18 May 2016

What’s new in Google Play at I/O 2016: better betas, the pre-launch report, benchmarks, a new Play Console app, and more

Posted by Purnima Kochikar, Director, Google Play Apps & Games

Google Play reaches over 1 billion monthly active users giving developers the world’s largest app distribution platform. Last year, Play users installed apps 65 billion times. To keep that great momentum going, we’re continuing to listen to your feedback and invest in more ways to help you grow your app or game business. Today, we’re sharing new features that benefit developers of all sizes.


Improvements to beta tests and app discovery on Google Play

Beta testing is a crucial tool that many developers use in the Google Play Developer Console to test their apps with real users, gather feedback, and make improvements before launching widely. Open beta tests are helpful to get feedback from a large group of users and allow any user to join a beta test. We're making open beta tests easier to find and participate in: apps that are available only as open betas and aren’t in production yet will soon appear in Play search results, users will be able to opt-in from Play store listings directly, and users will be able to send you private feedback through your Play store listing too.

We'll also be adding a new featured section to the store, called Google Play Early Access, showcasing a hand-picked group of promising open betas that haven’t gone to production yet.

There are more than a million apps available on Google Play and we continue to work on making it easy for people to discover the apps they’ll love. To that end, you’ll start seeing new collections on the store for tasks that might require a combination of apps. For example, when you're buying a house, you’ll see the best apps for finding real estate, keeping notes, getting a mortgage, and travelling in the area in one handy collection. Developers don’t need to take any action to take advantage of this benefit, apps will automatically be chosen. These contextual collections make it easier for users to discover complimentary apps as well as new types of apps.
Users can now opt-in to beta tests from the Play Store
An example of a new collection for apps relating to buying a house
Improve your app with the Play pre-launch report

Your app business relies on having high quality apps. To achieve quality, your apps need to be tested on a range of real devices before you ship them to your users. Play’s new pre-launch report summarizes issues found when testing your app on Firebase Test Lab for Android on a wide range of devices.

The pre-launch report in the Developer Console
Along with diagnostics to help you fix any crashes we detected in your app, your reports will also include screenshots from devices that use different Android versions, languages, and screen resolutions. These can help you find layout issues. We’ve also included early warnings of known security vulnerabilities that may have sneaked into your app -- even via third party libraries you rely on. You can enable the pre-launch report in the Developer Console.

Gain deeper insights from user reviews at a glance and reply to user reviews more easily

Your app reviews offer a wealth of information on what your users like and dislike about your app. We’re expanding on the improvements we made to ratings and reviews earlier this year, to offer you more ways to take advantage of reviews and better engage your audience.

Review benchmarks let you see your app’s rating distribution compared to similar apps in your category for a list of common topics which are relevant for all apps – like design, stability, and speed. You are also able to see how each area impacts your app’s rating. Review topics will let you see your app’s rating distribution for a list of topics which are specific to your app. With this analysis functionality, you can more easily identify what users think of your app and where to focus your improvement efforts.

Review benchmarks in the Developer Console
Developers frequently tell us they find replying to reviews valuable as a channel to directly engage their audience and gather feedback. In fact, we have found that users who update their star rating after a developer has responded to their review increase it by an average of 0.7 stars. For developers who have their own customer support solutions, we’re making replying easier with a new Reply to Reviews API. In the last few months, we’ve tested the API with Zendesk and Conversocial, so you can now start replying to reviews directly from those popular platforms or build your own custom integration.

Developers can now reply to reviews on Google Play from platorms such as Zendesk and Conversocial
Understand more about user acquisition and conversion, and see how you’re doing compared to others

The User Acquisition performance report in the Developer Console gives you a snapshot of how many users visit your store listing, how many install your app, and how many go on to make purchases. We’ve now added the ability to see user acquisition data by country and you’ll soon be able to see user acquisition benchmarks and compare your app’s conversion rates to similar apps on the Play store. With this data, you can find opportunities to focus your marketing efforts and increase your installs with tools like Store Listing Experiments.

User acquisition country data in the Developer Console

Building apps and games for billions of users

Hundreds of millions of users, many of them in emerging markets, are coming online and, for many of them, their first experience is on an Android device.
To help you get your app ready for this opportunity, we’ve created Building for Billions guidelines with a development checklist to help you optimize your app. You can also get more in-depth tips and best practices for expanding to new markets in the accompanying Building for Billions Playbook

To help you meet local expectations when you set your prices and make purchases more attractive to your users, the Developer Console will now automatically round prices to local conventions in each market. For example, for a US app priced at $1.99, a user in Japan would see ¥200 rather than a non-rounded price from a straight FX conversion. You can also set up pricing templates to change pricing for products in bulk. You can make this change in the Developer Console.

While you're working on getting your app ready for billions of users, we've been enhancing the Google Play experience for them too. With improved compression, we've made app updates more data efficient, and we're focusing on making the Play Store itself faster than ever on all connection types.

We’ve also revamped how we select visible apps in key markets like India and Brazil to better showcase apps that are more relevant locally and apps made by local developers. And we continue to add more payment methods in new countries, including carrier billing and gift cards in India and Indonesia.

Two new apps: Get your app data and important notifications on the go, and stay up to date with best practices

To give you access to your data when you need it, and to keep you informed of crucial business updates with notifications, we’re launching the Play Console app. You can access your app’s data including installs, uninstalls, crashes, ratings, and reviews. You can also receive push notifications for important news like when your app update is live on Google Play. And you can even reply to reviews directly in the app, making it easier and quicker to engage your audience when you want to. Get the Play Console app on Google Play today.

Staying on top of all the features and best practices and strategies you should consider when growing your business can be a challenge. We’ve built another app, the Playbook by Google Play. The Playbook is a tailored list, based on your objectives, of the latest articles and videos from Google experts and across the web to help you grow a successful business on Google Play. Join the Playbook beta today and let us know your feedback.
The Play Console app
Playbook by Google Play

Finally, we will be soon making some updates to the Developer Distribution Agreement (DDA), which includes the ability for family members to share purchased apps on Google Play. Here you can see the updated DDA.

To learn more about all of these features, tune-in live to ‘What’s new in Google Play for developers’ at 11am PDT / 2pm EDT / 7:00pm GMT+1 on May 19 on the Google Developers YouTube channel.

If you’re attending I/O, come and visit the Google Play sandbox to get your app reviewed by experts.

Whether you’re attending I/O in person, at one of the many I/O Extended events around the world, or just watching from home, you can find more Google Play sessions in the I/O 2016 schedule.