There are 3 billion active Android devices in circulation now, and that means developers are eager to support Android. The vast majority of those devices are phones, so for app developers not particularly interested in the wider Android ecosystem, that means pump out a phone app and you’re done. But a vibrant ecosystem of nonphone Android hardware is also out there, though—Wear OS, Android tablets, Android Auto, Android TV, and Google Cast. Google would like more developers to support those devices, and its new scheme for this has a real shot at working since it relies on the universal language: money.
Google’s master plan is called the “Play Media Experience Program,” and it offers a compelling proposition to developers: support more Android form factors, and Google will take a lower cut of your Play Store sales. Media apps focusing on video, audio, or books now have special support targets they can hit that will result in Google cutting Play Store fees to 15 percent. Google’s normal Play Store cut is 30 percent, but it only charges 15 percent on the first $1 million in revenue. So this is a play aimed specifically at multimillion-dollar media apps.
Google lays out the following requirements for various app types:
- Video – high-quality video content for the living room; requires integrations with Android TV, Google TV, and Google Cast
- Audio – subscription music and audio services that work everywhere; requires integrations with Wear OS, Android Auto, Android TV, and Google Cast
- Books – compelling reading experience on larger screens; optimized experience on tablets, foldables, and integration with the new Entertainment Space.
Note that developers are “required” to support the extra form factors in order to get the lower fee. The Media Experience Program page lists additional eligibility requirements like “Over 100,000 monthly active installs on Google Play” and “a strong Google Play rating.” Developers interested in the program will need to fill out a form in order to be considered.
Charging less money is definitely speaking a developer’s language, so we can’t imagine this won’t result in some increased form-factor support. It’s just a shame the program is so limited. Only multimillion-dollar apps get a shot at eligibility, and only media apps, and only apps charging real money as opposed to being ad-supported. It would be great if Google could entice other developers to make tablet apps and support other form factors through additional incentives, but this is a good start.
Google has a lot of work to do here, too. Google Chat doesn’t support tablets, Wear OS, Android Auto, or even landscape mode on phones. YouTube Music doesn’t work on watches and has no tablet UI. The new Google Pay app is phone-only, and Google Stadia’s Android TV app took 18 months to arrive. Maybe Google should talk to its own developers about supporting more form factors, too. It’s literally paying them.