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Big changes coming to Google and Apple app stores

Years after Google exited China, the tech giant is back working with Chinese developers. Yet, the Google Play store continues to be off limits to users.

There is already an ecosystem of third-party app stores in China. Currently, Android users get their apps from Baidu and Tencent.

Smartphone apps
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"Google Play is the largest digital store for Android users to discover and purchase their favorite mobile app and games, and the ecosystem is continuing to grow globally. Over the past year, we've expanded the list of countries where app developers can sign up to be merchants on Google Play, totaling 60 countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar and Venezuela most recently," wrote Ellie Powers, product manager for Google Play, in a blog post.

Facebook is another tech giant that's been blocked in China, but last month Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg attempted to woo the Chinese community by speaking Mandarin at a Q&A.

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Apple's relationship with China, on the other hand, differs. It's app store is already available in China but it's made changes of its own Thursday.

In its app store, the download button for a "FREE" app now reads "GET."

In-app purchases have become a major way developers make money. Apps labeled "FREE" often cost a user money to move levels or to continue to play.

Users have voiced frustration over not knowing how much an app experience is really going to cost.

Earlier this year, the European Commission forced Google to re-label apps that offer in-app purchases.