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.

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. 

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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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