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Your Guide to Android 11 and the New Google Play Store App Review Process

On September 8th, 2020, Google released its latest major mobile operating system update, Android 11. With a focus on privacy and security as well as enhanced user experience Android 11 has big shoes to fill, following the very successful Android 10 release, which saw the highest and fastest adoption rate of all Android releases. Major providers are now racing to release their new models with Android 11, such as the Samsung Galaxy S20 series. Another major change is Google’s new and improved Google Play Store app review process which now requires a form submission to collect background location.  

In this article, we will cover Android 11’s new changes, especially the ones about security and privacy, as well as the new Google Play Store app review process for background location access.

Android 11 Changes to Background Location

In Android 10, which was released in September 2019, a background location usage reminder was added. This was done so that users would be aware when apps accessed their device’s background location.

Android 10 background location access reminder

In Android 11, Google added another layer to background location by requiring additional steps from the user beyond granting a runtime prompt. If your app needs background location, the system will ensure that the app first asks for foreground location. The app can then broaden its access to background location through a separate permission request, which will lead your users to their phone’s Settings to complete the permission grant.

This behavior mimics Apple’s iOS 13 background location priming, which also requires a two-step process. 

Android 11 first asks for foreground location before the user can be prompted for background location

Once the foreground location has been prompted, app developers that need the background permission need to direct users to the full Settings app by asking users to open system preferences.

The second step required to access background location with Android 11, after foreground location has been granted

Other Security and Privacy Changes

Other than the two-step background location prompts, Android 11 also introduced permissions auto-reset. If users haven’t used an app that targets Android 11 for an “extended period of time”, the system will “auto-reset” all of the granted runtime permissions associated with the app and notify the user. Once this happens, you can then request the permissions again the next time the app is used. It is possible to prompt your users to turn this setting OFF by sending them to their phone’s system preferences. 

Android 11’s permissions auto-reset will warn your users that permissions have been removed

Looking Ahead: Android 11 Adoption Rate 

Android 10 was officially released on September 3, 2019. This new update saw the highest and fastest adoption rate by any Android release. The Android 10 highest adoption rate is predicted to hit its peak between December 2020 and February 2021 by overtaking Android 9 Pie, released on August 6, 2018. Android 11 is still not available on all Android phone models, meaning that adoption rates are still very low and that Android releases usually take up a year to a year and a half to hit their peak. 

Although it is considered good practice to install the latest version of software on your device for security reasons, Android updates have one major difference from iOS updates. Android updates vary by device, manufacturer, and mobile carrier, and older devices cannot always run newer Android versions. According to Statista, around 60 percent of Android devices are running a mobile operating system that is over two years old. In comparison, 81% of iPhone devices are running on the latest version of iOS.

Google Play Store Review Process for Background Location

With the release of Android 11, focused on privacy and security and major changes to background location prompting, the Google Play Store followed suit with a brand new approval process for apps requesting background location.

In a nutshell, to avoid malicious apps from requesting background location without user consent or knowledge, Google has introduced a review process for apps that want to request it from their users. 

Key dates

If your app was published on the Play Store after April 16th, 2020, you must submit a form for review and receive approval by January 18, 2021, so your apps can stay on Google Play. 

Existing apps first published before April 16, 2020, have until March 29, 2021, to comply and be approved or app updates may be blocked by Google.

About the process 

For the approval process, you will need to complete the permissions declaration form. As part of this declaration form, you must submit a link to a video that demonstrates the location-based feature in your app that requires access to location in the background. You can find a video example and more information about the process here.

Tips to get approved

  • If your app has multiple features that use background location, choose the one that provides the most user benefit. Describe in detail why the background (and not foreground) location is needed and how it is used. 
  • You must include a short video that shows how users will encounter your location disclosure and prompting, location-based feature, and enable it in-app. If your video doesn’t show this or Google can’t access the link, your request won’t be approved. It is recommended that you upload it to YouTube or Google Drive.
  • Remember to include a clear in-app disclosure to explain to users what data is used and how. 
  • Ensure your privacy policy is clearly labeled and includes details on location data usage.

For further information about the approval process, you can consult the Play Console Help section or get in touch with us, we’d be more than happy to help you!