Google Wants You to Build for Devices Other Than Smartphones

As Apple wrestles with its own App Store issues, Google has announced tweaks to Google Play that could make things a little more enticing to app developers.

The new developments build on Google’s March announcement of a “15 percent service fee tier,” which applies to the first million dollars that developers earn off an app or service on Google Play. (Once those total earnings exceed one million, the fee rises to 30 percent; there are also a couple of rules associated with the 15 percent tier.) 

Now, Google is widely rolling out the Play Media Experience Program, which offers developers the chance to build and market video, audio, and e-book apps that are deeply integrated with Google platforms such as Google TV, Wear OS, and even Android Auto. The “service fee” for these “premium experiences” is also 15 percent, according to the company, but the requirements for enrolling in the program are stringent (including a high rate of monthly installs and a developer account “in good standing”).  

Google’s motives behind this initiative are pretty clear: It wants to build a robust app ecosystem around devices other than Android-powered smartphones and tablets. A massive library of video, audio, and e-book content will also allow Google to stay competitive with Facebook, Snap, and other companies that are investing heavily in high-quality video and audio content. 

Google claims that its “15 percent” rule will reduce fees for 99 percent of the world’s Android developers. “These are funds that can help developers scale up at a critical phase of their growth by hiring more engineers, adding to their marketing staff, increasing server capacity, and more,” Sameer Samat, VP of Product Management, wrote in a corporateblog posting earlier this year.

“While these investments are most critical when developers are in the earlier stages of growth, scaling an app doesn’t stop once a partner has reached $1M in revenue—we’ve heard from our partners making $2M, $5M and even $10M a year that their services are still on a path to self-sustaining orbit,” Samat continued. “This is why we are making this reduced fee on the first $1M of total revenue earned each year available to every Play developer, regardless of size.”

Google’s fee reductions followed a similar move by Apple, which announced last year that it would take 15 percent of revenues from developers that generated less than $1 million per year via the App Store. As with developers on Google Play, those developers that make more than $1 million through iOS apps are subject to Apple’s longtime 30 percent commission.