The media hysteria over today’s news that Epic Games will release Fortnite for Android outside of Google Play is a bit much. It’s really not that big of a deal. It’s certainly not worth proclaiming that malware will take over the world, that you’ll instead give your money to some other game, and that everyone’s Android phones will now forever be insecure. People will download and update Fortnite for Android from Epic and we’ll all be fine.
The security concern
The basic argument against this distribution method is that this is opening up everyone to installing bad apps and that once you allow your phone to install an app outside of Google Play, that you open your phone up to future bad happenings. That is partly true, yes. You also have to remember that Google is still protecting your Android phone should you install Fortnite for Android.
In order to install Fortnite on Android when it’s released, you will have to download it to your phone and allow an app (an APK file) to be installed from Chrome, which you’ll do through a pop-up and a Settings change. Once that happens, Fortnite installation will commence. And once you are done, you should probably head back into Apps>Chrome>Install unknown apps and take away the permission you just gave it.
If a user were to forget to turn that permission back off, they could potentially install another app outside of Google Play and through Chrome that could contain malware or other harmful code. That’s assuming the person is actively out looking for apps outside of Google Play after Fortnite.
Google Play Protect is still here
But look, if you have a phone with Google Play Services (and there is like a 99.7% chance you do), your phone has Google Play Protect. Google Play Protect is Google’s secure service that monitors Android phones to make sure they aren’t running bad apps. It’s not exclusive to monitoring Google Play apps either. In fact, Google says specifically that “Play Protect warns you about bad apps that are downloaded from other sources too.” To be fair, Android has actually scanned sideloaded apps since 2012, but it’s now doing so in this fancy package known as Google Play Protect.
Google Play Protect will scan Fortnite when you download it and try to warn you if it’s bad or not. If you download it from Epic, it should be just fine. If you are a weirdo and install it from some shady-ass trickster site, then there is a good chance that Google will scan the app and warn you about it.
Google could stop this
Let’s consider the fact that Google is the one allowing Android apps to be sideloaded onto Android phones. Apple doesn’t let that happen and that’s why Epic is forced to distribute Fortnite on iOS through the App Store. But Google is over here openly welcoming in the distribution of apps throughout its mobile operating system. That should not be overlooked.
I know this isn’t a popular opinion around Android parts, but Google really should stop this practice. Distribution of APK files is a security issue for Android. It’s a part of the reason that Android has security and malware worries that security firms like to write misleading reports about. There are countless sites that let users download apps outside of Google Play and install at their own risk.
Sure, Google has put in extra measures to make it more difficult to install APK files, but it’s not really that tough. And when you allow people to install applications on phones that haven’t been checked through the secure systems in something like Google Play, you are asking for trouble. You are hoping that your Google Play Protect service will catch bad actors after the fact.
A business decision you’d make
From a financial perspective, as I just said, Epic can do this with Fortnite for Android because Google is allowing it to happen. By controlling the release of their popular game, Epic won’t have to give Google the 30% cut that it would get should the app be distributed through Google Play. That’s Google’s problem. This isn’t a “Epic is greedy” thing.
If you owned a business and had two options in front of you, one of which might ask your customers to jump through an extra hoop, but would let you take all the profits instead of giving 30% to a 3rd party, wouldn’t you do that? Yes, you would.
And as Epic told The Verge today, they expect their users to be able to handle this task without getting owned by malware. They distribute PC and Mac versions this same way – through their own site – and don’t have rampant malware problems.
Google Play wouldn’t stop the scam apps anyway
Keep in mind that the minute that Fortnite was announced for Android, scammers got to work. And they got to work trying to game Google search results into convincing you that you could download the app today, even through it wasn’t available on Google Play yet. That’s funny since we just found out today that it won’t be on Google Play.
Even if Fortnite made it’s way to Google Play, like most games, it would have been pirated and distributed outside of Google Play. That’s how Android (unfortunately) works. I’m assuming that Epic might have limited the release of it too, making it only available to select regions or devices, so yeah, you’d have it uploaded to APK sites for extra distribution. In other words, Google Play distribution versus what Epic is about to do won’t change anything. Again, all of this is Google allowing the sideloading of applications.
It’s somewhat of an inconvenience
I do have somewhat of an issue with the inconvenience of having to install Fortnite outside of Google Play. The security concerns don’t bother me, but it really is easier to hop into Google Play, search for the app or game you want, and then find it there to install. Should I want to play Fortnite on Android (and I won’t and don’t want to), I won’t find it there. Instead, I’ll have to go to Epic’s site and get it. When an update is released, I’ll have to get it from them, rather than in the Google Play store with the rest of my app updates.
Fortnite players will find and play Fortnite
In the end, as Epic suggested, Fortnite players are going to find Fortnite from them and they’ll play a safe version of the game. Just because an app is being distributed from a reliable and trusted source, outside of Google Play, doesn’t mean the world of security on Android is ending. There are already some secure measures put in place to generally protect Android users and with distribution direct from Epic, it won’t be difficult to find the proper version.
If you want something to complain about, complain about the exclusivity that’s likely coming to Samsung phones.