One of the changes tracks back to a promise to developers that the VP of Product Management for Google, Sameer Samat, made back in September "to make it even easier for people to use other app stores on their devices (via TechRadar)."
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The important conclusion to that quote is "while being careful not to compromise the safety measures Android has in place." The new handling of third-party app stores will be closer to the seamless experience that you get with Google Play, allowing apps from these stores to install or update without additional confirmation from the user.
Naturally, that can be a bit scary as Android often gets the reputation of having considerable malware threats, particularly when you do not stick to using the Play Store. The way Google has sought to circumvent these concerns is through a set of strict requirements for any app store that would like to take advantage of this new functionality.
The app store will need to target Android 10 or newer and will need to opt in to the feature. The app store will also have to have a permission called "update packages without user action" that is presumably being granted or overseen by Google. Users may need to grant this permission themselves initially too.
While most Android users, particularly in the U.S., don't use alternative app stores, there are some notable options that are likely familiar to most Android users like the Amazon App Store and Samsung Galaxy Apps. There are dozens of others with varied content that for one reason or another are not available in the Google Play Store.
Google has been able to sidestep some of the heat that has come down on Apple both from Congress and in its ongoing legal action with Epic Games due to the existence of third-party app stores. This move helps to cement that clear delineation between iOS and Android, so whether motivated by fairness to developers or fear of legal action, it's a win for users that want choice.
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Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more. Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.