How App Encryption in Google Play for Android Jelly Bean Might Reduce Piracy

Many Android users would know that installing apps from sources other than the Google Play (formerly Android Market) is as simple as changing an option in settings. There’s no need to jailbreak your device as is the case with iPhones or install custom ROMs. For those who like to pirate apps, Android has been a piece of heaven. Developers have complained a lot about low revenues and losses due on the Android platform but it seems like Google has finally taken notice and starting with Jelly Bean, things are about to change.


Piracy is a big concern for all developers as no one wants to see their hard work being stolen and used illegally. Piracy is one of the reasons why Infinity Blade never came to Android either. The Wired UK had covered Android piracy back in May with the Football Manager 2009 game facing a piracy to legal downloads ratio of 9:1 – that’s correct, for each legal download, 9 illegal installations took place. All thanks to the simple change in settings to enable installations from third-party sources as well as a simple Google search for apk files for any app since no DRM exists for the application packages.

However, announced at Google I/O 2012, one of the features for developers in Google Play for Jelly Bean is app encryption which should help developers in getting their deserved revenues by curbing piracy. Here’s what Google says about app encryption:

Starting with Android 4.1, Google Play will help protect application assets by encrypting all paid apps with a device-specific key before they are delivered and stored on a device.

In theory, if this works as intended, this would work similar to how iOS platform works. Unless app encryption is somehow broken, this will help to reduce piracy by a great amount although, there is still no way to make side-loading of apps difficult for Android users. Although, from what we’ve read so far, apps are decrypted again before installation so whether the encryption would be effective in curbing piracy is yet to be seen. One inherent problem with Android is how only a small number of people use the latest versions. Ice Cream Sandwich still has very low adoption rate so Jelly Bean will take even more time to become the main Android OS. Perhaps, in a year or two, we might be able to see the desired results.

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