Sunday, April 6, 2014

Play Store Developer Issues and How To Fix Them, Google.

Just when I thought I was recovering from loosing my Play Store developer account, I saw this on the Google+

That's Jeppe Foldager, aka Black Bear Blanc, aka BBB; one of the most respected themer on Android. When I had bought my first Android phone (Galaxy Nexus) and had joined XDA-Developers forum, BBB, Pooley, Slymobi - works of these people inspired me to get involved in Android theming. I found my passion. I made one theme after another, one widget skin after another, used uccw widgets to entirely change the look of phones. And within a year, I had 50+ apps in the play store. I liked spending time on creating and maintaining those. The thing I liked most about development was the interaction with the community. Communication with other developers and the users. Yes, the money was good too. But more than that, I took pride in being an Android developer. More than my day job, making apps made me feel like I'm accomplishing something in my life. And then Google yanked it away. Just like they did with Jeppe.

Fact is, yes, we both might have (unknowingly) violated some play store developer policy. But Google doesn't help us understand those. This is how the entire thing goes down.

App publishing and suspension
  1. When you join the developer program, you are presented with the developer policy, which tells you what you can and can't do w.r.t. your apps. It has bullet points and slightly vague descriptions.
  2. You go through the policies, think you understood them, make some apps, publish them on play store, get some/many downloads/reviews/ratings.
  3. When Google decides that any of your apps is violating any policy, it straight-away suspends your app and sends you a mail telling you that your app is suspended for violating so n so policy. For example, I had received 2-3 app suspensions, which were attributed to "Impersonation or Deceptive Behavior". The mail doesn't say anything beyond that. You are left wondering which part of your app violated that policy. (Unless of course you did that knowingly, in which case, shame on you).
  4. Second line in that mail, below the reason, says "You may revise and upload a policy compliant version of your application as a new package name. Before uploading any new applications, please review the Developer Distribution Agreement and Content Policy." i.e. Google is telling you to forget that you had that app in the play store and forfeit all the ratings/reviews that app had garnered. And to hell with the people who had bought that app. It is telling you to upload a new version of the app with a new package name. And, oh; don't forget to make sure it is policy compliant. But how do I do that if I don't know what violated the policy in the first place?
  5. Anyway, there's also an appeal process. It says "We will only reinstate applications if an error was made, and a re-review finds that your application does not violate the developer terms." i.e. if Google thinks your app did violate any policy (which it of course does), they won't give you a chance to fix it. You submit your app reinstatement appeal in case you feel Google made a mistake or request them to lift the suspension so that you can correct the mistake you understood. But in either case, Google doesn't give a fuck; unless you are a big-shot name. For others, that appeals form is a black hole. When you submit your petition there, you get an automated receipt acknowledgement mail and after days or weeks, get another automated mail saying "We have reviewed your appeal and will not be reinstating your application."
  6. So, even if you understand later what violated the policy, there's no way to fix it other than uploading new version of the app and starting from scratch. You lost the reviews, rating, good will. And those who had bought the app got screwed over.
  7. There's no telephone support. There's no way to communicate with the play store team other than the above mentioned appeals form if you are a developer. Unless of course you are Koush famous and know people in the team. Then those people help you get everything back even if you were knowingly flouting a rule for over 2 years.
  8. Anyway, once you have a few app suspensions under your belt, one fine day, Google sends you an account termination mail; letting you know that they have crushed your dreams and passion. No amount of logical argument, promises, begging works. Once your account is gone, it's gone. And you can't create a new account either; even if you use new email id, new bank account, new IP; Google somehow deduces it is you and suspends that account too. You are banned for life.
  9. And they suspend your Google Wallet account too. But that's a different ballgame altogether. At least that has telephonic support, Google products forum support and you can actually talk to a human being.

TL;DR - The way Google handles app suspensions is broken. The developer support in general is broken and it needs fixing asap. Developers will keep repeating mistakes unless Google fixes it.

Fixing Google Play Developer Program
Here are the things that Google should do.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

15 must-have apps for Android devices

A lot of "Best apps to download on your new Android devices" posts are doing the rounds right now, hoping that people with new devices will bring traffic to those sites. Some of those are helpful advices; some are just common sense / well known apps. You might have already read some of those posts. So, I won't be bothering you with another one of those lists; telling you what you should install on your device. I'm going to tell you about the apps that are MY daily driver. Apps that I find most useful in my everyday life. If you find any of these useful for yourself, I'll be glad to have introduced that app to you.

Nova Launcher

First thing I do after getting a new device or flashing a new ROM - install Nova launcher on it. The stock launcher is very limited for my taste. Nova Launcher gives me the freedom to arrange apps the way I want. I've divided my app drawer into 3 tabs - Games, Google, All Other (+ widget tab which is there by default). The "All" tab has two folders. "Icons" has all the theme related apps in it and "Rarely" has apps that I rarely use. I chose to put them in a folder instead of using "hide apps" feature; so that I have easy access to them when I want to uninstall them. On the homescreens, I have 3 screens. One screen has 16 of my most frequently used app icons. Second screen has a full page Google Keep widget and the third page has a few apps sorted into folders like "Finance", "Entertain", "Photo", "News". I've assigned "Play Store" to the App drawer icon's swipe action. So, when I need to open play store, which is quite often since checking for app updates is my obsession, I just swipe up on the app drawer icon and that opens the play store app. If nothing else, one reason to use a custom launcher - you can apply custom icons.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Giveaway - AndiOS7 - THE iOS7 theme for Android

Hi Guys. Whole of this past week, I've been busy making this new iOS7 theme for the Android devices. Named it AndiOS7. (Android + iOS7. You get it. :) ). It came out pretty cool and I can proudly say that this is the best iOS7 theme for Android. Compare screenshots of my theme with the actual iOS7 screenshots on apple's website and tell me if they are not the most accurate representation. (well, not 100%. But best in the market). And yeah, I'm not just bragging. Android users are voting with their devices. The theme is currently at #23 on the "Top new paid apps" list and at #42 on the "Personalization" category, in Android play store.

AndiOS7 - THE iOS7 theme for Android


If you haven't checked it out yet, go do it now.

To celebrate this ranking, I'm rolling out this giveaway. I'm giving out 10 free copies of AndiOS7 - THE iOS7 theme for Android. This is what you gotta do. (Read carefully. Not meeting the criteria will disqualify your entry.)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

AndiOS7 - Complete iOS7 theme for Android

Instructions are being added and updated. Please check back in 2 hours.

Android+iOS = AndiOS; pronounced like Adios, but with a ‘n’ in it.

So, apple finally made the iOS look like Android. It might look as cool as Android, but it still doesn’t have the power Android wields. How? iOS users will get this new look AFTER Apple releases the iOS7 to public later this year. But Android users can get the same look RIGHT NOW. The irony is killing me… :D

Use this theme pack to make your Android device look like iOS7; BEFORE actual iPhone / iPad users can..!! Show it off (or rub it in their faces if you want :P) and enjoy the bragging rights, all thanks to Android’s customization prowess. Change the look of your entire device. Both lockscreen and homescreen. It’s not only icons & wallpapers, like other iOS7 themes floating around.

More screen showcases below

  • Get the iOS7 Notification center look on one of your screens.
  • Get the iOS7 Control center look on another one of your screens; including widget for power control.
  • You can change icons too, to look like those of iOS7.
  • Yes, you get custom made HD wallpapers too for all screens.
  • iOS7 lockscreen clock and unlock slider.
  • A full page weather skin, like the iOS weather app. i.e. an entire homescreen will show weather.

Compare screenshots below with actual iOS7 screenshots shown in Apple website and then tell me if this is not the best reproduction of that.
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