the Play Store is Android’s most important resource. But we have to be
honest: the mass of apps is rather onerous. Many apps are faulty, do not
look good, or have too much advertising. So it often takes several
attempts before you find the right app for the task. But what would a
perfect app store look like?
year 2016. This is the voyage of the Starship Android, which has been
traveling for ten years through strange galaxies, full of new games and
innovative applications, amassing a cargo of 2.25 million apps. Far from
home, Starship Android has begun encountering apps many light years
from usability, dangerously untested. They begin to swarm and overwhelm
The search for the right app within the largest source of
Android apps is not fun. For every app that requests one too many
permissions and looks to spy on you, there is another that looks
terrible and barely works. Others still opt to cover your display in
advertising and annoy you with notifications.
Unfortunately, the rating system does not help in the Play Store. Click farms
in Bangladesh, India, Egypt and other countries work to provide app
marketers five-star ratings: the average app rating is over 4.0. enough
to land them in the top ten hits for a search term. It becomes a
struggle for legitimate users to counter with one-star reviews.
problem: in the Play Store many bad apps sit right beside the good
apps. While there are alternative app markets for Android, none of them
contain all the apps that you will be looking for.
Play Store alternatives
In this country, the Amazon Appstore, with its free Underground department, is perhaps the most popular Play Store alternative. Unfortunately, the number of apps available there is severely restricted: Statista speaks of 600,000 apps.
This is partly because the store and the apps contained within it are
optimized for Amazon devices that run an outdated version of Android.
Amazon Appstore has other weaknesses: app updates arrive late and are
not installed automatically. Each installation requires individual
confirmation. This is because Android lists the Appstore as an unknown
source; a Google-made Android problem. The Appstore is also crowded with
obvious fakes that are only interested in fishing for your login
At least when it comes to identifying fakes apps, Google is
relatively nimble. The automatic malware detection in the Play Store is
fast enough to prevent malicious apps from lingering on the shelves.
This Applause-sponsored blog post
provides a good overview of the security measures found in the Play
Store. Even Google’s cooperation with independent security companies
works quite well. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the Play Store,
from a user’s perspective, offers a poor selection of apps.
Each app in the Play Store has to be checked before being published
a purely machine-based approval process for apps is not good enough.
Currently, Google and security companies are working on deep-learning
algorithms that accurately analyze the design of apps. For example, if
an app requires no interface to access the SMS function, this is already
seen as a warning signal. This improves the machine-aided quality
control, but will not solve the problem of bad apps.
The Google Play Store has editors, but you might be hard pressed to
tell. Apple (right) is making more of an effort. / © ANDROIDPIT
A good app store has an editorial staff that monitors
incoming apps for usability. There are clear design guidelines that app
developers have to follow. It would be even better if such an editorial
team took drastic measures, which would look something like the
A good app store editorial would crack down on low-quality apps
If an app does not conform to the design standards and
is not sufficiently user-friendly from the editorial point of view, the
app developers have to work to improve the app within a certain
timeframe. If they do not, they must sell their app outside of the Play
The Play Store occassionally has themed pages, but mostly it’s pretty dull. / © ANDROIDPIT
A good app store editorial would sort through apps and provide strong, relevant reccommendations
The curation of apps in the Play Store is incredibly
poor. It is ironic that Google knows almost everything about us and yet
is comically poor at deciding what apps might be relevant to us. Apple
is much better at this. Thanks to lists curated by editorial teams, the
app catalogue is easy to browse through across all categories. And even
better: the apps are high quality. On Android, quality is always a
gamble, and one that rarely pays off.
Huawei’s app store, HiSpace, could be dangerous for the Play Store
hundreds of millions of customers, Huawei has incubated a Play Store
competitor in China that shows tremendous potential. Where Google and
the Play Store are not available, alternatives can flourish, and Huawei
has been no slouch when it came to creating its alternative, HiSpace.
The Huawei app store will feature editorial oversight, according to the vice president of Huawei’s mobile division,
Changzhu Li, like we see at Apple. Apps that do not meet the team’s
standard are kept well away from the store. Whether HiSpace will one day
come to Europe is not something Huawei is keen to discuss.
the market share of Huawei smartphones continues to grow, it seems
possible that some Android users could get their apps primarily from a
Play Store alternative in a few years. Why should we suffer the slings
arrows of outrageous fortune within the Play Store search result if an
alternative supplies fewer, higher-quality results?
Android needs a new Play Store
number of apps in the Play Store is probably already high enough. If
there was ever a goal to surpass the number of iOS apps, that has long
since been achieved. Now it’s time to play catchup in quality. Because
if the number of bad apps increases still further, the general user
perception towards Android will not improve. Until then, iOS users have a
powerful argument against Android; Google, with a bit of manpower and a
plan, could counter.