Google could be planning an app subscription service for the Play Store, according to some compelling evidence gathered by XDA Developers.
The first sign of the service was when prominent developer Kieron Quinn found a potential feature called Play Pass in a Play Store APK teardown back in June. At the time, Quinn suggested that the feature could be a subscription service.
This week, one of Quinn’s friends tipped him off to a Google survey about a subscription service for apps (see the screenshot below). The survey asked how well they thought the name “Pass” described a service that offers hundreds of dollars worth of paid apps and games for a monthly fee.
This evidence is certainly not a confirmation that Google will introduce an app subscription service. However, taken together, it does suggest that Google is at least thinking about introducing one.
Despite recording billions of app downloads every quarter, the Play Store has long stood behind the Apple App Store when it comes to the amount of money actually spent on apps. A subscription service could potentially encourage more users to part with their money.
Furthermore, while some popular apps do rake in a lot of money directly from the Play Store, only a very small percentage of the overall number of apps make a lot of money this way. A subscription service would likely encourage people to use more apps and, therefore, spread the profits around a bit.
If developers begin to make more money from apps, it could reduce their dependence on advertising and spammy in-app purchases. This would be a big benefit to consumers and it could help raise the perceived value of apps in general.
Last year, only 1,697 apps made more than $1 million from the Google Play Store.
There are plenty of hurdles Google would have to overcome before introducing such a service, however.
Perhaps the biggest one would be ensuring the terms and conditions of the service are attractive to a wide range of developers. There are millions of apps available on the Play Store with many different developers and publishers. It will likely be a major challenge for Google to come up with a service that keeps all these people happy.
Additionally, a subscription service would only have real value if some of the most popular apps are available. However, many of these apps already make a lot of money. Unless Google can guarantee a much higher number of users, it seems unlikely that these apps would make as much money from a Google subscription service as they would by going it alone.
A subscription service wouldn’t be the first change to the Play Store that appears to be aimed at encouraging people to spend more on apps.
Google recently introduced a Google Play Points reward scheme in Japan whereby users receive points for making purchases on the Play Store. Meanwhile, in August it introduced a way for users to try paid games before they buy them.
However, a subscription service would potentially be a much bigger change than either of these schemes.
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