Google forces Total Commander developer to remove the ability to install APKs on Android devices

May 19, 2022

Total Commander for Android no longer allows you to install APKs that you downloaded. The popular file manager boasts a cult following among the PC and Android users.

Total Commander for Android removes option to install APK files
Total Commander for Android removes the ability to install APKs

Here's what happened. Christian Ghisler, the developer of Total Commander, has revealed that Google sent him a warning that his app would be removed from the Play Store within 7 days unless he modified his app. What was the offense? The app was reportedly not compliant with the Device and Network Abuse policy.

The policy forbids apps from modifying, replacing or updating itself from any other source except the Play Store. It also restricts apps from downloading other apps from third-party sources. Google claimed that Total Commander was violating this policy. The developer blocked the installation of Total Commander, so it can't update itself via its own APK (when the user downloads it from elsewhere), but Google sent a second warning with the same wording. A third warning will remove the app from the Play Store altogether, as has happened to other developers.

Ghisler tried reaching to Google to appeal the decision, but was unable to reach a real person at the company. The irony is that Android's stock Files app, Google Chrome allow installation of APKs, as do all third-party file manager apps and browsers. That's why the restriction posed on Total Commander feels unfair. It's just Google being Google.

How is Total Commander responsible for what the user does?

It is up to the user to choose what apps they download, where they download it from, and to install them on their devices. Total Commander plays a very small role in this scenario, particularly in the third step, it just enables the user to install the apps that they have downloaded. The file manager does not have the ability to browse the internet, let alone download APKs.

One user suggested the issue could have been caused by the Plugins page in the app. Total Commander for Android supports plugins, which can be downloaded from the Play Store. The file manager app has an "add plugins" option that lists the plugins, with the word "Install" next to them. Tapping these leads to the plugin's Play Store page. It is possible that Google misunderstood these options, and perceived it as downloading third party apps, and issued the warning to the developer.

Google forces Total Commander developer to remove the ability to install APKs on Android devices

Future of Total Commander for Android

Ghisler has removed the options to download the plugins from the Play Store version of Total Commander, but it seems to be to no avail. The developer points out that removing the ability to install APKs could result in a lot of negative opinions, i.e., 1-star reviews, and that this could hurt the reputation of the app. As a result, he may be forced to remove the app from the Google Play Store entirely.

All is not lost, as Ghisler has released a standalone version of Total Commander that allows installation of APK files. The unrestricted version of the app is available for download on the official website.

The EU is set to enforce the Digital Markets Act (DMA) in 2023, which will force Apple to allow installation of iOS apps from third-party sources. Being able to customize the user experience is Android's strongest point, this includes the freedom to download and install apps from wherever we want, but Google seems to be heading in the opposite direction by banning APK installs in Total Commander.

Google forces Total Commander developer to remove the ability to install APKs on Android devices
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Google forces Total Commander developer to remove the ability to install APKs on Android devices
Total Commander can no longer be used to install APKs on Android devices. Here's what happened.
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  1. bruh said on August 18, 2023 at 1:25 pm

    Uhh, this has already been possible – I am not sure how but remember my brother telling me about it. I’m not a whatsapp user so not sure of the specifics, but something about sending the image as a file and somehow bypassing the default compression settings that are applied to inbound photos.

    He has also used this to share movies to whatsapp groups, and files 1Gb+.

    Like I said, I never used whatsapp, but I know 100% this isn’t a “brand new feature”, my brother literally showed me him doing it, like… 5 months ago?

  2. 💥 said on August 18, 2023 at 3:55 pm

    Martin, what happened to those: 12 Comments ( Is there a specific justifiable reason why they were deleted?

    Hmm, it looks like the gHacks website database is faulty, and not populating threads with their relevant cosponsoring posts.

  3. 45 RPM said on August 19, 2023 at 6:29 pm

    The page on ghacks this is on represents the best of why it has become so worthless, fill of click-bait junk that it’s about to be deleted from my ‘daily reads’.

    It’s really like “Press Release as re-written by some d*ck for clicks…poorly.” And the subjects are laughable. Can’t wait for “How to search for files on Windows”.

    1. owl said on August 20, 2023 at 12:51 am

      > The page on ghacks this is on represents the best of why it has become so worthless, fill of click-bait junk…

      Sadly, I have to agree.

      Only Martin and Ashwin are worth subscribing to.
      Especially Emre Çitak and Shaun are the worst ones.

      If intended “Clickbait”, it would mark the end of Ghacks Technology News.
      Ghacks doesn’t need crappy clickbaits. Clearly separate articles from newer authors (perhaps AIs and external sales person or external advertising man) as just “Advertisements”!

      We, the subscribers of Ghacks, urge Martin to make a decision.

  4. chessandonions said on August 20, 2023 at 12:40 am

    because nevermore wants to “monetize” on every aspect of human life…

  5. Frank Rizzo said on August 20, 2023 at 11:52 pm

    “Threads” is like the Walmart of Social Media.

  6. Ashray said on August 21, 2023 at 4:06 pm

    How hard can it be to clone a twitter version of that as well? They’re slow.

  7. Paul(us) said on August 21, 2023 at 5:16 pm

    Yes, why not mention how large the HD files can be?
    Why, not mention what version of WhatsApp is needed?
    These omissions make the article feel so bare. If not complete.

    1. Paul(us) said on August 21, 2023 at 5:18 pm

      Sorry posted on the wrong page.

  8. Marc said on August 21, 2023 at 6:00 pm

    such a long article for such a simple matter. Worthless article ! waste of time

  9. plusminus_ said on August 21, 2023 at 7:54 pm

    I already do this by attaching them via the ‘Document’ option.

  10. John G. said on August 21, 2023 at 11:43 pm

    I don’t know what’s going on here at Ghacks but it’s obvious that something is broken, comments are being mixed whatever the article, I am unable to find some of my later posts neither. :S

  11. Tom Hawack said on August 23, 2023 at 2:28 pm

    Quoting the article,
    “As users gain popularity, the value of their tokens may increase, allowing investors to reap rewards.”

    Besides, beyond the thrill and privacy risks or not, the point is to know how you gain popularity, be it on social sites as everywhere in life. Is it by being authentic, by remaining faithful to ourselves or is it to have this particular skill which is to understand what a majority likes, just like politicians, those who’d deny to the maximum extent compatible with their ideological partnership, in order to grab as many of the voters they can?

    I see the very concept of this as unhealthy, propagating what is already an increasing flaw : the quest for fame. I won’t be the only one to count himself out, definitely.

    1. Tom Hawack said on August 23, 2023 at 2:34 pm

      @John G. is right : my comment was posted on [] and it appears there but as well here at []

      This has been lasting for several days. Fix it or at least provide some explanations if you don’t mind.

  12. Tom said on August 24, 2023 at 11:53 am

    > Google Chrome is following in Safari’s footsteps by introducing a new feature that allows users to move the Chrome address bar to the bottom of the screen, enhancing user accessibility and interaction.

    Firefox did this long before Safari.

  13. Mavoy said on September 16, 2023 at 2:17 pm

    Basically they’ll do anything except fair royalties.

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