In-App Purchases at Google I/O 2021

May 20, 2021
Alejandro Cantarero, Ph.D.
A person holds a Google Android phone

This week Google had its Google I/O conference.  A number of announcements were made about in-app purchases (IAPs), subscriptions, the Google Play Store, and the Google Play Billing Library.  

We’ve found all the major announcements related to selling digital products with your apps on the Google Play Store so you don’t have to go watch all the talks.

Google Play Billing v4

The single biggest announcement for in-app purchases and subscriptions is the release of v4 of the Google Play Billing Library.  Release notes for Play Billing v4 can be found here.  While the library is available immediately, the new capabilities it provides have not been released yet and details are pretty scarce on exactly how all the features work.

We’ll continue to updated this blog as more information is released on these exciting new ways to sell products on Google Play.

Multiline Subscriptions

Coming later this year, Google teased how you can bundle together multiple different subscription products and sell them as a single purchase.

Currently, if you want to bundle up multiple subscriptions in your app, you have to create a new subscription product in the Play Console.  You might call it Bundled Subscription, set a price, and then internally in your app grant the correct access to the content and features unlocked by the set of subscriptions that were accessed via the purchase.  This logic all has to be created in your app code.

This new approach potentially offers some advantages over the old method of selling bundles:

  • The customer can see a line item breakdown of each subscription they are purchasing.
  • Presumably, Play Billing will grant purchases on each included subscription, simplifying your in-app logic for granting access to paid content and features.
  • Hopefully, Google will offer a mechanism to offer a bundled purchase discount, though they did not show that capability in their talks.
Google Play Billing multiline subscriptions example screenshot

Multi-Quantity Purchases

Another exciting announcement is the support of multi-quantity purchases.  This enables Play Billing to work in a manner similar to a shopping cart.  For one-time purchases, customers will be able to add multiple quantities of an item during the checkout process and buy them with a single purchase.

Google Play Billing multi-quantity purchase example screenshot

Prepaid Plans

Google also announced Prepaid Plans.  These will allow you to sell access to content or features for a fixed period of time.  Google will prompt the customer to renew for more time as their prepaid plans expire, but there are no details yet on how that will work.

They also announced that prepaid plans will be supported in Real-Time Developer Notifications (RTDN) and the Subscriptions API.

Google Play Billing prepaid plans example screenshot

Sunsetting of AIDL and Play Billing v1 and v2

As announced at Google I/O last year, each major version of the Google Play Billing Library will be supported for 2 years.  Google is officially sunsetting AIDL for in-app purchases as well as Play Billing Library versions 1 and 2 this year.

All new apps must use version 3 or 4 of the Play Billing Library by August 2, 2021.  All existing apps must switch by November 1, 2021.

For more information on migrating from AIDL to Google Play Billing, consult this migration guide from Google.

Comparative Revenue Metrics

Google started rolling these out earlier this year.  15 new metrics covering both engagement and monetization of your app have been added to the Play Console.  The most interesting part is that they’ve created comparative benchmarks to help you understand how well your app is performing versus similar apps.  This can help you quickly see where you might need to spend effort on improving your monetization efforts.

Google has created over 250 categories of apps and games to help you find your correct peer set.  They have excluded small, underperforming, and abandoned apps to improve the accuracy of the benchmark reporting.

In the Play Console, select your app, click on Statistics in the left navigation, and then click the Compare to peers tab.  You can then click on the Metric Name, select Monetization, and see the list of metrics available.

You can also click on the Peer group to limit the comparison to specific categories of apps.  Clicking on the Country / region will allow you to further filter by location.

Google Play Console comparative revenue screenshot

Lower Priced IAPs in Some Markets

In many markets around the world, Google is introducing sub-US dollar pricing.  This will help you better market your app in places where the current price points do not align with the spending power in the local market.  A full list of price points and countries is not available yet, but Google did share which countries will be getting new price points for IAPs on the map below.

Play Billing and Progressive Web Apps

Play Billing support for Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) was launched earlier this year.  You can now integrate Play Billing into a PWA and sell in-app purchases and subscriptions on Chrome OS.

Purchases made with Play Billing will be shared between Chrome OS and Android, which is very exciting.  Integrating Play Billing with a PWA requires using 2 APIs, the Digital Goods API and the Payments Request API.  See Google’s documentation on how to use both these APIs to enable purchases in PWAs.

Google has also provided an example app to show how this all works.

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Portrait photo of blog author
Alejandro Cantarero, Ph.D.

Alejandro Cantarero is the CTO of Nami ML. He has built and run data teams at startups and large enterprises. Most recently he was the VP of Data at two large media companies, the Los Angeles Times and Tribune Publishing Company.

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"We spent hours researching the best ways to implement subscriptions and after many failed attempts we found Nami. We were able to go live with subscriptions in our Apple and Android apps in a matter of days."
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Brian Pedone
Quiet Punch
Quiet Punch
"Nami helped us achieve a cross-platform solution for managing and sellingsubscriptions on Apple and Google. The Nami platform was flexible enough to handleour business requirements for in-app purchasing, allowing us to focus on our client'score domain and domain logic.”
Client Name
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"Nami helped us achieve a cross-platform solution for managing and selling subscriptions on Apple and Google. The Nami platform was flexible enough to handle our business requirements for in-app purchasing, allowing us to focus on our client's core domain and domain logic."
Melody Morgan
Director, Engineering
"We spent hours researching the best ways to implement subscriptions and after many failed attempts we found Nami. We were able to go live with subscriptions in our Apple and Android apps in a matter of days."
Brian Pedone
Quiet Punch
Quiet Punch
"It took a couple of hours to incorporate their easy to use SDK. Nami provides a monetization machine learning solution, a paywall displaying what a user can purchase, and a whole suite of other useful features. As a result, it saved me development cycles so I could focus on other important things."
Mark Lapasa
Android Developer
Toronto App Factory
Toronto App Factory
"After spending a few days trying to implement subscriptions, I found Nami ML. I was able to complete in-app subscriptions within less than 3 hours."
Tanin Rojanapiansatith
iOS Developer

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