Google is going to make it easier for Android users to install alternative app stores on their devices. The update, which will roll out with Android 12, will allow third-party stores to install and update apps without requiring user permission.
According to XDA Developers (opens in new tab), it’s an effort to make Android a bit friendlier for people who want to switch away from the Play Store, or who just have an alternative app store for certain specific uses.
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It would be silly not to ignore the context of what’s happening currently with the Apple vs Epic Games lawsuit. Apple has been criticized by Epic for not allowing it to keep all of the money from in-app purchases. Lawyers have also discussed in court the refusal by Apple to allow third-party stores. Epic also has beef with Google over similar problems, so it would be natural to assume that perhaps this will deflect some of that criticism.
If Google is moving to accept these third-party stores it does, perhaps, put extra pressure on Apple. Could this be something the judge demands, depending on the verdict in the trial? It’s hard to tell, but whatever decision is made will have far-ranging implications for all hardware companies, including Sony and Microsoft, which both lock their consoles down to only use their own app stores.
Third-party app stores have always been more of an option on Android phones. You may have installed Amazon’s or those from a multitude of other sources. Depending on who makes them, the risks range from relatively minor right up to your phone being used to mine cryptocurrency while you’re not using it.
This won’t be a bypass of security though. Users will need to agree for these stores to update their apps without permission. Google might also require these stores to be checked over by its internal teams, too, with the aim of reducing risks to users.