Google has added a form of Digital Rights Management (DRM) to all Android apps in Google Play to enhance app security. The primary objective of using the new feature is to ensure that Android users are using genuine apps that have not been tampered with in any way.
Adds DRM to all Android apps
Just a few days back, the company was found reportedly working on a feature to makes sure that the apps downloaded from Google Play and shared offline can also be verified just like any other app in the Play Store. It seems that the company has been working on the new DRM-like feature which has only been revealed now.
There was a time when big names such as EMI, Napster, and Apple swore by DRM. The tech ensures that the Netflix app runs only on the approved handsets. The DRM technology has been used by brands since the 2000s. However, some of these companies have abandoned the technology, but now, it seems that Google is fascinated by the very idea of using DRM for preventing malware in Google Play.
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Google Play’s security system – named Play Protect – has its own shortcomings, but pretty much does a decent job compared to no security at all. The feature is being used by Google to push the OEMs to get their devices Google certified. However, countries where internet connection is a problem, users rely on sharing APKs offline. Some might call it piracy, but for the users in such markets, it is just another useful option. However, the applications that have been installed offline do not have the Play Protect benefits. So, the small metadata addition would take care of that problem.
Google is not calling the new feature DRM. According to the search giant, adding a “small amount” of security metadata to Android APK would ensure that it has been distributed through the Play Store or an authorized channel. The new feature would help in verifying the app even if they are not downloaded from the Play Store. Further, the new feature will allow the app entry to the store library, and ensure that it receives updates through Google’s portal.
The search engine giant added that one of the many reasons behind offering the DRM-like feature is to allow developers to expand their audience, specifically in the countries where peer-to-peer app sharing is common because of the costly internet and limited connectivity.
“We’ll be able to determine app authenticity while a device is offline, add those shared apps to a user’s Play Library, and manage app updates when the device comes back online. This will give people more confidence when using Play-approved peer-to-peer sharing apps,” Google said in a blog post.
Giving more powers to developers?
For developers, the new feature would help them in creating the Play-authorized offline distribution channel even in the offline mode, since the peer-to-peer shared app is added to the user’s Play library, and the apps would be eligible for updates from Play.
As of now, Google seems to be more focused on pitching the idea to the developers and not the Android users. A post on the Android developer blog suggested that the developers or those who use their app need not take any action as the company adjusts Google Play’s maximum APK size to consider the small metadata addition. Other than refining the integrity of Google Play’s mobile app ecosystem, the metadata would also present new distribution opportunities for the developers along with allowing people to keep their apps updated.
Skeptical users, however, might argue that DRM would give more control to the developers over how and when their apps are used. For instance, a developer can change the metadata string to compel users to migrate onto the latest version such as the version with ads, instead of holding on to the earlier version. Nevertheless, DRM is obviously a step ahead by Google towards tightening mobile security.
Try apps before downloading them
In a separate development, Google has introduced a new feature that allows Android users to try the apps before downloading them. There is a new button on the supported apps that would allow users to preview the apps before downloading. This would help the users save their phones from getting over-crowded with useless apps or even wasting the data in downloading them.
In a blog post talking about the slew of small changes coming to the Play Store, Google talked about the new feature – dubbed as Android Instant Apps – saying it would support a range of apps in the app store. Users would come across the “Try it Now” button for some apps, and tapping on it would take them to the preview. Launched back in the summer of 2016, Instant Apps were extended to the developers in January, but until now only a few apps have made use of it.