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Google updates Play policies, could mean fewer free apps

Google has updated its policies for apps made available through its Play store, but are all the changes for the better?

Google has updated its policies for how apps work in its Play store. The new policies change how companies can advertise to us, and could lead to fewer free apps being available through Google Play.

Google alerted developers to the changes via email, The Next Web reports. They'll have to adhere to the new policies in the next 30 days, or risk having their apps yanked from Google Play.

Perhaps the biggest change is to how companies can advertise through apps. According to the new policies, apps and their adverts "must not add homescreen shortcuts, browser bookmarks, or icons on the user's device as a service to third parties or for advertising purposes." Ads also can't be shown through notifications, "unless the notifications derive from an integral feature provided by the installed app" (e.g. an airline app notifying you to special deals).

Sounds good, right? I mean who likes adverts? On the downside, fewer ways to push ads at us mean the app makers make less cash, and so are more likely to charge for their apps. So it's swings and roundabouts.

Apps will also interfere less with your device, as they can't shuffle around how you organise your downloads, or mess with your phone's settings. Where they do tweak your settings, it must be clear which app made the changes, and they have to be easy to reverse.

Incentives can no longer be made to rate an app, which should mean more genuine reviews. Artificially inflating an app's install count is also off the cards.

The gambling policy has been extended to all games that offer cash or other prizes, and you can only be charged through Google Play's in-app billing service. The hate speech policy has also been revised.

Apple recently clamped down on its own gambling apps, and stopped kids making in-app purchases without their parents' consent. This follows a spate of huge bills being racked up by little 'uns through in-app purchases.

What do you think of the changes? Will they make Android apps better, or just bump up the price? Let me know in the comments, or on our free-to-use Facebook page.