Play Store 5.1.1 AH-1

AH Primetime: Five Things Wrong with the Play Store that Google Should Fix

February 2, 2015 - Written By Phil Bourget

Alright, it’s time to make a concession: Google’s Play Store isn’t perfect. Yes, I know, surprising.  But, this is going to be a cover-all, location-disregarding kind of discussion.  So yes, the first thing that Google should do is get the Play Store into every country, and have all of its functionalities working fine and dandy-like.  But, that requires lots of international time, communication, and making of ‘fine, we’ll keep these features out because it’ll get the barebones ones approved’.  Google, please work on that.  If someone has an Android phone that comes with Google Play installed, let them access it as they would in your home nation of the United States.  Now, on to the easier to fix problems that still plague Google’s digital marketplace.

First, Google has to fix the store’s wishlist functionality.  Yes, if you like something, you can put it onto your wishlist if you don’t have the money or time to buy or download it right then and there.  You can either install / purchase or ‘add to wishlist’ an item, and that’s about it.  But, once it’s on the list, it kind of just sits there.  The biggest and easiest thing to implement is a sale notification.  If you add a movie, one that just came to the Play Store but costs the typical fourteen or fifteen bucks, the store should be able to send you an email notifying you of any sales that happen while the item is on your wishlist (or the store, whichever would come first sometimes).  The issue lies in the ‘let Google Play email you about things’ checkbox that almost everyone in their right mind (that hate opportunities for spam and emails-to-never-read from companies that you entrust your email address to) unchecks when signing into either your new device or the Play Store for the first time.  It shouldn’t be that hard, really.  Google, please make that email notification system useful, then we’ll all allow it (maybe).

Second, Google has to make apps more specific.  When Android tablets first started arriving into the popular field, right around the Android 3.0 mark, with Honeycomb which was the tablet-only version of Android, was when people started to rightfully complain about the lack of tablet-optimized or tablet-only apps.  If you have a tablet and a phone that run Android, they can often install the same app and just have it recognize which form factor it’s got to scale and modify itself to.  But for those companies and apps that don’t have that capability built in (Netflix, we’re looking in your direction), let us know!  Let us know, if we’re using the web to search and remotely install apps (which is rather handy to be able to do honestly, good move Google), it’ll just show all the related and matching results, no device indicators to be seen.  The Play Store has sections for Android Wear and Chromecast (only on the app though, so fix that too) but no tablet-specific section?  Really?  Alright, just get on it Google.  Please?

Third, Google should look into the app installation process.  So, if you have already downloaded apps to a device, reset it and wiped your data then go to set it up again, all the previously installed apps auto-install along with any updates to outdated versions of system or pre-installed apps (Google or otherwise), which is a great feature.  But, what if you have to disconnect from the Internet, or get disconnected by accident and ALL of them just stop.  To re-install your precious apps, you’ll have to go track them down one by one and install them.  But, why not allow for a more batch-install-like method?  Permissions?  Bah, we all know that essentially all of our information is at a developer or app’s fingertips once we install it, they’re just there for legal reasons (and for those folks that like to read them, laugh at the ‘breach of privacy’ they’re expected to allow, and refuse to download or update anything until they can upgrade from their Android phone to an iPhone).  Permissions are fine, but please have some sort of feature like when you ‘Update All’ in the my apps section of the Play Store app on devices.  And on the browser, just make it match.  Heck, implement an ‘update app across all connected and available devices’ option.  That’d simplify it a bit too, especially if you are someone that has or uses a lot of Android devices.

Next, the big G should take a serious look at the ‘All’ section of My Apps in the Play Store.  First and perhaps the most minor thing, is that it doesn’t match between browser-based and device-based experiences.  The All category shows every app you’ve ever downloaded on the connected and selected account when used on the device, which is great for forgetful people like myself, or bad for someone that has too many unused and not-installed apps in their repertoire.  Google, please let it be easier to forget and remove the history we have with our old apps.  Like if an app hasn’t seen an update in a certain user-defined amount of time, let it be automatically forgotten if it isn’t installed (icon packs would likely be installed, and paid apps probably would be exempt too, but let the user define the criteria on forgetting specific apps).  That would make things so much easier.  Add the feature into the My Account section of the latest Play Store app update, right under Order History, and let people know it’s there once it’s implemented completely, and you’re golden.  Think about it, Google?

And finally, the team in Mountain View needs to take a serious look at the store itself.  Hear me out.  Say you’re on a computer, like you might be right now (no, not your phone, a laptop or desktop machine) and you’re shopping for an Android Wear watch, comparing specifications and aesthetics before you trek to a store to get handsy with the finalists.  If you have to leave, for work, class, or otherwise, you’re out of luck unless you use the non-optimized browser interface on your device.  It might work okay on tablets, but phone users will disagree strongly.  There is no ‘Devices’ section in the Play Store app.  That makes some sense, given that you have a device if you’re look at the play store’s app, but it prevents people from looking for Nexus accessories, finally deciding to buy the Chromebook they’ve always wanted (*cough* Pixel *cough*), or from impulse buying the Chromecast when Google lets it have another great bonus or freebie offer.  It also dissuades current Nexus users from going ahead and scrambling to get the latest Nexus iteration, or showing off the latest Nexus they ordered to a friend without lifting up the computer or calling them over to it.  Google, please, please, please, please, please add a Devices section?  It’d let more users conveniently access your hardware section, and might gain you sales in some of the less popular ‘shelves’ of your store.  It’d let us access the hardware we love and wait for every year, as well as the apps that make it great!  How does it sound, huh?

Anyway, those are five things that Google really needs to get working on with the Play Store.  Now, none of them are as monumental and momentous as the bringing of the store itself into a new country, or allowing the use of gift cards for that store finally.  But, it’d be great to have these functions and bits added into the Android app shopping experience (and perhaps hardware too) that many of us partake in daily.  Think we forgot a glaring problem?  Wish something else had gotten on here that we didn’t catch onto?  Let us know down below.