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August 4, 2017

Google Play has changed its ranking algorithms to surface high-performance apps

by John_A

There’s more to an app than just its features and price.

How stable an app is, how well it performs, and its consistency are just as important to the app experience as anything else — and Google knows it. That’s why it has announced today that Google Play has changed its ranking algorithms to surface apps that exhibit the best performance, lowest number of crashes, and the highest stability, rather than just the most installs or highest ratings.

Looking at app reviews across the Play Store, Google says that half of 1-star reviews are related to general app stability. These types of apps that have higher crash rates or drain battery consistently won’t be ranked as highly as those that exhibit less of these issues, even if they actually have a relatively high overall rating. Google’s data shows that people consistently use these stable apps more and uninstall them less often, as you’d expect.

In aggregate, it means higher-quality apps for every single Android user.

That all makes sense, but before now, you wouldn’t necessarily be getting the best-performing app if you simply searched and installed the top result for your query. So that’s what makes this change so intriguing, as it hopefully entices developers to focus on the core experience of their app — how much power it uses, how often it crashes, etc. — rather than just adding new features or changing the interface. It’s hard to use “higher app stability” as a selling point for your app, but it does lead to higher overall satisfaction in the end, and Google’s making sure that that counts for something in searches.

If you’ve followed any of the developer-focused talks surrounding Google I/O in the past couple of years, this won’t come as any big surprise. Google’s developer advocates have constantly espoused the importance of making your apps rock solid and mindful of the resources on a user’s phone, only taking up what you need while tracking and fixing problems in the code that lead to instability.

On the end user side of things, the next time you go to the Play Store to search for an app, you won’t necessarily notice anything different at the time — but in the aggregate, you’ll hopefully be installing better apps that do their part to improve your overall Android experience.

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