What is Google Play? The online store for Android devices, explained
- Google Play is the official online store for Android devices.
- You can download various forms of media onto your Android devices through Google Play.
- Google Play contains apps and games, Google Play Books, and Google Play Movies & TV.
- Visit Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.
If you're new to Android devices, you might be wondering: What is Google Play, and do I actually need it?
The short answer: Google Play is Android's official online store, and it includes Google Play Books, and Google Play Movies & TV. (There used to be Google Play Music, but that's been discontinued.)
Even if you don't make use of those options, Google Play Services is actually part of what keeps your device running, so it's vital for Android users.
Here's what you need to know about each segment of Google Play.
What is Google Play?
Google Play, also known as the Google Play Store, is where you can download or buy millions of apps, games, and other media onto your Android device. You can find programs for a wide array of interests.
You can download apps or games by navigating to the app or game page within the Play Store and tapping Install. Many apps will be free, some will have in-app advertisements, some will cost money, while others may offer in-app purchases, or a combination of any of these things.
For those who are interested, there is the Google Play Pass, which allows you to download hundreds of apps and games for free, without ads or in-app purchases. It costs $4.99 per month (or $29.99 per year). It can also be shared with up to five other family members.
Google Play Books
This is the book section of Google Play, and it includes both ebooks and audiobooks. You'll find a wide variety of options when it comes to types of books, too, from literary fiction to children's books to textbooks.
And if you're partial to audio-narrated books, there's a selection of free audiobooks available as well.
Google Play Movies & TV
Google Play Movies & TV is where you can buy or rent movies (including early access to new releases) and TV shows and download them to your Android device. If you rent, you have 30 days to watch it or 48 hours once you begin watching your rental before it expires. When it comes to TV shows, you can usually either buy individual episodes or you can download a full season.
Google Play Services
Google Play Services is an app that is built into Android devices. It's used to update Google apps and apps from Google Play, so it's important to keep your devices functioning properly. For example, it's responsible for:
- Authenticating your Google services, like Google Maps
- Synchronizing contacts
- Accessing the latest user privacy settings
- Running location-based services
In other words, don't uninstall it if you want to keep your Android devices running as it's supposed to.
Google Play Store: A definitive guide for beginners
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Table of contents
The Google Play Store is one biggest and most important parts of Android. It’s the central hub for all app and game content. It’s also a reasonably decent place for movies, TV shows, and e-books. The Play Store is a little overwhelming at times but you can learn how to easily navigate it with a little help. There are a ton of commands, actions, and other activities within the app. Don’t worry, though — we’re going to cover basically all of them. Here is just about everything you can do in the Google Play Store.
Please note that some actions are more complicated than others. We may link you to a separate tutorial for the longer stuff in the interest of space. If you are experiencing Play Store issues, here are the most common problems and how to fix them as well as some common error codes and what to do about them.
What is the Google Play Store?
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
So what is the Google Play Store, anyhow? The Google Play Store is a digital storefront for various types of media. People most commonly use the app to download apps and games. However, the Play Store also sells e-books, TV shows, and movies. Everything, aside from apps and games, has its own app so you can optionally browse those sections only.
The store was originally the Android Market and it came out in October of 2008. It received many UI updates over the years, along with additional content and functionality. It changed its name to the Play Store in March 2012 and it’s been that way ever since.
While Google Play is strongly associated with Android, it is not a part of the stock Android experience. It’s actually an extra piece of software for Google’s specific Android experience. That’s why the Play Store isn’t available on Android forks like Amazon’s Fire OS. OEMs must adhere to a specific set of rules to get Google apps and the Play Store is part of that package. There are alternate app stores available for Android as well.
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
There are some basic settings with some simple controls. The Play Store grants easy control over notifications, download settings, and some other fine-tuning. We’ll give you brief tutorials on where each one is and how to access each one.
Change Google Play notification settings:
- Tap your profile picture in the top right corner and tap the Settings option. From there, tap the General section and the notifications option should be in there.
- You can enable (or deny) notifications for your account, when updates are available, and when updates are installed. There are also additional options for when a pre-registered app or game launches along with a deals and promotions notification.
Change Google Play download settings:
- There are actually two download settings in the Google Play Store. Tap the profile picture again and go to Settings. This time, you want to tap the Network preferences section where the download settings live.
- The first is App download preferences. You can set this to only download apps over a Wi-Fi connection, over any network, or to ask you when you choose to download.
- The second is Auto-update apps. The first option lets you download updates over any connection, the second limits everything to Wi-Fi only, and the third option turns off auto-update entirely.
- While it isn’t a download setting, you can also turn off auto-play videos in this part of the menu. I recommend doing so as it’s a senseless waste of data.
Access, view, and alter your Google Play Wishlist:
- You can add any app, game, movie, TV show, book, or song/album to your wishlist by going to that media’s page, tapping the 3-dot menu in the top right corner, and tapping the Add to wishlist option.
- You can remove any media by returning to that media’s page, repeating the process, except this time select Remove from wishlist.
- View your Wishlist by going to the Play Store home page, tapping the profile picture button, and tapping the Library option. Tapping anything on the list takes you to that item’s Play Store page so you can either download, buy it, or remove it from your wishlist.
- You can also go into the Settings again, click on General, and then Account and device preferences. From there, tap the Clear wishlist option (toward the bottom) to remove all wishlist items in one go.
Change your Google Play Store theme:
- This one is easy. Tap the profile picture button and select Settings.
- Tap the General section to expand it and then tap the Theme option. Your options should include light, dark, and system theme. The first two options are self-explanatory. The system theme option makes the Play Store dark or light based on your device’s theme.
Change Google Play Protect settings:
- Tap the profile picture button and select the Google Play Protect option.
- Tap the cogwheel icon in the top right corner to view the Google Play Protect settings. You can also force a scan to make sure your apps are all good.
- We honestly don’t recommend turning anything off, since all data collected is anonymous and Google Play Protect works better than antivirus apps in virtually all cases. However, if you want to disable them, you can here.
View payment history, balances, and redeem gift codes
- Tap the profile picture button and then tap Payments & subscriptions.
- From here, you can select Payment methods, Subscriptions, budget & history, and Redeem gift code. All the selections do basically exactly what you think they do.
- There is a second option to redeem a gift card under the Payment methods section as well as an option to directly buy Google Play Credit.
View other Google Play Store settings:
- Click the profile button and select the Settings option.
- Under the About header, you can view the Google Play Store version, view your Play Protect certification, and see Open source licenses.
- Finally, you can view family settings under the Family header. We have a whole tutorial for family settings on Google Play.
How to enable and disable Instant Apps
- Instant Apps is a feature that temporarily loads apps from web links and other places without actually downloading the app so you can try it before you download it.
- Tap the profile picture button and tap Settings.
- Tap the General section and select the Google Play Instant option. Enable it on the next screen. Please note, this may take a bit to actually show up in things like web searches.
That should cover all of the basics.
How to log in and out of the Play Store
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Of course, let’s cover the basics first. You generally log into the Play Store when you log into your Google account as you set up your phone. However, if by chance you didn’t do that, you can still do it in other ways. Logging out is a rarer move, but still entirely doable.
Log in to the Google Play Store (two methods):
- The first method is to open the Play Store app. It will recognize that no one is signed in and prompt you to log in with your Google account.
- If the first step doesn’t work, you can go to Settings, navigate to Accounts, and click the Add account option. Select Google on the next page.
- Enter your email address and hit the Next button. Do the same with your password on the next page. Finally, deal with any two-factor authentication if you have that enabled.
- That should be it. Re-open the Play Store and start surfing for stuff.
Log out of the Google Play Store:
- Enter the Settings, navigate to Accounts, and select the account you want to remove.
- On the next page, tap the Remove account button. A prompt will appear. Select Remove account a second time to remove the account. Removing an account logs you out of Google Play automatically.
Unfortunately, your Google account is tied to the Play Store along with every other Google app. Thus, it is not possible to log out of the Play Store but stay logged into Gmail. This is a limitation of Android because your Google account controls everything. Even if you have two Google accounts, they are both logged into the Google Play Store at the same time.
How to use multiple google play accounts on the same device:
- Log into your first account using any of the methods listed above.
- You have two options to add additional accounts. The first is to go into your phone’s Settings, head to the Accounts section, and add another Google account. Since Google accounts are also Play Store accounts automatically, it will sign you into the Play Store too.
- The second option is right in the Play Store. Tap the profile picture button and then tap the circled down arrow to the right of your username and email address. Tap the Add another account option and follow the prompts to add a second account.
- To switch accounts, tap the profile picture button, tap the circled down arrow button, and then select one of the other listed accounts.
That should do it. With the above tutorials, you can log in, log out, and log in with multiple accounts on the Play Store.
How to install and update apps on Google Play
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
The most common activity is downloading applications and games. This is a fairly simple endeavor and you can find apps and games all over the place.
Install apps or games on Google Play:
- Find the app or game you want by searching for it, utilizing the Categories section, or with Google’s recommendation engine. Click on the app you want once you find it.
- Click the Install button. The Play Store will now download the app or game and automatically install it.
- Note: If the app or game isn’t free, you will have to pay for it before you can download it. Simply tap the price button and Google Play will take you through the process step by step. You will need to add a payment method if you didn’t earlier. Click here to be magically taken to the proper location in this tutorial to add a payment method.
Update your apps and games on Google Play:
- Click the profile picture button in the top left corner of the screen on the Play Store home page.
- Select the Manage apps & device option.
- Hit the Manage tab and you should see a list of all your apps and games. Tap the Updates available button to see all available updates. From there, you can hit the button to update them all at once or click each app to update individually.
How to unregister from games, upcoming events, and beta programs
- Click the profile picture button and then tap Settings. Under the General header, click the Accounts and devices preferences option. From here, you can turn off promotional emails from Google Play, clear your search history, unregister for events, leave beta programs, and unregister from pre-registration.
We also have a tutorial on how to get a refund from apps and games purchased through the Google Play Store as well as how to cancel a subscription. Click the links to read them.
Adding and removing Google Play Store payment methods and gift cards
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Of course, if you ever want to purchase things on the Play Store, you’ll need to eventually add a method to pay for stuff. Luckily, this isn’t very difficult.
How to add a payment method to Google Play:
- Click the profile picture button to open the menu. Click the Payments & subscriptions option.
- Tap the Payment methods option on the next screen.
- The top half of the page shows your existing payment methods. The bottom half allows you to add more. You can add a credit or debit card, use carrier billing (where available), add your PayPal, redeem a code for Google Play credit, and buy Google Play credit.
- Select the option you want and follow the prompts to add a payment method. The prompts should be pretty straightforward.
How to remove a payment method from Google play:
- Click the profile picture button to open the menu and click the Payment methods option.
- Scroll down and select the More payment settings option.
- A web browser will open to view your Google Pay payment methods (Google Play uses Google Pay).
- Find the payment method you want to delete and tap the Remove button. This should remove the card from your account.
How to redeem a Google Play gift card:
- Click the profile picture button and select payments & subscriptions.
- Tap the Redeem gift code option on the next page.
- From here, either scan the gift card using your camera or enter the code. Tap the Redeem button.
- There is a second way. Follow the same steps to add a payment method, except this time you can tap the Redeem code button and follow the same prompts as before to redeem a code. We recommend the first option, though, as it is a little bit faster.
How to check your Google Play Balance:
- Tap the profile picture button and then tap the Paymentmethods option. The balance shows up at the top above your other payment methods.
Require authentication for purchases:
- Tap the profile picture button as usual and enter the Settings.
- Open the Authentication header.
- The first option lets you use biometric authentication if you want to. The option uses your default biometric method (fingerprint, face unlock, etc) to authenticate purchases.
- The second option lets you choose how often you want Google Play to authenticate purchases.
- The Never option makes it so you never have to enter a password to buy content from the Play Store. It’s the least secure option.
- The Every 30 minutes option will let you download and buy stuff without a password for 30 minutes after you make your first purchase. This is a reasonably decent security option.
- Finally, the For all purchases through Google Play on this device option will literally ask you for a password anytime you try to spend money. This is the one we recommend to everybody, especially to parents who let their children use their phones to play mobile games.
With those tutorials, you should be able to easily add and remove permanent payment methods as well as add gift card balances to your Play Store account.
Add, hide, and remove devices from Google Play
There are some good news and some bad news about this process. The good news is your device is automatically added to Google Play as soon as you sign in to your Google account on your phone and nothing else is needed on your part.
Unfortunately, you cannot permanently remove devices from Google Play at this time. You can log out to remove Google Play access to a specific device, though, and we have that tutorial above. For the sake of organization, you can hide devices from your Google Play list and we’ll show you how to do that.
Hide devices in Google Play:
- Use a web browser and go to the Play Store home page.
- Click the cogwheel button in the upper right corner.
- You should see a list of all of your Android devices. There is also a column called Visibility. Untick the box for any devices you don’t want to be shown in your Google Play account.
This presents a security risk and we hope Google reconsiders its stance on letting us remove devices from our Google Play accounts. For the time being, we recommend logging out of the Play Store on any phone you intend to throw away or sell and performing a factory reset manually to ensure nobody can get access from that device.
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
There are a bunch of other things you can do in the Google Play Store. Unfortunately, some of them require some extra steps and this article is long enough! Here is a list of additional Google Play tutorials that we don’t cover in this article.
If there’s something we missed, tell us about it in the comments and we’ll look into adding it to the tutorial!
AppsHow ToGoogle Play Store
ADIF moves CCI seeking interim relief from Google Play Store commission
Search engine giant Google is celebrating its 23rd birthday on September 27. To mark the special day, Google unveiled a special birthday doodle on its homepage.The tech company said that "one chance encounter" between two computer scientists changed the course of the Internet and the lives of millions.
The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), a New Delhi think tank consisting of entrepreneurs and startups, has moved the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to seek interim relief against the implementation of Google Play Store commission till the investigation into the tech giant’s abuse of dominance is complete.
Google Play Store commission of 30 percent in India will come into effect on March 31, 2022. The ADIF confirmed the development to Moneycontrol and said that the petition was filed in the CCI last week.
An email has been sent to Google on the same and the story will be updated based on the response.
According to ADIF, this relief has been sought by on behalf of App developers as Google’s new policy will restrict certain categories of apps to use only Google Billing System (GBS) for accepting payments.
"This would be an issue for app developers because GBS charges 30% percent commission for all transactions on the Google Play Store, compared to 2% charged by other payment processing systems. There is a strong case for seeking such relief as this new policy, when it goes into effect next March, would have a destructive effect on the operating margins of a large number of startups and make their business models infeasible," ADIF said in a statement.
The CCI had in November 2020 directed a probe into the issue of mandatory use of Google Play Store’s payment system for paid apps & in-app purchases. The commission is of the prima facie view that such a policy is unfair as it restricts the ability of app developers to select a payment processing system of their choice.
"Google’s new policy will exclude competing payment service providers from the market for payments for digital goods consumed through Android devices," the statement said.
According to Sijo Kuruvilla George, Executive Director, ADIF if the status quo is not maintained pending the completion of the inquiry, Google will enforce its terms on the Play Store in March 2022, leading to irreversible consequences for India’s startup ecosystem.
CCI investigation into abuse to dominance
This development comes shortly after the Times of India reported that CCI's investigation arm found in its investigation that Google abused the dominant position of its Android operating system in the country to illegally hurt competitors. CCI had ordered a probe into Google's alleged abuse of Android in India in 2019. Android powers 98 percent of the smartphones in the country, as per market research firm Counterpoint. The tech giant said it has not yet received or reviewed this report.
Following this, Google had taken CCI to court over the "leak" of a confidential interim report related to an ongoing investigation into the company's Android smartphone agreements on September 23. The case was dismissed a few days later, with CCI agreeing to the company's requests to keep information confidential during the course of the investigation.
While Google has always charged a 30 percent commission for apps selling digital goods on their app stores, the firm said in October last year that it will more proactively enforce this commission starting September 30, 2021. It had noted that the change is expected to impact less than 3% of apps on Play Store that are currently not using the company's billing system
However, following a massive push back from the Indian developer community, the tech giant delayed the implementation to March 2022. It also reduced the commission rate to 15 percent for the first $1 million revenue developers earn using the Play billing system every year in March 2021.
Play store commissions
Google and Apple also do not allow other payment options for in-app purchases “Clearly they were overstepping the boundaries with the 30 percent commission, which not a lot of people were happy about and to be fair, the commission was out of whack,” Amit Ranjan, CoFounder, SlideShare and Architect, DigiLocker Project said.
Apart from India, Google and Apple are facing scrutiny over business practices related to their respective app marketplaces in several countries including the United States.
In September, South Korea's parliament had approved a bill that bans app store operators like Google and Apple from forcing app developers to use their own billing systems for in-app purchases.
ADIF has also planned to meet the MeitY officials to discuss possible policy intervention such as legislation to address the abuse of dominance by the big tech companies like Google and Apple.
Abuse of dominance in India
In 2018, Google was fined Rs 136 crore by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) against abuse of dominance for online general web search.In June 2021, CCI also opened a probe over Google's alleged abuse of dominance in the Android TV operating system.
Google is introducing a major shift in the way that apps work on Android—and while the changes might not be too noticeable to consumers, it's important to be aware of what's happening and why, if you're a user of Google's mobile operating system.
Starting in August 2021, developers wanting to publish new Android apps on the Google Play Store will have to change how those apps are packaged together: Rather than the traditional APK (Android application package) format that has been in place for years, software makers are going to be required to use the AAB (Android app bundle) framework instead.
We're not going to get into detailed technical breakdowns of how these two standards differ—unless you're a developer, it won't change how you work with your apps—but one of the main reasons for the switch is the huge number of devices that Android runs on.
One of the key benefits of AAB is that it delivers only the parts of an app you actually need for your device. If you're using a phone, for example, you don't need the bigger graphics designed for tablet screens, so the app can be smaller and more lightweight. Rather than developers having to code and package separate APKs for separate devices—or putting everything together in one pile—they can use the AAB route to have this handled automatically.
It also gives developers more flexibility when it comes to delivering specific features (such as augmented reality add-ons, perhaps) to specific devices—users don't have to download everything all at once, in other words.
Another way this might be used is with games: Higher levels of a game don't necessarily need to be downloaded right away, which means users can get started more quickly on the lower levels without getting frustrated at lengthy loading times. Again, this all translates into a smaller download and a more nimble app.
Through the Play Store, Google takes on the job of splitting the main Android app bundle into a series of APKs specific to each device that requests one. On average, according to Google, these newly optimized APKs are 15 percent smaller than before.
AABs were introduced with Android 9 in 2018, but now Google is insisting that developers move to it, at least for new apps. Apps that are already on the Play Store can continue to use APKs for the time being, though the trend is only going one way: Google says most of the top 1,000 apps now use AABs, and there are over 1 million apps using the bundle format.
One of the areas this is going to make the most difference is on low-end hardware: Cheaper phones don't have the storage space or the processing power of the premium flagships, so the streamlining within the AAB standard should help substantially.
All of which sounds great, but there are still a few questions over the switch to AAB. For a start, only the Google Play Store uses it at the moment, which means that developers still have to get APKs ready for other portals like the Amazon App Store (who says they will support AABs)—which is the Android app library coming to Windows 11.
The AAB standard is open source, so other app libraries can adopt the format, and there isn't actually too much work for developers in moving from one standard to the other. But part of the AAB packaging process relies on Google's cloud computing power to verify apps, which means it has ever tighter control over the ecosystem and the way that apps are distributed.
It's also not clear what this is means for app sideloading, where users can put apps on their devices without going through official channels. It's a popular option for those who like to tinker and experiment with their devices, but if you're not careful it can cause security and stability problems.
The introduction of AAB as a requirement for new apps should make it harder for shady operators to rip packages from the Google Play Store, saddle them with malware, and try to push them through other channels—at least in theory. That's undoubtedly a benefit for users, but it remains to be seen whether this has knock-on effects for the openness of Android as a whole: For many users, one of the advantages of Android over iOS is that sideloading is possible, and this move would seem to make that more difficult.
For non-developers who only use the Google Play Store, the switch to AAB should be good news: apps that are more streamlined, more secure, and built specifically for the device they're being installed on. At the same time, it gives Google even more control over app distribution and makes the Google Play Store even more dominant when it comes to where you can get apps.
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