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[Update: Fixed] Samsung Wearable sideloads the Samsung Pay APK, breaking Google rules

Samsung’s various smartwatches are some of the best choices for Android users, but they come with the caveat that you have to install several apps to get them up and running on non-Samsung devices. That includes the individual install of Samsung Pay on your phone, but now Samsung is breaking Google’s terms of service by attempting to sideload the Samsung Pay APK from the Wearable app.

This action was first pointed out by Max Weinbach on Twitter. When trying to set up Samsung Pay on a Galaxy Watch from a non-Samsung smartphone — in his case a OnePlus 8 Pro — Weinbach shows that the Samsung Wearable app retrieves an APK for Samsung Pay and prompts the user to sideload it. He says that the APK is being pulled from a server.

Update 7/13: Since this story was originally published, Samsung has fixed this behavior. The Wearable app no longer downloads an APK for sideloading, but instead directs users to get the plug-in from the Google Play Store, as it should. As far as we’re aware, Google never pulled Samsung’s app for breaking the terms of service.

Previously, the Samsung Wearable app directed users to set up Samsung Pay by pushing them to the Google Play Store to get the necessary plug-in app. Now that Samsung is distributing the plug-in as an APK, it’s clearly breaking Google’s guidelines. Google explains in the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement (section 4.5):

You may not use Google Play to distribute or make available any Product that has a purpose that facilitates the distribution of software applications and games for use on Android devices outside of Google Play.

Typically, Google removes applications from the Play Store that break this specific rule, but the Samsung Wearable app is still live at the moment. Technically, that should change soon. We’ll update this article if/when Google removes the app and/or when Samsung changes the behavior.

The Galaxy Wearable app can be downloaded from the Play Store and Galaxy Store, so I thought perhaps this was a change destined for the Galaxy Store and simply was made in the Play Store version by mistake. Max, however, told me this isn’t the case. When installed from the Galaxy Store, the Wearable app uses that store’s API to install the app without user interaction.

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