back to article Google blocks FOSS Android tool – for asking for donations

StreetComplete, a free Android program designed to help people to contribute to OpenStreetMap, was blocked from Google's Play Store merely for urging users to donate money to the app's development. According to StreetComplete developer Tobias Zwick, the software store's semi-automated approval system rejected StreetComplete …

  1. Pirate Dave Silver badge

    "the goal of this dialog is to inform users about that they can donate, not to get users upset about Google."

    I'd have to think - if the user is aware-of and using OpenStreetMap to the point that they want to donate to the cause, they're probably already more than a little "upset about Google".

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge


      Open Street Map is not Google Maps. Isn't that reason enough?

      Anyone using Google Maps provides all sorts of data back to the mothership. OSM users don't.

      $$$$$ matters to Google. Any limitation of their revenue stream is a clear and present threat to their business.

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        Re: duh!

        The developer of OruxMaps had a similar problem, he offered a free and a donation version. It was just the same functionality, just a way to throw some money his way and Google even got their cut from the 5EUR or so. Google's policy however explicitly forbids this model. There's only the free version left.


          Re: duh!

          you would think that someone at OpenStreetMap Foundation would think of a creative way around this:

          if you have a android phone install it and help map your neighborhood

          on google play:

          on Fdroid

          if you would like to sponsor the developer:

          (sadly he has very few and its a amazing bit of kit)

          1. Chris Evans

            Re: duh!

            Please explain how this helps?

      2. Cederic Silver badge

        Re: duh!

        Mostly the information Google get from my Google Maps usage is that I'm interested in obscure streetview images from unlikely places, which I take some time to find - but that's the Monday Foxer at Tally Ho Corner.

        They also get to track my failing memory as I use the site to try and remember the name of the waterfall I photographed in 2012 in Iceland, on the way from that bit to the other village, you know, the one with the convent that I stayed in.

        1. andy gibson

          Re: duh!

          For me its restaurant recommendations. Personally I find Google's input that a certain restaurant is a high percentage match for what i'd like, or similar to ones I've previously visited quite useful.

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Just by-pass Play Store & go to FDroid. It's available there.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Sure... but Google still needs to be beaten with a large stick for being assholes.

      1. anonymousI

        Yes, exactly.

        Though some may feel that you could have said '...being a$$hole$'.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          And yet others feel he should have said “arseholes”

          1. Roger Kynaston



        2. Tom 7

          With a capital C!

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Just by-pass Play Store & go to FDroid. It's available there."

      Sadly, the vast majority of users don't know about F-Droid.

  3. b0llchit Silver badge
    Big Brother

    The (drug) dealer's stranglehold

    They want their hard earned 30% cut.

    Google only wants what is best for google. Apple only wants what is best for apple. They know you can be blackmailed into submission and do so without hesitation. Either you give them your money (donations or whatever) or you are kicked out. They need to have their 30% hard earned cut. Without them you are nothing. Now, pay up already.

  4. AnAnonymousCanuck

    Don't Trust Google?

    +1 for F-Droid. APKPure is another trustworthy app collection.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Don't Trust Google?

      Oh, and thanks to the article I dusted off my osm account and downloaded this app (and vespucci, there are some bugs in the local map data).

      Thanks, Google, for making us aware of this app (and reminding us of how you really are).

    2. Not Irrelevant

      Re: Don't Trust Google?

      APKPure hosts stolen APK files as an unlicensed mirror. F-Droid is good and legal, APKPure is a software piracy site.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't Trust Google?

      +1 for F-Droid indeed. Run by a top bloke too.

      Stay away from the other site though: like many similar sites, it hosts APKs of uncertain origin which they may, or more likely may not, have the right to distribute.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    App Store Pricing

    I find it curious that according to the article Apple made twice as much from its app store despite there being far more android phones out there, and Apple and Google supposedly imposing similar margins. Is it simply that iLovers are happier to part with cash for apps? Or does Apple's figures also include music or other services in the same total?

    1. The Mole

      Re: App Store Pricing

      Historically Apple phones have been premium purchases and brought as a fashion icon rather than purely on technical merits. People choose android are more likely to be price sensitive and either

      a) don't have enough money to spend on an iPhone or apps, or

      b) are more careful with their money so don't waste it on apps

      Of course some apps are good value, and some android users will part with cash, but demographically iphone users are likely to spend more due to it being bigger spenders who buy into the platform.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: App Store Pricing

        "don't have enough money to spend on an iPhone or apps"

        Or wonder why one should pay a premium for a fruity logo that won't even let you choose what apps to install, when there are plenty of perfectly decent offerings that don't cost as much.

        As for apps, well there was I time I needed telnet, preferably with ANSI support. Nothing free on Apple (in the iOS7 days), one app that cost about €12 and might have worked.

        On Android? VX Connectbot (free) blows everything else away. If that's free (as is my file manager, etc etc) then why pay €$£ unless you're trying to make some sort of point?

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: App Store Pricing

      AFAIK, the majority of Android users are cheapskates. That said, I have not paid Apple a penny for my phone or the apps that I have on it. My iPhone was bought secondhand and none of the 30+ apps are priced at anything other than free.

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

        Re: App Store Pricing

        But you buying your iPhone secondhand gave money to someone who has most likely upgraded to a newer one. So you're indirectly giving apple money by supporting the ecosystem.

      2. andy gibson

        Re: App Store Pricing

        Complains at Android users being cheapskates yet buys secondhand Apple gear and only installs free apps?

      3. Not Irrelevant

        Re: App Store Pricing

        Unless you've done a lot of legwork rooting your phone and removing apps you're still sending Apple all your data. iPhones and Androids are data capture devices.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sending data to Apple

          I'm ok with that because I use my phone for:-

          - making phone calls

          - sending texts

          - Using Electric Car Chargers via their apps. these need location services obviously.

          - Running a VPN that hides everything else. Yes, I have sniffed what the phone does on my network using wireshark.

          I don't use social media or do email on my phone. I'm a bit of a BOF really and I don't care.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: App Store Pricing

        The reason I'm so rich is because I'm a cheapskate.

        Then I spend my money on worthwhile things, rather than fashion, bling, and generally things that the ad companies have made you think is cool this year.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: App Store Pricing

        AFAIK, the majority of Android users are cheapskates

        You mean smart?

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: App Store Pricing

      There's a weird psychological thing going on with buying apps...

      I find I don't hesitate to drop $20 on a meal, or $75 on a rain suit for the bike, or $10/mo for a patreon, but then I'll go "WHAAATTT! $11 for a weather radar app because it has TDWR? ELEVEN BUCKS?!? I'LL BE IN THE POOR HOUSE!"

      It's so strange when I catch myself doing this, knowing how irrational it is.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: App Store Pricing

        Well, it's easy to pay eleven for this app, five for that one, eight for that one, twenty for some pointless in-game upgrade and... see where this is going?

        Actually, the reason I don't pay for apps is because it would mean giving payment details to Google (or Apple). Yeah, um, no.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: App Store Pricing

          "Actually, the reason I don't pay for apps is because it would mean giving payment details to Google (or Apple). "

          Definitely this.

          1. Joe W Silver badge

            Re: App Store Pricing

            It used to be the case that you could buy a gift card at the gas station or supermarket, which does not require you to enter actual payment details. Downside is Google now has a couple of quid in my account I cannot use at the moment. I care FA.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: App Store Pricing

            You can tie an anonymous paypal email address to your google store account.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: App Store Pricing

        Maybe people realise apps can be taken off them at the whim of Google or Apple?

      3. LovesTha

        Re: App Store Pricing

        I mostly don't from fear of paying for a bad app. If I knew it was good I wouldn't mind.

      4. lundril

        Re: App Store Pricing

        That's the difference between something you have to manufacture (e.g. a meal) and something which can be replicated for almost zero cost (e.g. an app).

        I have no problem paying 20 bucks for a meal, because I know once I eat it, it will be gone; the next person who comes along will get (hopefully) another freshly prepared meal.

        With an app I pay 1$... and if 1 Mio other people also pay 1$, then whoever wrote the app gets 700k $ (and 300k$ for Google or Apple). 700k $ is a lot of money.

        In a way income from an app is more like a lottery: Your app is your lottery ticket; you got it by investing your development time; and if you are the lucky winner you get the price money.

        Of course Google and Apple always win; but even that's expected in a casino :-)

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Re: App Store Pricing

          $700k? Dream on, for most apps.

  6. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Another F-Droid vote

    Plenty of apps already moved to F-Droid because they literally don't run under recently Play Store restrictions for Android 11+ file permissions. Google's FUSE mounts and file APIs have up to 10000 times slower performance than native filesystem access and they're plagued by bugs. No direct access permission might mean not working.

    Yes, F-Droid fully supports donations to developers.

  7. Not Irrelevant

    "Would they request login credentials for an email client too? Or an app that enables you to connect with your Google account?"

    To answer this obviously rhetorical question, yes the store reviewers would ask you for login credentials to test your app. Any app with a login prompt, this has happened to me before. It doesn't matter if making accounts is free, they want you to give them a test account anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > . It doesn't matter if making accounts is free, they want you to give them a test account anyway.

      And how does that square with the usual prohibition (including by Google themselves) against sharing of credentials, which is also good practice?

      Are Google really asking developers to violate terms and conditions that they themselves impose?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why single out this app?

    Google just not noticed that other apps are doing essentially the same? I'm honestly baffled. There are some really great apps which ask you to donate. I am thinking about a certain android port of a FOSS software, e.g., which reminds me on the birthday of the developer that I could by them a beer...

    FTR, I'm trying not to draw attention to this software - if it gets kicked from the Play Store, that would be a loss for many. It has > 1 Mio downloads...

    I honestly don't know if Google just didn't notice, or the reason for allowing the one thing and kicking out StreetComplete lies elsewhere. Any thoughts?

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Why single out this app?

      Rumours that they might some day introduce advertising in Google Maps, and oh look here's a map app that isn't their own. Uh-oh. Can't have that.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Why single out this app?

        Just like the Signal adverts on Instagram that Facebook refused to show...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why single out this app?

        > here's a map app

        StreetComplete, as the name suggests, is not a map application. It is a mapping application.

        It is meant as a tool to quickly and conveniently add detail to OSM, such as street names and directions, type of road surface, whether or not there's public lighting (and what kind), etc.

        It is also not associated with the OSM foundation in any way.

  9. JassMan

    Since when have Google and Apple been charities

    If people make a charitable donation to a starving programmer who is offering free software for the good of civilisation, what right do the mega corps have to steal that small donation.

    At he very least they should allow the first say $50K to be across all apps by an author.

  10. David Nash Silver badge

    What's the difference?

    Between asking you to "donate to help fund the app's development", and "pay for the app" -- they are both funding the app's development.

    The latter has always been disallowed via non app store methods and the subject of much debate. So what's new here?

    Is it just that a donation is voluntary?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's the difference?

      Generally, the idea with a paid product is to make money out of it. With a donation request, the idea is to lose a little less money on it and, more importantly, to feel that your efforts are appreciated by someone else out there.

      There's scope for abuse, yes, but Google of all things could and should know the difference between one and the other.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As has been said, there's no need to side load. The application (which btw is not affiliated with the OpenStreetMap foundation) is available from F-Droid, as are thousands of other useful and safe applications.

    StreetConplete is a great way to kill time when you're out and about.

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