The era of owning the mobile phone apps you pay for could be on the wane. There is mounting evidence that Google is working on a new 'Play Pass' subscription service for the Android platform. Instead of paying for individual app downloads, users will be charged a flat, monthly fee to access multiple applications. Here's what we know so far.
The devs over at XDA have put together a compelling case file on an Android subscription service. While analysing the inner workings of the Google Play Store during an APK teardown, XDA member Quinny899 spotted a mysterious in-development feature called “Play Pass.”
As explained on the blog:
Back in late June, XDA Recognized Developer Quinny899, Kieron Quinn of MightyQuinnApps, spotted an in-development Play Store feature called “Play Pass.” He discovered this while tinkering with the Play Store using the Xposed Framework.
Forcing the feature flag to “true” didn’t show anything new in the Play Store, but decompiling the code showed that Play Pass had something to do with a subscription.
In addition to the above, an online survey has reportedly been sent to Google Opinion Rewards users about a monthly subscription service tentatively called 'Pass'. The survey invited respondents to imagine an app store that lets you subscribe to "hundreds of dollars worth of paid apps and games for a monthly fee."
When these two pieces of evidence are combined, there can be little doubt that Google is working on a paid subscription service in Google Play. Presumably, this will be an optional 'premium' service similar to Xbox Game Pass.
There's currently no word on how this service will actually work. Do subscribers receive a few hand-picked apps each month? Or will it be adopting an all-you-can-eat model? The survey's mention of "hundreds of dollars worth of paid apps" suggests something in between.
We also have questions over what happens if you cancel your subscription. Will the apps be 'locked' on your phone until you resume the monthly payments? We don't like the sound of that at all.
XDA stresses that these features are not currently implemented in the live build of Android and may be pulled at any time by Google. But we kind of doubt that will happen.
The software industry has been moving - slowly but surely - towards a monthly subscription model for years. Apple, Adobe, Microsoft and most video/music streaming services are already on board. From a business viewpoint it definitely makes sense - why would you want to charge customers once for a product when they could be paying every month?
This is definitely something that all smartphone users will want to keep a close eye on.