App Store Evolution: Google Play
As of last month, Google Play has been around for fourteen years.
It wasn’t known as Google Play at the start: it was Android Market, a digital distribution service for applications created to work on Android, and it sold everything from ebooks to music, subsuming three of Google’s most popular products – the Android Market itself, Google Music, and Google eBookstore.
If you’ve read our first article about how the Apple store has changed, this is going to be familiar to you. Thehe world as we know it has changed significantly since the launch of app distribution centres such as the App Store and Google Play. More people than ever are relying on their phones as an all-in-one entertainment device; it stands to reason that apps need to develop in the same way.
With the rising popularity of techifying services and controlling their use through your phone, app stores are one of the most important tech developments of the last few years.
App stores themselves have changed ever since the first app was released.
Here’s how that has worked for Google.
History of the App Store: Google Play
- Shortly after Apple launches their App Store, Google launches the Android Market. At the time, it launched with just a few apps.
- Store support for paid apps added to the US and the UK.
- Over 10,000 apps are available on Android Market by September.
- Google eBookstore is launched, debuting with three million ebooks, the largest collection in the world.
- Content filtering is added to Android Market.
- Size of apps raised from 25MB to 50MB.
- The Android Market undergoes a visual overhaul, now adding categories such as ‘top free apps’ and ‘top paid apps’.
- Developers can now add a video to their app, as well as listing their other developed apps in one place.
- Google launches Google Music, a separate section of the store that allows users to buy music. Users in the US can also rent both books and movies.
- Android Market Webstore, a website that allows users to purchase apps without owning a smartphone, launches and sees 3M downloads in April alone.
- Google rebrands the Android Market to Google Play.
- In-app subscriptions and billings are added as an option.
- The app file size increases again: two expansion files can be added to an app, each of 2GB.
- Developers can now respond to user reviews.
- As the store is also based on cloud storage, there is no longer any worry for users who lost access to the app or their phone; they can just go back to the Play Store and redownload the app.
- Apps can also be published in over 59 different languages, with auto translation as a further option.
- Google allows for physical gift card purchases on the Play Store.
- Google adds Paypal support.
- Google Play redesigned in the Material Design language.
- Google updates its developer console with changes such as age-based classifications, AdWords support, and A/B testing.
- Google Play gets another redesign, with larger images for featured products and new categories.
- Google Play adds beta mode to the Play Store, allowing users to try out apps in development.
- Developers are given access to new tools for betas, analytics, and app pre-launches.
- Google cracks down on fake installs and fraudulent apps.
- Developers now receive up to 85% of profits from the app.
- Apps were all added to ChromeOS.
- Google Play changes the search algorithm to include user engagement after download.
- Ads added to the main page and in the app listing pages.
- Editorial content added.
- Google Play Protect, a way of protecting users against apps with malware, launched on the Play Store.
- Tags added to the Play Store, allowing users to find apps far easier.
- Google changes its way of calculating the rating of each app.
- Google also adds Play Pass, a games and apps subscription service.
- Google announces new privacy labels will be added to the store in the first half of 2022. These privacy labels will show users what kind of information each app collects.
The Android Software Development Kit
Android app developers must contend with a different set of ramifications to Apple, though much of the platform is similar. The Android SDK was released in 2007, with later updates coming in 2008 that included an updated API, better development tools, and a better home screen. Since then, multiple reiterations of the Android SDK have been released.
However, the Android SDK supports app development on Linux, MAC OS X, and Windows 7, rather than just on Android devices. Additionally, developers can use other integrated development environments, not just ones based on Android, though the official Android integrated development environment is Android Studio as of 2015.
Android Studio does support older environments, and developer tools can be downloaded separately, so older platforms can be downloaded easily if you want to test for compatibility.
How does the Android Software Development Kit work?
It primarily uses command line tools such as:
- Java Development Kit
A set of programming tools for Java programming, split into categories that allow a developer to create, debug, and compile new apps. Android applications are mostly written in Java, so this is one of the command line tools that is required for developers, though developers can use any text editor to edit the code itself.
- Apache Ant
Another Java language, Ant helps automate software building processes as a replacement to an older tool known as Make. It uses XML, Extensible Markup Language, to store, transmit and reconstruct the data underlying the app.
A cross-platform programming language, Kotlin is designed to interoperate with Java, and it’s recently been announced as Google’s preferred language for Android app developers. While it was always included as an alternative to their normal Java compiler, Kotlin can now be used to gradually migrate away from using Java as a primary programming language.
How does coding for Android work?
If you’re just starting out with coding, Android’s developer training center is one of the best around. That said, a lot of coding for Google Play can be adapted from what you already know. If you’ve used Java and XML before, you’re already familiar with the basic underpinnings of Android programming.
The rest comes from the Android SDK tools, which can then compile your code into an Android App bundle and produce a .aab or an .apk file. Each app has its own unique secure environment post-development.t can run using just what it needs, which creates a lot of security in how it actually works since there’s no access between apps unless you program those ways in. It sounds restrictive, but it’s not.
There’s a lot of flexibility in the kind of code you can release and run for Google Play, so if you’ve got an idea for something that you think might not work, don’t discard it: drop us a line, and let’s talk about it.