UC Browser has disappeared from the Google Play store. The Alibaba-owned mobile browser, which garnered more than 500 million downloads last month and has over 100 million users in India, is no longer visible on search - though other UCWeb applications - UC Browser Mini and UC News - still are. The development emerges months after the Chinese app had been accused of sending personal data of its Indian users to a server in China, and it's unclear for now what the reason for the removal is.
The removal of UC Browser from Google Play was spotted by users and reported late on Tuesday. Android Police founder Artem Russakovskii also posted the text of an email that he received from UC Union (UCWeb's affiliate network) that suggests some conflict between Google and UCWeb. The UC Union email, which was said to be circulated on November 9, warns partners to abandon "all misleading/malicious advertising" ways that are being used to procure new users.
Twitter user Mike Ross, who claims to work for UC Browser, tweeted that the browser is "temporarily removed" from the Play Store for 30 days due to adopting "misleading" and "unhealthy" methods of increasing installs. We've reached out to Google and UCWeb for clarity and will update this space accordingly.
Presently, searching for UC Browser on Google Play brings UC Browser Mini, which is the lightweight mobile browser by UCWeb. The official UCWeb site has provided a link to sideload the UC Browser app through its APK file, though.
In August, some media reports had surfaced that revealed a probe against UC Browser for sending user details and location data to a remote server. The government was even set to ban the browser if the Chinese browser was found guilty. However, UCWeb had released a statement ensuring security and privacy of users at its priority. "We have strong measures in place to encrypt the data while we transmit it," the company had said in an interview to IANS.
Data provided by research firm StatCounter shows UC Browser as the most popular mobile browser in India, surpassing Google's Chrome with nearly 50 percent market share. The browser even had domination with 60 percent share of the Indian market at the initial stage but eventually lost some of its ground to Chrome.
Update: UCWeb provided Gadgets 360 the following 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.ucweb.com."