Google has pulled an app from its Google Play store that helped users identify and remove apps of Chinese origin. The Mountain View, California-based company told Gadgets 360 that the “Remove China Apps” application violated Google Play policy. Before getting removed from Google Play, the app – developed by Jaipur-based OneTouch AppLabs – clocked over 50 lakh downloads in just over two weeks of its launch. It is the second viral app from India to be pulled from Google Play in a matter of days. Google has earlier removed Mitron, a TikTok clone.
Here are the top 10 points you need to know about this big story:
- Google told Gadgets 360 that “Remove China Apps” application was violating its Deceptive Behaviour policy. The policy highlights various things that apps listed on Google Play can’t do but one specific point is relevant in the case of “Remove China Apps” story. Google says it doesn’t allow “apps that mislead users into removing or disabling third-party apps or modifying device settings or features.”
- While the app from OneTouch AppLabs claimed to be developed for “educational purposes,” it was capitalising on the anti-China sentiment prevalent across the country right now. The anti-China sentiment in the country has been sparked by the novel coronavirus pandemic, India-China border dispute, and more. A survey recently indicated that 67 percent of Indians hold China responsible for the spread of COVID-19.
- Remove China Apps made its debut on the Google Play store on May 17 and was downloaded over 50 lakh times before getting pulled, as per data from Google Play. It was not available on Apple App Store for iPhone users. Android is the prevalent mobile operating system in the country and as per StatCounter, it is used by 95 percent of mobile phone users in the country.
- The app also led the top free apps chart on Google Play and remained there for at least two days. After the removal of the app, Zoom is back on top of free apps list on Google Play, followed by government’s contact-tracing app Aarogya Setu.
- Remove China Apps allowed users to identify and remove apps that were of Chinese origin on their smartphones. While it was able to identify popular apps, including the likes of TikTok, ShareIt, UC Browser, and CamScanner, from Chinese developers, it didn’t detect apps that come pre-installed on phones from Chinese manufacturers. Remove China Apps was free and fairly easy to use, and didn’t include any advertisements.
- To use the app, the Android users simply had to install it from Google Play store and give the necessary permissions. Following which, the users just had to tap on Scan Now to scan their phone and the app would list all the Chinese-origin apps installed on the phone. The app would also give a delete icon next to every app which when tapped would uninstall the app from user’s smartphone. The app claimed to use market research data to identify which apps were of Chinese-origin.
- OneTouch AppLabs has remained tightlipped about the app and hasn’t responded to media requests. It used Twitter and its website to announce the removal of “Remove China Apps” from Google Play late-Tuesday and simply wrote – “Google has suspended our #RemoveChinaApps from google play store. Thank you all for your support in past 2 weeks.”
- Apart from India, the Remove China Apps application was also gaining momentum in Australia, where according to data from App Annie, the app had topped the Tools section in Google Play store. Still, the majority of the app’s users resided in India. Even though the app has been removed from Google Play store, it will continue to function on phones that already have it installed.
- Remove China Apps’ removal comes soon after Google had pulled the Mitron app from Google Play store. Mitron was a clone of TikTok that also benefitted from anti-China sentiments and also saw lakhs of downloads. Despite issues the app still managed to find traction among users and went viral.
- TikTok, a popular short-video app, was also in news recently, in part because of the anti-China sentiment. TikTok is developed by ByteDance, a company that is headquartered in Beijing. Scores of smartphone users in the country took to Google Play and Apple App Store to downrank the app. Notably, apart from anti-China sentiments, the other key reasons for the 1-star rating flood were the ongoing YouTube vs TikTok debate on social media as well as a video glorifying acid attacks from a TikTok user.