UC Browser is massively popular in India, with over 500 million installs on the Play Store. But just two days ago, the app was removed from the store. Now it appears that a setting in the browser itself, rather than rumored data theft or misleading promotions, is the reason it has been removed.
Android Police previously signed up as an affiliate of UC Union, the browser's parent company (though we are not currently working with them). A week ago, we received this email from the company:
Dear Partner, We hereby emphasis again that UC Union prohibits any and all misleading/malicious advertising method(s) to procure new users when promoting UC Browser campaigns, such as by using slogan inconsistent with the Product functions, or by using inductive slogan.
DO NOT use the Malicious Promotion method(s) or STOP such behavior immediately if you are acting so.
Upon discovery a Malicious Promotion, UC Union is entitled to (i) STOP your payment settlement, or DEDUCT your corresponding payment made to you; (ii) compensation in recovery of the loss suffered by UC Union,
including but not limited to loss of UC Union’s good will, loss of users of UC Union Product(s), removal of UC Union Product(s) from Google Play or Apple Store, and any other loss as a result of your Malicious Promotion;
(iii) require you to CLARIFY the facts for elimination of the negative impact shed upon UC Union; and (iv) resort to any other legal measures if necessary.
That seemed to indicate that misleading and malicious/redirecting ads were being used to increase installs for UC Browser recently. This isn't the first time this has happened either - UC Union previously pulled the affiliate program after some partners resorted to malicious ads. The company reinstated the program a few months ago, but it seems like ad problems have been cropping up again.
Since this notice came only a few days before the app's removal from the Play Store, it looked like Google caught wind of the malicious advertisements, and decided to pull UC Browser. One Twitter user, claiming to be a UC Browser employee, also said misleading ads were to blame:
I work for UC Browser,I got mail today morning it said that UC Browser was temporarily removed from play store for 30 days because it used "Misleading" and "Unhealthy" methods of promotion to increase installs
— Mike Ross (@SKz_14) November 14, 2017
However, the real problem (at least according to UCWeb), wasn't with malicious advertisements - it was a setting in the app itself. UCWeb provided Gadgets 360 with an official response:
"We were informed by Google Play about temporary removal of UC Browser from the Play Store for 7 days, beginning 13 Nov 2017, under the reason that a certain setting of UC Browser is not in line with Google’s policy. We have conducted an urgent internal investigation and fixed the problem. The new version has been uploaded on Google Play's Developer Console and is awaiting evaluation. We will actively cooperate with Google Play for any concern caused by this unintentional error. In the meantime, users can still download UC Browser Mini from the Play Store, an alternative version of UC Browser. We thank Google Play for their understanding and support extended to us. UC Browser new product package will be back on Google Play next week and, in the interim, users and partners can download the product from our website http://www.zambhalha.com"
If you still want to download UC Browser, you can grab it from APKMirror until it returns to the Play Store.
UC Browser has returned to the Play Store. You can download it below.