish” button after you upload a new APK when you update). Good that they informed him in advance.

My sense is that Google means “update” - they used it in the colloquial sense instead of the “Google dictionary” sense.

In any case, such a drastic change as to require developers to truly abandon old apps and republish as new ones (new package names etc.) - would be sufficiently disruptive that Google would have addressed that separately - i.e. would be MAJOR big deal then …

As far I understand, its actually updating the old apps. Even if he republishes keeping the old users with his old model say pushing them notifications, google would actually take down his app for violation.

Not at all, what matters is the last version of the application, if any user not updated is their problem…

As has been said, the Google developer dashboard often uses the word ‘publish’ meaning to release a new version of your app, which is what they’re asking you to do in the dashboard notification. In fact, if I recall correctly, Google frowns on developers unpublishing and relaunching their apps, so this is probably a path you wouldn’t want to take regardless. Not to mention that such action would completely destroy your entire active userbase.

I’m glad someone brought this out because I’ve been asking myself the exact same thing, in this post I’m going to talk in the point of view of a theme and live wallpaper developer and all developers that create apps without user interface.

Notification and icon ads have always been the kind of advertising that theme and live wallpaper developers use to provide free apps if they want to make a revenue out of them because those kind of apps don’t have user interface like games and other kind of apps do.

Unlike what many might think, everyday there are thousand and thousand of people downloading and using Live Wallpapers and themes, so this new policy update won’t affect good developers that make quality apps and games (because they can use other ad units like banners, for example), it will only affect bad developers that create crappy apps and spam users with notification ads all the time and good developers that create quality Live Wallpapers and Themes (and the bad ones too, of course) and provide them for free in the Play Store for everyone to download.

Some of you may argue with me for what I’ve said here saying that if the theme or the live wallpaper is so good, why won’t those developers sell their apps instead of offering them for free with ads? That way Google’s new policy won’t affect them. That’s right and a fair point, but not all Live Wallpapers are able to get as popular as Paperland and not all themes get as popular as Stark either, to mention an example, so notification and icon ads were a good way to make revenue even with a respectable user base. Even though, not all people are willing to pay for a theme or a live wallpaper because they don’t think it’s worth it even if is something they use and see everyday because is running in the background all the time.
Apart from that, Google doesn’t currently allow developers from all countries to upload paid apps so many don’t get the chance to do that so all that’s left for them is to publish free apps with or without advertising.

In the same regard about paid themes and live wallpapers, only the ones that get popular are able to make good revenue for their developers, but you can still offer your theme for free and you might even get more downloads than the paid ones just because yours are free and theirs are paid. And even those live wallpapers and themes that didn’t get the amount of users the popular ones do, their developers were able to get good revenue from advertising, more than they would get if they sell them because then again, most users don’t want to pay $0.89 or more for a theme or a live wallpaper because “is not worth it”, they don’t know and appreciate all the hours and hours of coding and designing that are behind those “simple” apps.

Here’s also a picture I just came across today that backs this point I’m making, free apps with advertising make more money than ad-free paid apps.

paid apps vs free apps.jpg

I know notification and icon ads might be annoying for users so this move Google is making will make all of them happy because they don’t have to worry about those and some people also claim that finally all the “spam” is going to stop, referring to notification and icon ads.

But notifications ads aren’t only used to spam users, there are good developers that set a respectable amount of time before a push ad is sent to an user so they wouldn’t get bothered about them like for example one push ad every 3 or 4 days, it might seem as too much but it really isn’t, and a notification ads is something an user can clicks if he’s interested or just swype away to clear (even some users use apps to block this kind of ads). I personally believe that if Google wants to make something about push ads it should be to force developers not to send too much push ads because there are some that really spammed users by sending them one push ad every 12 hours, that’s way too much!

Icon ads are even more easy to delete if the user isn’t interested in what they offer, and one thing I’ve always liked about StartApp is that they show the user an Opt-In window when the user opens the app, that way the user knows exactly he’s going to get an icon in their home screen if they agree or they can just as simply uninstall the app if he doesn’t want ads, that’s it.

Some of us use Startapp combined with an ad network that offers notifications ads like Airpush, for example, so I’m unsure whether to update my apps (when a new ad sdk is provided, of course) or start all over again by taking them down and publishing a new one.

I’m not sure if what I’m posting here next is accurate so if someone can help me understand this it would be great, this is what I think:

If I take my apps down and upload a new one, that means I can profit from notification ads from Airpush for a while until all users uninstall the app because there won’t be an update removing the ads. But, and this is a major “but”, I’d loose all of my users and a new app really means to start all over again from zero.

If I update my apps removing notification and icon ads, that means that I should have changed the ads sdk of my apps so they are compliant with Google’s new policy but if Ad companies can’t come out with something similar to notification and icon ads that doesn’t guarantee that my revenue will be the same or even higher, so I might as well play safe for a little while with option number one profiting less with the current users.

But since the policy changes are only for Google Play, downloads from other Android Stores won’t be affected, isn’t that right? so I would still have new users that will get notification and icon ads. But lets face it, nearly the 100% of my downloads come from Google Play so this really doesn’t change much, I don’t know about other developers because the Amazon Store is used by a lot of people too.

I’m waiting to see what Startapp, Airpush or any other ad network will offer us now, I wouldn’t want StartApp to change the model they have (pay per download) or to get out of business because of this.

If no Ad network is able to come out with something that works as well as notification and icon ads in themes and live wallpapers, then Google might just as well killed the free personalization apps in the play store, there are only going to be paid ones (that some developers can’t upload because of Google’s restrictions regarding the country they live) and free ones that developers make just for fun and for other users to enjoy.

I don’t know if it’s just me or not, but I’m really sad about this move Google has made, I think the points I make here are valid and I really hope Google backs off on this or many developers won’t have an incentive to develop android themes and live wallpapers anymore.

I’m sorry this message came out this long, I didn’t meant it to be that long.

PS: If someone knows a kind of advertising that works well with themes and live wallpapers, please share the info here with all of us, I would really appreciate that, I’m currently searching and searching on new ways to monetize and waiting for the current Ad networks I use to give some info, since notifications and icon ads are doomed.

the only 3 ad network that offer out of app ads and you can use after the new policy (as far as i know) are pingjam, mobario, and widdit

This is the text from an old email (30.07.2012) from Google, which shall notify change its policy. The text is the same as the last of their email.
‘Any new apps or app updates published after this notification will be immediately subject to the latest version of the Program Policy. If you find any existing apps in your catalog that don’t comply, we ask you to fix and republish the application within 30 calendar days of receiving this email. After this period, existing applications discovered to be in violation may be subject to warning or removal from Google Play.’


Any apps or updates published after this notification are immediately subject to the latest version of the Program Policy. If you find any existing apps in your catalog that don’t comply, we ask you to fix and republish the application within 30 calendar days of receiving this email. After this period, existing applications discovered to be in violation may be subject to warning or removal from Google Play.

So, don’t worry it means update