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App discovery on Google Play is broken

With more than 2.7 million apps on the Google Play store, you can probably find just about anything you are looking for, but that in itself creates a problem - finding good quality new apps is an endless task. And it's having an effect on the amount of apps people download too. 

When was the last time you found yourself with 15 minutes to find an interesting new app to check out? And how did that process work out for you? Let me illustrate the point more clearly. Each month, we update both the best new games and best new apps lists to try and help readers out. To point you towards the wheat, and away from the chaff. 

Now, as that's our job, it's not too hard, but when the average user opens up the Play Store (shown on desktop in the images below, for easier illustration of the point) and clicks the 'New Releases' section, what they're greeted with is a 'Top New Apps' list that looks virtually identical to the 'Top New Games' list.

comparison
Umm, what's the point including games in the app listings? / © AndroidPIT

But perhaps that's not too surprising for the top 10 or so, right? Yeah, well you might think that, but check out the top 40 in the gallery below and you'll see that it's not just an anomaly that applies to the most popular. 

In fact, in total, just five of the top 40 new apps (correct at the time of writing!) are non-games. And of those five, precisely one might be worth downloading. 

Beyond being irritating to users and reducing the overall value of the app store, such a broken app discovery process in the main way that users find new apps hurts developers too. Indie developers who want their productivity (or any other) apps to stand out from established big names and a sea of always-popular new games are finding their hopes of hitting it big on the apps store crumbling into ashes. 

Perhaps that's a little too dramatic, but without huge user acquisition and marketing budgets, it's really hard for indie devs to stand a chance. Last year, the InMobi State of Mobile App Developers report found that the average earnings per app on the Play Store were around $5,000 per month. That might not sound too bad for an indie, but that means there are an awful lot earning a whole lot less.

It becomes circular too - if indie devs know their games can't be found on the Play Store and they don't have the budget to acquire users through other ways, then why develop for Android at all? The end result is fewer decent apps on Android; it's already widely recognized that apps on iOS make more money on average. 

The difficulty in finding worthwhile new apps is also being reflected in the number of apps people download - towards the end of last year, ComScore found that, on average, US smartphone owners (not just Android) download an average of zero apps each month. Zero. None. Nadda. Zilch. It's hard to imagine the reason not at least partially including the difficulty in finding them. 

Sure, you can navigate your way to 'Indie Corner' but do you think the average Android user will even know it exists? It seems unlikely to me.

Again, there could be a reinforcement loop here too: find nothing worth downloading > look for new apps less frequently > fewer new apps are downloaded > average app revenues fall > developers once again wonder why to build for Android.

Even allowing users to sort apps however they'd like, rather than pre-determined 'new' categories would be helpful, but instead we're left to wade through seas of games in multiple categories. It's 2017, Google. Sort it out. 

AndroidPIT google play tips tricks 8188
Indie devs rely on users knowing this section even exists to be seen. / © AndroidPIT

Do you think the app discovery process on the app store is lacking? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • This article hits really hard to the heart for me. I am an indie developer, and I have a few privacy-friendly games on Play Store. Unfortunately, your statistic of income for an indie developer is definitely a lie.

    I would be beyond blessed to receive five grand per month, but unfortunately that's just not possible being a fair, honest, indie dev who doesn't buy reviews. Google actually demotes apps-without-reviews to the bottom of the list, whether they are new or not.

    The specific issue with privacy-friendly indie games is balancing satisfying my audience, profiting, and promoting. I have 3 games currently, named accordingly on the Play Store:
    • An Ad-free Sudoku game
    • Zero Permission Chess
    • A 389KB Spider Solitaire Game

    I'm not writing here to advertise, the reason is obvious: you'll never be able to find them. They do not show up under Play searches for "ad-free sudoku" or "ad-free chess" or "no permission chess" or "privacy friendly chess" or anything really. However, they *do* show up when I search my full name. I didn't make them free, because they offer privacy, battery savings, and the benefit of being ad-free and AMOLED friendly. I tried AdWords, but man, that was a waste of money. Twitter Ads have brought in a good dozen downloads from around the world, but it cost me a hundred bucks. Overall as an ad-free indie developer, I am in the hole for a few hundred dollars so far.

  • I use Apps: Play Store without Games by Happening Studios. That takes care of part of the problem. The other part of the problem is the immense amount of pure crap on the Play Store. Google is suppose to be addressing this and removing a lot of robot junk apps shortly. We will see.

    I install apks from Apkmirror and a couple of other sites. Not 100 percent anti games or multimedia here. I work in the oilfield doing well testing. That at times leaves me with slot of time to kill. I have AI Factory Chess, Backgammon, and Checkers along with Fireproof The Room series. I also have Kodi with the Kodi No Limits Magic build, VLC and a 1 TB HD with movies on it. All that is to pass time when there is nothing else to do.

    Everyone has there own reasons for using a device. I'm not going to bust someone's chops for using their device to kill a little time. I've been using computers since the early 90s. What I actually need to get done on one in the productivity arena takes very little time. The way I see it my smartphones and tablets are just micro computers I use to augment the work I actually have to do on my laptops, as well as provide communication with others and kill a little time especially when working long hours by myself.

  • oh! i often install apps through apk file, so i think it will not have any problem. i often download apk for pc and then transfer to all devices for install apps without coming to google play. i think you can consult this way.
    this site is available for apk file.

  • I've always thought that games on PCs and phones are a complete waste of time and bandwidth; I've never played a single one, because I have better things to do with my time than waste it playing some stupid GAME! But then, I'm a grownup, not a child, adolescent, or millenial living in my parents' basement because there aren't any jobs. If every single online game disappeared tomorrow, I would cheer heartily, because maybe then people would start doing actually USEFUL things. But no, they'd probably just hang out more on Facebook and Twitter, complaining about the disappearance of the games with cute little emojis and of course lots of OMG's and IKR?'s.

    Seriously though, maybe Google needs 2 stores: a PLAY store, and an APP store. Keep all those idiot games on the PLAY store, and put actually USEFUL apps on the APP store.

  • 2.7million apps.. at least 25% of which are complete rubbish...
    I'm not really relying on Google's app recommendations..
    Google's biggest success "search" really shows the bad side of Google on the app store.
    I usually disable or uninstall Google play games, so why do I get games constantly recommended, not too mention most in app advertising is for games or antivirus apps neither of which I ever use..

    currently I'm checking out some qoute apps, I have 5 installed and 3 of them have IAP for the same game, all these adds ignored by me and if the dev doesn't offer "remove adds" option I uninstall..

    so much for personally relevant advertising.

    for most apps I've tried or use, I've usually read about first via the blogosphere, then reasonably informed I go exploring on playstore.

  • Agree with there other comments here. It's an easter egg hunt on the play store. And I agree that it's of no help to me to see apps I already have.

  • The Play store is moving towards becoming dominated by games. How true, I used to think that the experience of browsing through the store and finding mostly new games was mine alone. It's a lame strategy by Google. Only a minority of Android users are heavy gamers. But mobile gaming is big business in terms of money. And that's solely because the strategy is to get the user so addicted to the game that they end up paying huge amounts for upgrades and privileges. That definitely brings in a lot more money than the meager one-time payments for most apps, or even subscriptions for apps. In brief, gaming is where the real money is. It turns off the vast majority of Android users who are looking for innovative apps that enhance their core user experience on Android. We mostly use our Android phones to enhance functionality in our daily lives. That's where apps play the biggest role.

  • Mark 1 week ago Link to comment

    I never try to find anything new on the play store. With all the fake ratings you can't tell a so so App from a truly good App. I find my apps like Albin Foro from other source then look at them on the play store.

  • In my fifth year of Android use, I wouldn't think to use the Play Store for "discovery". My blue skying about apps generally comes from skimming the tech press or doing a boolean search on Google for "Best Android BlahBlah" resulting in ten online mags with top ten lists most of which will overlap on half a dozen apps to actually look at. The Play Store is where I then look for those. I'd say the discovery is "curated" by hopefully expert reviewers.

    My main beef with all those tech magazine review lists is they generally give app names and might show an icon, but often fail to clearly identify the developer - then you go to Play Store and find ten apps with the same name, and the icon may or may not be the same or similar. I wish all sources would consistently name developers - and even would like to see the Play Store adopt an alphanumeric code to avoid accidental or evil intentional confusion of app names. I don't want to go through ten apps with the same name and a mystery developer to see which ones are rated below 4 and which have only thirty downloads.

    I've never bothered at all with the "Top" or "New" app lists at the Play Store, but its front page does scroll down through a bunch of categories of apps I've already installed, and sometimes one of those catches my interest - that's the limit of Play Store "discovery" but it can be handy. I suspect this article is not so much about end user problems finding new apps but sympathy for developers getting attention to their new apps - I've never done it but have to think they can't just rely on Google Play for promotion and marketing. That's a job of work in itself.

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