Re-branding from the Android market to Google play store, the play store has undergone changes and enhancements over the last 10 years’ time. These changes are crucial as the mindset of the user changes over time and the play store should adapt to the new demanding needs of the consumer and the publisher. As an Android fanboy, user, and developer for the past 10 years, I have also journeyed with these changes and enjoyed the experience.
As I start understanding more enterprise needs and the consumer reactions to the same, I would love to enhance the existing play store to accommodate features ranging from tweaking some existing functionalities to building features from the ground up.
1) Enterprise play stores in work profile – More features like MDM to enterprises –
Today’s work culture demands your work profile (work-related emails, chats, etc.) to be set up on your phone. One of the cool features in smartphones is the ability to spin up a separate sandbox within the same phone for work emails. Android and Android OEM’s are not an exception and they provide this option. The work profile completely isolates the personal data and provides some functionalities for the enterprise to manage the sandbox. Enterprise admins can enforce app listings in the play store and have some basic MDM features. It would be nice if the play store can be branded as an enterprise play store with more brand customization and granular MDM features.
2) Parental controls – Ability to even identify the already installed app – Not just prevent from downloading the new app –
Parental controls are there in the play store for a long time now. However, having some of the below features would leave parents in good peace of mind –
A. Make play store as an MDM service for parents to control their kid’s devices from within their Gmail account and from parent’s phones. Make a parent-child relationship between google accounts
B. Ability to disable the app if the new parental control does not meet for the already installed apps
C. Ability to set up dynamic conditions based on a custom filter rather than setting up limitations only based on a standard pre-loaded filters
3) Auto-suggest already installed similar applications on phone apart from suggesting uninstalled similar apps –
Once when we finish installing a new app, Google play store lists similar applications. However, in the similar apps listing, only the un-installed app shows up. It would be nice to also show the already installed similar apps. This would help the user to refresh their memory on previously installed apps. Many of us have as many as 100 apps on our phones, and we easily tend to forget the already available app, and try to install something new. Even though storage is not a big concern but the RAM still is. Showing the existing similar apps will help the user to decide better.
4) Purchase and share Google play gift card from within the app –
On average, a user spends 30$ per year on google play store. We have often seen the physical google play gift cards in popular stores like Target, Walmart, etc. Also, the same stores and online retail giant like Amazon sells the google play gift cards online. But there is no option to get play gift cards directly from the play store. By incorporating the purchase within the play store, the users can take advantage of the play store points and play store balances to purchase the gift cards.
5) Auto-update apps over a specific WiFi and at a specific time –
The auto-update on WiFi has been around for a while now. Now that we started using public WiFi facilities as well. Some may have hesitation for the app to be updated via public WiFi rather than home or office WiFi, which are considered relatively secure than public WiFi. The current auto-update feature guarantees to update the app over WiFi, however, there is no way to mention over which WiFi the app has to be updated. Along with the WiFi name, it would be nice to even set the time window on when the app can be updated.
6) Improved ways to reach the app publisher – Online chat with the app publisher rather than just email
As a small independent app developer and publisher, it is not realistic to have a separate chat facility within the app to support the customers. This is an extra burden for the developers who have just launched their app in the stores. In the app details section of the play store, to reach the support for the app, an email would be published. This has been the only way in the past 10 years. From then on, the tech has changed enormously. It would be nice for play store to incorporate live chat feature to chat with the app owners or support team. The app publisher also should have appropriate tools to control the chat settings in their google play store publish console.
7) Recommend bandwidth and battery usage of the application –
Many users do not realize how much of internet bandwidth, or memory in RAM the app would take, or the battery using the app would consume, while they initially install the app from the play store. The assumptions on the parameters while installing the app sometimes does not end up being the reality. The user ends up reaching their data limit sooner, or the smartphone functions slower, or the smartphone runs out of battery quickly. Play store should start suggesting these usage volumes based on the publisher’s feedback and also based on the installs from other users in their smartphones.
8) Suitable app recommendation based on location –
Covid-19 pandemic has changed a variety of things that we deal with in our day to day life. One recent change that I noticed at the play store was that, when you search some apps about Covid-19, which is not suitable for your location, then the play store would recommend a similar app based on your current location. This feature should be extended to different domains and businesses. This would save the end-users search time and help narrow down to the right apps which fit their needs very easily.
9) Advanced filters to search the app –
As more and more solutions roll out to understand the context of the customer queries, the need to improve the search functionality in the play store also increases. An improved search filter with user-specific values will help the user to narrow down the apps based on their criterion. From the user perspective, this also avoids the user having to scroll through the list of many apps in the search result. Likewise, from the app publisher’s perspective, it gives the app, an opportunity to be noticed by a potential lead user rather than being buried at the last in the list.
10) Unified play store for different form factors with suggestions around the same –
Yes, this is one of the features that many want from the play store. Play store is the heart of apps in the android world. Android is no more an OS that runs only on smartphones. Android powers your smartphones, wearables, auto, TV, smart home assistants, IoT devices, etc. Enterprises and app developers think about ubiquitous computing for seamless user experience. However, the play store is mostly a store for smartphones. So, what changes to the play store will benefit a user? Let us say a streaming app like YouTube, It is available to users in the majority of the form factors android is supported. However, when we look for YouTube in the play store, we get to see only the similar apps recommendation and nothing more. There should be a section within the play store and under the app details, to understand where all apps can be used? and how to use it in other form factors?. This way the play store provides a unified store experience.
Play store is completely owned by Google and any changes to the play store app should not be a bigger task. As we move into a more connected world, it is important to modernize the distribution platform which holds all the applications responsible to make a connected world possible. Users (Both end consumers and the publisher of the app) of these distribution platforms should have an intuitive user experience rather than having separate learning to use the platforms.
So, how would you like to improve the play store app? Share your thoughts in the comments.