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Google needs to tackle its app discovery problem

Posted by wicked April - 23 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

The app discovery experience in the Google Play Store is still frustratingly bad. It is over reliant on a handful of charts which are typically populated by the same small group of apps and publishers. The search functionality is poor, there’s a serious lack of content curation, and it’s impossible to filter results. There are signs that Google is finally addressing this issue, but it could do so much more.


The struggle for indie developers

The app discovery issue is typically reported from the developer point of view. One of the attractive things about the early days of the app revolution was the fact that, theoretically, anyone could make an app, and if it was good enough, it would gain traction. With well over 1 million apps in the Play Store and a number of big name publishers with deep pockets involved, this is far less true today. It’s a problem that was exacerbated by the fact that, for a while, everyone and their Granny thought they could make an app or game and rake it in.

A Distimo report from last year revealed that new publishers accounted for just 3 percent of the top 250 in the Play Store and claimed just 1.2 percent of the revenue. Established names are adept at dominating the charts and they use their existing portfolio to promote their new releases. There are various techniques developers and publishers employ to try and manipulate their way into the charts, some fair and some decidedly dodgy. The charts themselves create a positive feedback loop – the top apps are more visible, so they get downloaded more, so they’re made more visible.

It’s undeniably tough for indie developers and that means we are missing out on some great apps because we don’t know about them. Check out our Indie app of the day to find a few.

Setting developers aside for a moment, there’s another problem here that doesn’t get enough attention. The app discovery experience for us, the consumers, is terrible. Browsing the Play Store is tedious and often unrewarding.

Check out the best indie apps, and if you’re a independent developer, be featured on Android Authority


Problems with the Play Store

Boasting that you have over 1 million apps is all well and good, but the question that’s often posed in retort is how many of them are worth downloading? The answer is a small percentage. All of the apps in the Play Store are divided into just 46 categories and 20 of those are types of games.

If we take the Business section as an example we have 288 apps in the “Top Paid in Business” chart and 540 apps in the “Top Free in Business” chart if you search on your desktop. The same search on my phone showed 284 apps in the paid section and 500 in the free section. The same search on my tablet for all apps, not just “Designed for tablets” showed 264 in the paid section and 500 in the free section. This is presumably listed by straight download numbers, because some of the apps have very low ratings. The difference in numbers probably relates to device compatibility. The numbers shown vary from category to category, but you’re never seeing more than one thousandth of what’s on offer.

Finding tablet apps

Thankfully Google finally added some filtering by adding the “Designed for tablets” section last year, but there is still a problem here for tablet owners. If you search on the desktop site you can see a list of which of your devices any given app is compatible with. Let’s use Zomato as an example, because it tells me the app is compatible with my Nexus 7 and it is, but looking at the app on the Nexus 7 reveals the “Designed for phones” text. Firing it up on the Nexus 7 we find that the app lacks a landscape mode and it’s clearly not optimized for tablet use.


If we jump back to our Business category app chart and use the “Designed for tablets” filter we find just 60 apps in the paid section and 500 in the free section. There is still a lack of optimized tablet apps and it’s disappointing to find an app is compatible with your tablet, but doesn’t deliver a polished experience because it’s really designed for use on phones.

Google’s other recommendations

The top charts show the same apps over and over, many of them span more than one category, but Google has been adding new sections. We also have the New Release charts, which show the most downloaded apps in the last month. Beyond that Google has stirred in a “Recommended for You” section, a “Like recent installs” section and quick suggestions based on your app ratings.

If you look at the app home page you’ll also find bigger charts for “Top Grossing” apps and “Trending” apps. You can find the “Top Grossing” chart in individual categories as well, though it doesn’t seem like a very useful measure for consumers. For some reason the more useful “Trending” chart isn’t there when you drill down into a category.

Lacking the human touch

One of the reasons that there are a lot of poor quality apps in the Play Store and a lack of decent recommendations is that app submissions are not reviewed by humans. The “Our Favorite Apps” section lists just 18 apps and half of them are well known names that appear in the other charts. The “Editor’s Choice” section is a little better with 40 apps, but once again many of them are big names already being promoted in the other charts.


That’s why it’s nice to see Google rolling out the “My Play activity” feed showing your recent shared activity on the Play Store. This includes app ratings and any +1’s you may have bestowed. When you’re browsing apps you’ll occasionally see ratings and +1’s from your Google+ contacts. The trouble is that the usefulness of this depends heavily on your adoption of Google+, but it’s nice to be able to see what friends have been using and what they would recommend. If you click on the contact you can see their complete shared activity list. It’s a small step in the right direction.

It’s easy to criticize, how about suggestions?

Google isn’t going to employ the army of reviewers required to properly screen all the apps going into the Play Store. It would rather use algorithms and our own social networks to serve up recommendations, but there are plenty of other ways that the Play Store app discovery experience could be improved:

  • Advanced search – It would be great to have some advanced search functions, so you could specify things like the size (when you only have data connection and don’t want to download a big app). Even the simple ability to search within a category is missing. Google is the search king; surely it could beef up our search options in the Play Store.
  • Filtering – Google could learn a lot from Fetch. If you could apply filters to refine your search results in the Play Store it would be so much easier to find the right apps.
  • Curation – Apple’s App Store has a lot of the same problems as the Play Store and it’s worse in some respects, but one area where it is markedly better is the specially selected apps that are listed in a wide variety of sub-categories. The Play Store could also use more sub-categories.
  • Natural language search – It’s interesting to note that you can put in natural language queries and choose the Applications tab in Google Now to get better results than you can by searching directly in the Play Store.
  • Independent review aggregation – If the Play Store pulled in and aggregated detailed reviews from professional independent websites we’d be able to get a really good overview. Sadly Metacritic only covers iOS games, there’s a gap in the market for an aggregator of Android app and game reviews. User “reviews” are not always trustworthy, informative, or particularly coherent.

There’s no doubt that the Play Store is far superior to the old Android Market, but it’s still a long way from delivering a really good user experience. What would you like to see Google doing about it?

It seems like it has been much longer than two years ago when the Android Market ceased to exist and we were introduced to Google Play (and weren’t very happy about it). The world didn’t end though, and Google Play has gotten a lot better over the past few years, expanding to offer Google Play Music: All Access, television shows and magazines.

During the birthday celebration, Google is giving us sweet deals for the next 24 hours on select music, movies, apps, and magazines. All of which are going to be discounted for our purchasing pleasure.

The sales don’t appear to be live quite yet here in America (it is live in other parts of the world), but hit the link below start refreshing for when the deals go up. Once it’s up, we will update the post with the full list of what’s on sale.

Play Link

Jet Set Radio grinds its way to Android devices

Posted by wicked November - 30 - 2012 - Friday Comments Off

Sega has released a new game for us that should be received with open arms. For some, this will be all about the nostalgia. For others, a brand new experience filled with cell shaded graphics, police dodging, and tagging anything in sight with just enough spray paint. Welcome, to Jet Set Radio!

The story of this game is that several brightly colored and oddly dressed street gangs are battling it out in Tokyo to see who is the toughest group out there. While many games today would probably address this in the same way, Jet Set Radio did something completely different: battle by way of graffiti. Skating around the city and doing flips of every sort, all the while collecting spray paint cans is definitely a challenge. Add police and a Detective who doesn’t take stuff from anybody, and you have a game that will keep you glued to your device for quite some time.

This mobile version of the game sports high resolution visuals, the same catchy tunes from the original release, and more than 10 playable characters, all with their unique skill set. The only thing we can hope for is an update that will have controller support in the near future. While the virtual controls do work fine, having a real analog stick will make those turns a lot more smoother.

So what are you waiting for? You can find this classic at the Play Store for $4.99. Be sure to have a good Wi-Fi connection when downloading, as this one comes in at just under 600MB.

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Android Apps for 25 Cents: Temple Run, PicSay Pro, Amazing Alex, Dragon, Fly! & more

Posted by wicked September - 29 - 2012 - Saturday Comments Off

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Android Apps for 25 Cents: Angry Birds Space, Asphalt 7, Granny Smith, OfficeSuite Pro & more!

Posted by wicked September - 26 - 2012 - Wednesday Comments Off

The Google Play Store is celebrating a 25 cents sale this week only for tipping 25 billion downloads and here are some of the Android app and games you can grab for a quarter: Granny Smith loves her apples, after being swiped off the tree by a rascal on skates, she must dust off her [...]

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Google Play hits 25 billion downloads, more than 675,000 Android Apps

Posted by wicked September - 26 - 2012 - Wednesday Comments Off

The Google Play Store has hit 25 billion downloads and holds more than 675,000 Android apps, and to celebrate, Google will have a 25 cents sale on top apps starting today and lasting for a week! Titles from top developers including Gameloft, Electronic Arts, Rovio, runtastic, Full Fat and more will be available. Additionally, they will be [...]

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Legacy Play Store Allows You To See A List of Your Purchased Apps Again

Posted by wicked July - 22 - 2012 - Sunday Comments Off

Before the Android Market switched over to the Play Store the Market allowed you to see a list of your purchased apps under a “Not installed” section. After the transition to the Play Store, at some point along the update line, the list of paid apps went away. If you’re wanting the ability to see that list again, Paul O’Brien over at Modaco, has solved the problem. You can get the Legacy Play Store app that will solve your problem by bringing back the “Not installed” list of apps.

Paul was able to get the old version of the Play Store client and with some tinkering around, he was able to make it run alongside the official Play Store. Once again, in the Legacy Play Store your apps will have a My Apps screen with a list of all the paid apps you’ve purchased that are not installed on your device. The current version of the Play Store has a tab for all of your apps that are installed or you’ve ever installed, and lumps these together with any apps you’ve purchased. If you’ve purchased a  lot of apps, you may find yourself having trouble finding the small handful of paid apps you want for your respective devices.

You’re able to download the APK from the source link below. You might be able to install it on it’s own on Jelly Bean devices, but he recommends installing it under root and pushing it to  /system/app and chmod it to 644.

source: Modaco

Access All Google Play Services from Anywhere in the World

Posted by wicked July - 4 - 2012 - Wednesday Comments Off


With the recent announcement of the launch of TV shows and Magazines on Google Play, Google now offers a wide range of portable, cloud-based multimedia experience for its users including Apps, Games, Books, Music, Movies, TV shows, and Magazines. Unfortunately, access to everything beyond apps and games is limited to US-residents only. Since there does exist a world beyond the US (we have personally confirmed it, believe it or not), XDA Senior Member kishankpadiyar has shared with us a method to expand that access worldwide, as long as you have a rooted Android device and Google Play Store 3.7.11.

Edit: It appears that XDA Member m.sabra originally wrote about this method a few months back when Google added Books and Movies to Play Store upon re-branding it from Android Market. You can visit this forum thread to join the original discussion.

While the method isn’t exactly short, it isn’t all that hard either. First of all, you will be required to install Market Enabler from the APK and DROIDvpn from Play Store. Then, launch DROIDvpn and register for an account. You now have everything you need to make it work. For the rest of the instructions and more details, head over to the forum thread.

Fake Angry Birds peddlers fined £50,000

Posted by wicked May - 28 - 2012 - Monday Comments Off

Ah, sweet, sweet justice. Instead of the slap on the wrist and a ban from the Google Play Store as usual, the developer of fake versions of several popular Android games like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope will get a more lasting punishment. According to the BBC, The British government has sentenced a Latvian developer to a £50,000 fine for counterfeit apps posted on the Android Market in November of last year.

In addition to the fine (which is enough to send most mobile developers into bankruptcy on its own) the unnamed developer must pay an additional £28,000 to the victims of its sneaky deeds. All told, that’s about $125,000 USD in fines, all for the fairly ubiquitous practice of a bait-and-switch app that makes its “customers” sign up for a scam SMS line that charges fees directly to their phone service bills.

The fine is the first of its kind for the mobile industry, and hopefully it’ll enter the minds of malicious developers everywhere. After all, you’d have to be crazy to post a pirated video of The Avengers to the Movies section of the store thanks to the MPAA’s legendary prosecution arm, so why should apps be any different? Thanks, Britain.

[via SlashGear]

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