Beware of your app's screenshots

I’ve been working on a pretty popular app (>15M downloads) which shall remained unnamed for obvious reasons. It has been in Google Play for over a year now, is highly-rated and we’ve had no issues adding new features and pushing updates.

A few days back, I woke up to see a notification on my phone from the Google Play Developer Console app saying that my app has been removed and developer console on the web had this message -

Play Store Message

I have nothing but respect for the way Google has been running Google Play Store, but kicking an app out without any notice whatsoever is a little too much. Impersonation of intellectual property is a serious matter and we always take great care in making sure we are following the Play Store policies.

However, just providing a vague, generic message does not help. We spent hours racking our brains trying to figure out what the problem was. Finally, a colleague noticed that one of our screenshots, had a tiny logo of a television network. Needless to say, it was completely unintentional.

We quickly replaced that screenshot, submitted an appeal and after a review, the app was reinstated. Overall, the app was not available in the Play Store for almost 12 hours.

This is not the first time this has happened in Google Play and many popular apps have been affected in the past. Now I am not a legal expert by any stretch of the imagination, but strongly feel that these issues can be addressed in a way that is reasonable for all parties involved.

Here are a few suggestions -

  1. Provide exact details of where the issue was noticed (screenshots/description/promo video/some screen in the app)
  2. Give app developers at least 24 hours notice before removing the app

Making these changes will go a long way in making Google Play an even better place for developers to earn their livelihood and I hope Google will at least consider them.

In the mean time, ALWAYS pay close attention to the screenshots you are uploading. Especially, if you are one of those cool kids who’ve automated the process using tools like Fastlane.