Late last year, Google decided to clamp down on those using SMS and Call Log permissions in their apps. This is a good thing for consumers, since many don’t read those permissions that are listed when you download an app or open it up for the first time. And there are many apps that request permission to use SMS and/or the call log and don’t actually need it. So it has stripped out that feature from any app that used it, however it is granting exemptions to some that need it for their app to function. However, not all apps are getting that exemption. Cerberus is one of those apps.
For those unfamiliar, Cerberus is an anti-theft app that is available on the Google Play Store. It is a fairly popular app – in fact according to the Google Play Store, it has over five million downloads. Removing SMS from Cerberus may not seem like a huge deal, but in actuality, it is. With Cerberus, it uses SMS to be able to text a lost or stolen phone, even if it does not have connection to the internet. But that is only one of the many features that SMS provides for Cerberus. The developers of Cerberus says that it will need to publish a new update on January 9 (that’s the deadline for removing functionality, if you have not been granted an exemption from Google) removing those features. Though if its users do not like that idea, they can go ahead and star the issue in the Issue Tracker on Google’s site – though that is unlikely to make Google change their minds. Cerberus did attempt to get exempt before, but as other developers noted, the form has changed quite a bit since it was announced back in October. However, Cerberus’ use-cases are now strictly prohibited. And those use-cases include “Anti-Virus/Security” and “Family or Device Locator”. So the developers see little need to attempt to get exempt once again. Seeing as Cerberus is not the only anti-virus app out there, it’s unlikely that it is the only app being hit with this issue, it’s just one of the biggest.
Google gives the finger to developers once again
This has been an ongoing theme for Google in recent years, basically turning their backs on individual developers – those that helped make Android what it is today. While the changes may seem pretty insignificant for developers and different apps, it does appear to be a much bigger deal. The good thing here is that apps like Tasker were approved and got exempt from the changes for SMS and Call Log permissions. So it’s not hurting all of the apps out there, but some of the more useful ones like Cerberus are essentially being neutered. Developers have been getting screwed over by Google for quite some time, as whenever there is a problem, Google wants to try and automate it. Which is the case here, and unfortunately, Google still takes 30-percent of all revenue generated by apps and games on the Play Store. If this continues, we could see more apps doing what Fortnite maker, Epic Games did last year. And simply launch outside of the Play Store, so it does not have to give that 30-percent to Google.
Removing Features is a common practice at Google, lately
In 2018, Google removed features and functionality a ton, across all sorts of apps and services. The biggest culprit being Android Pie itself. It made it tougher to multi-task and go through recents to your last app you were in. It also made gesture-navigation harder to use, than just using buttons, just to name a couple of things. Google has also decided to kill off some of its most popular apps like Inbox and Hangouts, and that was after it removed a number of features from Hangouts that made it so popular – like SMS integration. It’s a theme at Google that is something people are not a fan of lately. It’s forcing many to not get invested in using a number of Google apps and services, for fear that it will get shut down at some point. And you can see why. Google makes a habit of creating a service, letting it run its course for a couple of years and eventually shutting it down. It might replace it, it might not. The difference now is that it is removing features from developers, and it is features that developers rely on for their apps to work. Imagine not being able to use a third-party messaging app, instead of being stuck with Android Messages on your smartphone? That is likely what will be happening on January 9.