Google Play confuses “free” and “free” on Android and irritates developer – Applications and Software – Tecnoblog

All software has bugs and every developer knows they have to deal with them. But often, these professionals also have to deal with avoidable problems. This is the case of the developer of an application called Catima. Confusion in the way the Google Play Store interpreting the word “free” made it difficult to release the app in the store and caused a lot of headache.

Google Play Store app on Android (image: André Fogaça/Tecnoblog)

on your blog, Sylvia van Os introduces himself as a Linux systems administrator who programs as a hobby. This hobby led her to develop Catima, an Android application that allows users to manage loyalty cards and tickets.

The tool is free, has open source code and can be downloaded from the Google Play Store or F-Droid. Sylvia would like the app to appear on other stores, such as the Samsung Galaxy Store and Amazon Appstore, but that shouldn’t happen anytime soon. She explains why:

The reason Catima is not in alternative app stores is not because there is something wrong with them, but because there is something wrong with Google Play.

What the developer means by this is that the Google store takes up so much of its time that it has not yet been able to publish the app on more alternative services.

Catima (image: reproduction/Google Play)
Catima (image: reproduction/Google Play)

What did Google Play do wrong?

The troubles started in October 2021, when Sylvia van Os received an email informing her that Catima was not in compliance with Google Play rules.

Making sure it wasn’t breaking any conditions, the developer exchanged several emails with Google support to find out what the problem was, but received only vague responses.

Despite being inaccurate, the answers made the developer suspect that Google was performing automatic translations and with results that conflicted with the store’s rules.

Prior to the issue, the app was promoted on the Google Play Store under the following name: “Catima — The Libre Card Wallet” (this name is still maintained on the app’s official website).

“Libre” here is just a different way of saying that the application is “free” in the sense that it is open source and can be modified — its license is GPLv3+.

However, in the English translation, “libre” becomes “free”, a word that can mean both “free” and “free”. This is where the problems begin: Google doesn’t accept apps that hint at gratuity in the title.

The first email received by Sylvia pointed out problems with the app’s titles in the Dutch and Norwegian versions. She changed those titles, but the next day, she received another email from Google, this one reporting problems with the titles in nine languages. Changes made, but another email arrived, this one with a problem with the Chinese title.

It was five days of hassles. As the emails were vague, the developer was annoyed at having had to “guess” the solution. At least all the problems had been solved, right?

Well, not all. On November 23, Sylvia received yet another email from Google, this one brooding over the word “Free” in the titles.

That’s when the developer was sure that the company was doing an inconsistent and automatic translation: it never used the word “free” in the titles; remember that, in the English version, the title of the app was “Catima — The Free Card Wallet”.

What happened is that the Google Play Store automatically translated the word “free” in other languages ​​into English and, in all cases, the result was “free”. As this word should not be used in titles, chaos ensued.

Google email implying the word
Google email implying the word “Free” (image: Sylvia van Os)

Google Play caused more headaches

After tweaking the titles, Catima appeared on the Google Play Store — the translations for “free” were basically removed. But another problem arose: Recently, the store reduced the size of app titles from 50 to 30 characters, a change it was unable to make.

The reason? As of December 2021, not all Catima translators had performed the adjustment and, due to a glitch in the Play Store Console, the developer could not apply the modified titles already available. That’s because the bug caused the fields of all languages ​​to be revalidated if any of them were changed. As a consequence, she had to wait for all the translations to be ready to adjust everything at once.

It didn’t end there. Earlier this week, Google rejected a change to the app citing lack of login information, a flaw that didn’t exist.

Fortunately, the issue was resolved two days later, but Sylvia’s irritation understandably continues.

Google was searched by Android Police for comment, but the vehicle received no response.

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