Security hasn’t exactly been one of the strong suits of Android, something that Google has been trying hard to address lately. Or at least give off that impression. Its latest Play Protect thrust really just gives a public, and therefore marketable, face to the technologies that Google has been using for years. And now it is putting that stamp right on the boxes of Android devices that have undergone Google’s certification process and that, therefore, ship with Google Play Store and Services.
Google can really only do so much to encourage users to only install apps from its sanctioned repository, which basically boils down to just the Google Play Store. Google can’t lock out users from sideloading APKs without turning Android into a closed ecosystem like iOS. The best it can do, other than make it a tad more involved to install unverified apps, is to preach how Google Play Services protects users from malware.
That’s where Google Play Protect comes in. It is a new name given to technologies and processes that Google has been applying to Android for quite a while now, plus some new features as well. For example, it uses a variety of machine learning techniques to block or weed out malware masquerading as legitimate apps. That said, some still do fall through the cracks.
Play Protect, however, only works if Google Play Services is present and Google Play Services is only officially available on devices that have passed Google’s certification requirements. Of course, there are ways to unofficially install those, Google wants to assure buyers that the phone they’re getting is certified from the get go. Hence why it’s slapping the Play Protect logo on boxes of certified Android devices.
While understandable and, to some extent, ideal from a security standpoint, this does serve to alienate not a few Android device makers who, for one reason or another, don’t have that certification. Those range from companies too small to afford the process, to OEMs like Xiaomi that prefer their own brand of Google services, to companies like Amazon who live in their own walled gardens.