Google is loosening up a bit to settle a class action lawsuit regarding its iron grip over the Play Store on Android devices. Part of the proposed settlement requires Google to simplify the process for directly downloading and installing apps outside of the official Play Store, known as “sideloading.”
For years, critics have accused Google of making sideloading way more annoying and risky-feeling than necessary to steer users towards Play Store apps instead. The multi-step sideloading process indeed deters most regular people from attempting it.
Google is changing process of installing apps from outside the Play Store. Currently, different warning messages can appear each time you try to install an app this way. Google will now show just one combined notification screen instead of multiple pop-ups. This single prompt will allow you to easily approve an app developer to install additional apps, without needing to go through settings menus each time. Consolidating the warnings into a single screen makes the sideloading process less disruptive for users.
Combining Confirmation Dialogs and Settings Menus
Google says they’ll still warn people about potential security risks, but the language is supposedly getting toned down. Expect it to say something like “Enabling this could put your phone at risk,” rather than the current doomsday warnings about your phone being PWNed by hackers.
The changes apply to Android devices in the US and Google has to keep this simplified approach in place for at least 5 years per the proposed settlement.
So while the Play Store isn’t getting dismantled anytime soon, this concession moves Android a bit closer to the more open ecosystems offered by alternative OSes. We’ll take what we can get in the ongoing tug-of-war between developer freedom and user protection.