Apple began offering a “free app of the week” back in 2012 as a means of highlighting some of the App Store’s best titles, and encourage users to start downloading. Google, belatedly, is following in Apple’s footsteps with its own newly launched “free app of the week” section on Google Play. However, we understand that Google has not yet committed to make this a full-time feature.
Instead, Google Play’s “free app of the week” is something the company is testing only in the U.S. for a four-week time period. Internally, it’s being considered a pilot program.
The feature was initially spotted by Android Police, which noticed the section had begun appearing on the Play Store on both desktop and mobile, featuring a free download of the normally $2.99 game, Card Wars – Adventure Time from Cartoon Network.
VentureBeat reports the section was introduced last week.
We also understand that Google Play approached Cartoon Network to ask if it wanted to participate in the pilot program. The company was not planning on running a sale at the time, but agreed.
This also means there is more of an editorial selection process for those apps that are showing up as the “free app of the week,” rather than some algorithm that’s parsing Google Play for popular apps that were already on sale.
Though Cartoon Network is now giving its app away for free as part of this program, Google is not compensating the publisher for the downloads.
This is not the first time Google has offered a free app of the week. Google had previously tested the model back in 2015, when it rolled out a “free app of the week” in the family section of Google Play. At the time, it was offering a free app from PBS Kids.
It’s also not the first time that Android users have been able to download paid content for free – Amazon in 2015 launched Amazon Underground, a section on its own Amazon Appstore where premium apps are offered for free. Its model compensates developers based on how long these apps are used, the company said.
And, of course, app publishers also often run their own sales in an effort to boost downloads and their Google Play ranking.
Google declined to comment on the business model around its “free app of the week,” however.
A company spokesperson instead offered the following statement, “We are always making improvements to Google Play to offer to the best service possible to our consumers.”