The new Google Play: We've come a long way, baby

The Android Market website, circa Feb. 2011

For better or for worse, Google does what Google does — we're going to have to adapt

I'm seeing a lot of hate about the new Google Play web redesign. It seems like no matter what Google does with it, haters gonna hate, and Google can't please everyone. We get it — change is not always a good thing, and it makes people uncomfortable. But love it or hate it, it's here and you're stuck with it.

The biggest complaints I'm hearing are about permissions, the "My apps" list, and filtering reviews by device. Now I don't claim to know why Google does the things it does, but to me there's an easy explanation about each of these changes. I like the easy explanation, because usually, it's also the right explanation. Occam's Razor and all that.

Hit the break, let's talk.

App permissions

They're still there, big as life. In fact, I think they are done better. (And I'm not alone.) When you install an app from your phone, you have to look at them and acknowledge them before you can install. The web store should be no different. Want to see them? Click the install button and read. The only thing that's changed here is the placement, and that they look about a million times better with the new UI. And now you're forced to see them.

My apps

Think of the Google Play website as an aggregation of all your Google Play content in one big, messy place. It's not the place to see what's installed on each device, because you have a device with its own Play store app and library to tell you what's on it. The Library of Congress catalogs every book, but it doesn't tell you what's on the shelf at your local public library. 

Need to know what's installed on your phone, or you want to remove an app from your local library? Pick up your phone, tap the Google Play icon and do it. You don't like it, or think it's a step backwards -- I hear you, but there isn't anything we can do about it. It's Google's baby, and this is what we have to do. Feel free to complain to Google about it, and maybe it'll do something to change it. Or not. Things work well in this new form.

Filtering reviews by device

I don't think you're ever going to get this one back. No matter how helpful you think it was to have (and often it was very helpful), it's ultimately up to the developers to make sure their app runs well on particular devices. There's a function in the Play store developer dashboard to exclude certain devices from seeing your app in Google Play. If your app doesn't work well with a specific device, use that option and block it. Developers also have the ability to filter reviews by device in the dashboard, so they can see what's what.

Since Android 4.0 the APIs are pretty unified, and an app written correctly should work across all devices. If it doesn't, the developer needs to sort it out. A bad review shouldn't be device specific.

Of course, a lot of times they are pretty bad on one particular device. Google has now put that ball squarely in the app developers' court.

The bottom line

But you just might find, you get what you need.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Incoming flames!!!!! I made essentially the same comment and all the haters flipped out over it. If it really bothers you that much, go get an iCrap device, pretty sure Apple will cater to your inane demands
  • Icrap device? That is a really pathetic comment. Posted via Android Central App
  • It's ANDROID central. you have to expect it
  • Word!
  • Good logic. So if it bothers Americans that their government loves to spy on their stuff they should leave the country, right?
    ---- I like the new layout, but the 'Recommended for you' section thats now way bigger is and has always been abysmal.
    They should also have left the category list expanded on the side rather that putting it as a drop-down.
  • Yes, the New Layout is better, IMO. Google needs to implement a better search for Google Play, trying to find a specific app in the play store is ridiculous having to thumb down hundreds of apps with a generalized name, even if you know the Developer's name you still may not find it on your device. I think Job #1 should be to make a search similar to their search engine so i can find an app that I'm looking for with a generalized name, or at least better sub-categories or something. The only thing i hate is how Google search is mandatory moderate safe search now. They are censoring the internet searches now by removing "Off, moderate, and safe." I can't find stuff I used to be able to search for with just 2-4 words and get the specific results I wanted, and yes it's not just porn.
  • I still have an option to check/uncheck SafeSearch Filter in Google Setting
  • Guess we better shut up and get in line, or else we'll be "haters". Google knows best.
  • Never said that. Simply said that it doesn't matter if we like it. Google does what Google wants to do, we adapt.  Unless you have a better idea you would like to share?
  • Google may do what it wants, but i'm sure they still listen to the people who are using their products. Yes, we may not always get what we want, but I personally grew fond of being able to see what apps needed to be updated via the Web store. It was easy to find and look at. It took me a long time to figure out where to even view my apps.
  • I hope they listen, but I'm not convinced they do or will :) And trust me, I have a few complaints about the new changes, too. I have too many devices and apps to make even the old method of filtering very useful, but all my "shortcuts" -- like the three dots -- have changed and I spend twice as much time doing the same things. But I know Google didn't think about my needs when they changed things up. 
  • They brought back the delete button on Gmail because of feedback from users.
  • jerry I agree wholeheartedly with you when you say "it takes twice as much time". I find myself cursing @ Google all the time when they make these changes, but in a month or so, I find things moving along and I stopped cursing a little bit. But I have to say I loved having the ability to uninstall/install apps from my laptop on my bigger screen. I am too old to be looking at a 4.3" screen to make logical choices. But like every other Google update, I will curse and change with it and relish for the good old days.
  • Also, who the hell wants to see a list of every app I have downloaded since I got the G1 when it first came out. Worst of all, the web store tells me I still have them installed, when they are clearly not
  • THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!! OMFG thank you!! And the way they are sorted i literally have apps that i havent installed SINCE the g1 on the FIRST PAGE!! WTF?!?!?!?!?!?!?
  • If you could at least remove the apps manually, but nope - you can't.
    I have an app in my catalog that is simply named ".", no information whatsoever about it and I really don't know what it even is... This is unbelievably stupid.
  • You can delete them from the Play Store on your device, I don't see it being a big deal you cannot do it from the website.
  • My Apps and the reviews area are clear steps backward in functionality. I agree that we'll probably just have to get used to it, but let people vent and have their say and get used to it on their own time instead of telling them their concerns are misguided and pointless. The "get over it" tone just rubs me the wrong way I guess.
  • I agree with you 100%. However it would be really nice if Google fixed the my apps section... who knows, they might even be working on a fix for it right now. Regardless Android is still the greatest platform in the world.
  • No complaints here. Posted via Android Central App
  • That's how you end an article, with the Rolling Stones! On a serious note, I do agree with the article.
  • I love the redesign, it's very fresh and modern, the perfect example and emodiment of how Android itself has evolved throughout its multiple generations. Android went from something that wasn't really beautiful (yet always very pragmatic) to the optimum mixture between the two. Somehow, Google has managed to outdesign Apple on a superficial level, yet maintain that remarkable pragmatism. Of course some cluttered and redundant features had to be dropped along the way, and the new Play Store is a perfect reflection of that. Posted via Android Central App
  • My Apps is just a mess - I have a lot of devices and a lot of apps, and it takes SOOO long for that page to load for me. At least I can still go to My Orders to find apps I paid for, but they are mixed in with music, books and video, so it's not as convenient as it could be for managing apps from, you know, someplace like "My Apps" when setting up a new device. Speaking of devices, when is Google going to give us the option to remove old devices???? I have there Nexus 10 tablets listed - the first was returned (defective battery), the second and third are really the same tablet, but somehow it was registered twice. Yes, I hid the "OLD" ones, but I'd love to permanently remove them from my device list. (I imagine folks like Jerry H. and other tech bloggers have a huge list of devices there, based on how many devices they test!)
  • We do have a bunch of devices. But we are the 1 percent. Posted via Android Central App
  • Good point. No filtering by device so developers will have to deal with reviews for all devices. Posted via Android Central App
  • Devs can filter by device in the dev console. Posted via the one and only Android Central App
  • Still seems they need a filter to direct you to your paid apps. Posted via Android Central App
  • Jerry, I agree with app permission but I think my apps need to at least have update/delete. having to check update with phone is fine if you have single device but think about tablets which is at home? I have a tablet optimized app which is on my tablet but not on my phone. how would i know when i am at work? reviews are not only for developers but for users too. have you looked at "Google play service" app in playstore it has very very low review. we all know play store service is awesome but if you look at review people give bad review not knowing what it is and not knowing how to use it. filtering by stars was useful to know if any issue really exist after all
  • couldnt agree more with you Jerry. While i DID enjoy reading reviews by device type, that was mostly to either complain about an app not working properly, or to confirm that my nexus7 wouldnt run a game properly. but that 2nd point is exactly why i agree with this change: follow the guidleines and api's properly and the app experience should be cohesive enough across 4.0 and up devices. Issues shouldnt be addressed on a device by device needs to work everywhere.
  • So I noticed that there is a "wishlist" link right alongside each app in the app part of the store. Wondering what this is, I clicked on the link, then had to search quite a bit to find out that one's Wishlist can now be found under the "Store" option. Problem is, I found no ability whatsoever to remove the app from my wishlist. I suspect it will automatically disappear were I to purchase the app, but in the meantime, it looks like I'm stuck forever with that app on my wishlist. Now, I tend to wonder just what is the value of a wishlist anyhow, it's not like someone else has access to my Google account and can see what I want for Christmas from the app store! So I guess if you want to keep track of apps that interest you just for future reference (though not necessarily to buy) then the wishlist is the way to go. Just remember that for now, you will not be able to remove the app yourself. (However, if someone figures out a way, I'd appreciate the feedback here.)
  • It's possible on the mobile app. Posted via Android Central App
  • "It seems like no matter what Google does with it, haters gonna hate, and Google can't please everyone." Ordinarily, I would agree with that. But not this time. The new Google Play Store for the web is such a giant step backward. It simply no longer supports Google Play users. The simple fact is that they made this "update" all about the cards, and forgot all about functionality. First, the ability to review what's installed on a specific device, and the ability to uninstall apps from a device, was given; and is now taken away. It makes the Google Play Store much less functional. Less usable. Second, it's actually much harder now to find something I want to buy. The old store made this simple. I could scan dozens of apps, movies and albums in half the time it takes now. And filtering to focus on material I want was easier. You can still filter. But it's more difficult. And finally, it just isn't pleasant to visit anymore. I used to visit the Google Play Store several times a day to see what's new, what's changed, what updates I want to send to my devices, and what apps I'm not using and can remove. Now? Now I can't find a good reason to visit. I still try. But every time I visit this new Play Store I leave quickly. It just doesn't do the things I used to come to the store to do anymore. This is anything but an upgrade. This is a pretty serious downgrade to an application that used to serve Google's customers, and no longer does. I'd even go so far as to say that with this change Google took a usable, versatile, stable application and replaced it with a poorly thought out beta version. No, I'm not a hater. But if labels make you feel better, well, fire away. Either way, Google failed its customer base on this.
  • Blah! Blah! Blah! to all the complainer's!! I love the new Play store UI on my mobile device's and the web! Keep up the great work Google!!!
  • Same here I think overall I'm happy with the UI, it does look nicer. Perhaps it is still not perfect but it is better than before. Overall it is an improvement. I'd like to see a "most downloaded app of day, week, or month", or most rated or plused. Basically more filters!
  • This.
  • >"haters gonna hate, and Google can't please everyone" I guess I am a hater, then. But not because of THESE changes, just Play in general; primarily because the greatest search company on earth does not allow us to have any powerful search criteria in Play. It really is sad and frustrating.
  • I'm always up for change and I like when things change for the better. But honestly, as an honest criticism, it is like a step backwards. I said it when they changed the mobile version. It just seems like a total waste of space. I can only see no more than 6 apps at a time on my tablet. So when i needed to search for something, I usually went to my desktop as I could still get results listed. Well no more. Besides that it all makes it seem like there are only a few apps.
  • There is this thing called "SCROLL" use it!
    It was invented in the 60s
  • Luv It, cool layout.
  • No h8, but where is the G+ App sharing link or button..? You can't be serious to think they did that on purpose...? Posted via Android Central App
  • You, Jerry, have great tastes in music.
  • Well, I am one of the folks solidly in the "Don't want!" camp. Some of the things that were ripped out of the new design were things I used and liked, especially review filtering. Whenever I look for apps and get presented with multiple possible choices I find (well, "found" now I guess) it helpful to be able to filter the reviews by device and rating in order to compare them. While it's great that the developers can see whether their apps misbehave on a particular device, I'd kind of like to know how it performs on my device before I waste my time (or money) without having to scroll through page after page of undifferentiated comments just hoping to see someone mention the device they used the app on (and then hoping it's mine.) I just don't see how throwing all the reviews into a big pile helps anyone... I get that it's Google's playground, and they are still the best game in town in the mobile arena. But the way they neutered the site without so much as a simple "Here's what we changed and why" rankles. How many millions of android devices are out there with how many hundred thousand being activated daily? With a user base as large as that you'd think a major change in such a key component of the experience might have been handled a bit better than a banner at the top that just says "Hey, we made things better!" Because it honestly feels more like "Eff you, we're Google and you'll like it."
  • I don't mind the new web store, I just think it was made for the store on mobile devices. Posted via Android Central App
  • I don't like it, too big icons etc.
  • I love the new redesign no matter what anyone has to say about it. Posted via Android Central App
  • I love this site, but these overly apologist, corporate defending articles could stop and we'd all be a little better off. This really is one if the worst things I've read on this site in a very long time for the obvious reasons.
  • I should clarify; I like the new Play Store design, but to blindly accept that Google dropping well used features is for the best and there is nothing we can do about it is upsetting. I expect this kind of article on USA Today or any shitty Gawker site.
  • You should write a strongly worded letter.
  • as a web developer I like it, they've thought about user interface design and cross device compatibility making it similar throughout - in the long run will make it easier for majority of users. Yes a few features may have been dropped but you don't know how legacy the code was that was doing that bit and they just might not have had time to do it but wanted to get this out as soon as they could maybe in time for a new android update. Over the next few weeks i'm sure all the little bits will be rolled in and within about 2 months the haters will like it.
  • Your last comment is absolutely true! In about 2 months, this will all blow over as people adjust to the new layout.
  • ^^^THIS. People just don't understand the time it takes to actually develop features. Google rewrote the new play store in AJAX. Like the comment above says, they prob didn't have enough time to get every old feature working again. Posted from the AC app
  • So why did they rush it out then?
  • Call me a hater and I love being a hater. These changes BLOW.
  • If it needs a long justification (or a full article) it is probably wrong. But who cares. Were you planning to convince one of the 'haters', as some people say as an attack to the critics? Let me set this straight: Google is not Google anymore. They switched from building fans mode all the way to building profits mode, just like Apple an Microsoft. We need to be vigilant, because there is an empty space (the don't be evil space) that wants to be filled, and someone will fill it.
    And yes, it is possible. Costco and Amazon are good examples of mature businesses who balance the customer-shareholder equation pretty well.
    But Google will do what is strategic to them. They might yield non-strategic stuff now and then, but don't count on that.
    Google obviously don't care for those having multiple devices in a single account. If they really cared instead of removing features they would be adding a feature to compare in which devices you have installed each app (table view), so that youycan do a full inspection on a single page. But I don't count on it.
  • Well you know they are a company and want to be successful and make money. Why wouldn't they do what's strategic towards them? Posted from the AC app
  • I never understood the big issue with permission. No invasive permission will stop me from adding an app. I already know Google has enough info on me to get what they want through searches and gmail. And I do have things to hide. And they haven't come blowing down my door yet. No kiddie porn type stuff, I consider myself an average Joe. But as soon as I logged in the very first time I assumed that nothing was really hidden and could come back at any time. We already know the NSA is tapping all of our networks. So do you really think that you can keep anything from people or organizations that know how to collect data? C'mon. The thing I want to see is what has changed. I like the update all option but I want to see what's new. You have to click on the app to go to its dedicated page and see the What's New section. P. S. It looks great on my 10" tablet. Spring for the extra 3" it's worth it. Who could say no to an extra 3"? P. P. S. When do we get the 13" and 15" tablets?
  • Put me in the camp as enjoying the new layout. Is it perfect? Not at all. Do I wish for additionally features (or old ones to come back)? Absolutely. Will they be added in the future? Maybe. A lot of the "hating" reminds me of what Facebook goes through every time they do a site change. Lots of people complain about the new layout. After a few months, the complaints settle down as users adapt to the new layout. In the same vein, this will happen with Google Play. I bet if Android Central did a poll in a few months, most people will be fine with the changes. The other interesting thing I have noticed is that people are not complaining about the layout. Everyone wants more features/options/ability to do things on the website. My guess is that some of this stuff is next. Google probably wanted to give the site a face lift before implementing features (at least I hope!).
  • It more a problem of taking away useful features. Just try and see what is installed on a specific machine and you will beat your head against the desk.
  • You didn't even address the fact they took away the ability to uninstall apps via the website. It was a fast and easy process which takes longer on the device since you have to sit their and wait for the app to uninstall before moving on to the next one. You also did not address the fact that the My Apps list is an unusable collection of apps of both installed AND uninstalled apps since the day we had our phones/tablets. Why would I want a list of apps that I uninstalled moths/years ago showing up? Just more nonsense.
  • Agreed x1 million
  • At work we rolled out a bunch of Nexus 7s to all of our employees. We are not a big company, and maintaining them was added to my duties. Being able to log in to Play, and check what was installed on a certain tablet made my job easier. I wouldn't have to track down an employee to check on their tablet, and they didn't have to know either that I was inspecting their tablet either. Definitely a BIG step backwards removing that functionality.
  • this... but with kids at my school. Posted via Android Central App
  • holy hell they made it so difficult to remove apps from the "my apps" section. doing it on my phone is horrible, the whole page refreshes every time you remove an app. this will take FOREVER, no way im doing it. would be so much easier to do from the web.
  • This is by far my favorite Android site, but I really disagree with the "tough tittie, deal with it" mindset. They seriously F'ed up the basic functionality of the My Apps section. They made it more difficult for me to manage my devices. A lot more difficult. Why? It's a link that went from the very top of my Android links to being deleted. Call me a hater if you like, but for every hater there's a apologist, so I guess we balance out. Now, gimme my damned Moto X (with an Android green back) and my new Nexus 7.
  • Still doesn't play nice with Opera 12.16. Posted via Android Central App
  • I do like it but damn I want to be able to see what apps are installed on what devices. It is not a real bitch to see. I don't keep the same things on each of my machines. It's my only real complaint.
  • I like what they've done, sure a few tweaks are needed especially with existing apps installed etc. However, my gripe is the text...on my PC using Chrome browser I can't read it, it seems very distorted. I have tried Opera browser & Firefox to no avail. Anyone else have this issue? (Nothing wrong with my eyes BTW!) Posted via Android Central App
  • Lots of Google websites struggle with Opera, it's as if Google do it on purpose, no wonder Opera are turning their browser into a Chrome clone.
  • Congratulations Jerry! After years of just reading Android Central you finally gave me a reason to sign up and participate(first post here). I do like the layout of the new webstore and some of the new aesthetics but it's a huge disappointment when it comes to functionality. When buying apps I always search for my device to see what others with my device have experienced. And even though you(or someone) say that devs "should" follow the guidelines so apps work well on all devices we all know that just isn't always happening. Also, ALL apps now show installed whether they are or not, seems like I remember that happening in another previous update as well. Google just can't seem to learn from their own mistakes. By the way....seriously, the Rolling Stones? I guess maybe that's appropriate since they haven't put out anything relevant in about 30 years. Another example that no matter how great something once was, it's just a big ole heap of disappointment now.
  • No more featured apps on the web?
  • I just hate the fact that they remove the function to sort app reviews by ratings. I want to know what is the cons of the product before I decide to purchase the app. Now all I can see is the good reviews which I'm not sure how true is it.
  • Not a fan. I want to be able to look at the permissions again after installed. I also want to be able to sort the reviews. Sorry Google, taking away functions is not an improvement. Why do you have to do that? Why does the web have to look like a smartphone app? Did you learn nothing from the Windows 8 debacle?
  • It's a month later, and I still hate that I can't sort reviews, especially by date (is the app getting lower reviews now since the latest update? Have they significantly upgraded the app recently, resulting in much better reviews? Without sorting by date, how can I know?). Or see more than just a dozen randomly-picked reviews! Ridiculous.
  • I'm trying to set up an 'old' Nexus 7 to give it to a friend. On the home screen there are 2 'Recommended for You' blocks taking up half the screen - I've tried to remove them by dragging them upwards, no dice; if I hit the icon that looks like a stop sign or no entry or something (in the top right corner of each recommendation), the item gets replaced with another recommendation. I have to get rid of these, I'm going to murder someone soon >:( And no, I'm not at all experienced with Android. PLEASE could someone help? :'(
  • Hard to understand you with Google's dick in your mouth. Seriously, your editorial could be paraphrase by saying, "I like it, so there!" Call me a 'hater' if you like, but they removed a bunch of functionality and gave it a shiny new coat of paint. That isn't progress.