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New Android app Licensing Service for developers

It looks like Google is laying out more preparations prior to it’s planned carrier billing payment option. Protecting Android apps from unauthorized use has always been a major concern for developers. Today, Google has just introduced a new Licensing service for apps in the Android Market which aims to help developers get better monitoring for authorized app use.

The service is free for Android developers wanting to determine whether app users are authorized. All Android Market paid applications targeting Android 1.5 or higher can include a set of libraries provided by Google that will enable apps to query the Android Market licensing server to determine the license status of your users based on stored sales records.

The licensing service operating real time over the network provides more flexibility in choosing license-enforcement strategies, and a more secure approach in protecting your applications from unauthorized use, than copy protection. Google’s plan is to replace the current Android Market copy-protection mechanism with this new licensing service to protect apps.

One concern over this kind of method for copy-protection would be the constant use of a data connection to allow the app developers to check the licensing status. This could result in unwanted data charges for the users who bought the app.

For Android developers, here are some points to keep in mind as you implement licensing in your application:

  • Only paid applications published through Market can use the service.
  • An application can use the service only if the Android Market client is installed on its host device and the device is running Android 1.5 (API level 3) or higher.
  • To complete a license check, the licensing server must be accessible over the network. You can implement license caching behaviors to manage access when there is no network connectivity.
  • The security of your application’s licensing controls ultimately relies on the design of your implementation itself. The service provides the building blocks that let you securely check licensing, but the actual enforcement and handling of the license are factors in your control. By following the best practices in this document, you can help ensure that your implementation will be secure.
  • Adding licensing to an application does not affect the way the application functions when run on a device that does not offer Android Market.
  • Licensing is currently for paid apps only, since free apps are considered licensed for all users. If your application is already published as free, you won’t be able to upload a new version that uses licensing.

You can read more about the new licensing service at the Licensing Your Applications section of our Developer Guide.

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