Google Play revamp to highlight higher-quality apps, offer new promotional capabilities • TechCrunch

Google announced today that it is making several changes to the Google Play Store that will affect the discoverability of Android apps, the way developers can market their apps to consumers, and various trust and security concerns. Most importantly, Google is now advising developers that the Play Store will prioritize apps that deliver both technical and in-app quality by promoting them in more places in the Play Store where they can be discovered by consumers.

The changes indicate Google’s intention to give more editorial attention to how apps are displayed and distributed in the Play Store. That’s an area that has typically been a heavier focus for Apple in previous years, especially after its own App Store refresh in 2017in which it split games and apps into their own tabs and introduced editorial content, including articles and tips, to the store’s main page.

However, the Play Store doesn’t go that far. Instead, Google says it will now steer consumers away from lower-quality apps by changing how it determines which apps are made more visible on the platform.

Notably, it implements new quality thresholds that exclude apps that exceed certain crash rates and “app not responsive” (ANR) rates, both on general and per phone model. Google says the apps that don’t meet these thresholds will be banned from some areas of the Play Store, including recommendations, while others may even include a warning in their store listing to set appropriate user expectations.

Image Credits: google

Past technical quality, Play Store editors will also look at a range of factors, such as whether the app or game has a polished design, whether the content keeps users engaged, whether the onboarding process is clear, whether the ads are well integrated, whether the app is accessible, and if, among other things, the navigation, controls and menus are easy to use. They also check that the app meets Android quality guidelines and best practices, detailed on the Android Developers website.

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In addition, the company will roll out new promotional content formats and a new type of custom store listing for developers to showcase apps to more users.

In the first case, developers can use LiveOps — the special merchandising units for promoting apps in the Play Store. Today, these are used to promote discounts and offers, major app updates, in-app events, pre-registration announcements, and more. Apple has a similar function, launched last year. The kind of marketing units give app stores a more real-time feel as they can advertise on reasons to download and launch apps nowrather than just serving as a general promotion.

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Image Credits: google

Google notes that developers using LiveOps have seen a 3.6% increase in revenue and a 5.1% increase in 28-day daily active users compared to similar titles not using the offering. Now it will rename LiveOps to “Promotional Content” to reflect longer-term plans to expand the feature to support new content types, including those where the promotional units will appear more deeply integrated in the Play Store on the homepages of users, in searches and discovery areas, in title lists, and directly in apps via deep links.

Developers will also soon be able to create a new type of listing that will allow them to specifically target churned users (people who tried the app or game and then left). This “Custom Store Listings for Users” format, which will be rolled out by the end of the year, will be able to display a specific message designed to re-engage previous users.

Two other changes focus on app security and protecting developers — and the consumers who download their apps — from coordinated attacks.

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Google will make the . to update Play Integrity API, which helps protect against risky and fraudulent traffic, with more features. Developers can customize API responses, set up tests in the Play Console, and use new reporting to analyze their API responses. They can also debug API responses through the Play Store app developer settings on each device.

In addition, Google says it is launching a new program designed to tackle coordinated attacks on app ratings and reviews. The company didn’t offer much information about how this program would work, but it would give developers a way to fight back if their app was unfairly attacked with fake reviews, presumably by users or their competitors. This is a concern that made headlines recently when a new social app, Gas, suddenly became the target of a hoax that claimed it was used for human trafficking, forcing users to delete their accounts.

The changes follow previous updates to the Play Store designed to help consumers better discover non-smartphone apps running on their smartwatches, TV or tablets. Earlier this year, Google also warned developers about it would hide and block downloads for outdated apps. Google has warned developers they must now target API level 30 (Android 11) or higher, starting November 1, 2022, if they want their app to be discoverable on the Play Store by new users with newer versions of the Android operating system.

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