Android Technology Explained

Why Can’t I Download Certain Apps on the Play Store?

Ben Stegner Updated 10-04-2020

Can’t download some apps on Google Play? This is frustrating, especially when other apps work just fine.

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Whether you can’t even see an app, found it but can’t download it, or the app won’t install, we’re here to help. Let’s look at why you can’t download certain apps from the Play Store and how to fix the problem.

1. Device Incompatibility

Google Play Incompatible App

The most common explanation for why you can’t download certain apps is that the app’s developers have marked it as “incompatible” for your device. For example, you’ll see this message if the app was deigned for tablets and you have a smartphone.

However, this doesn’t necessarily indicate that the app has zero chance of working on your device. Developers may choose to mark it as incompatible due to unfixable glitches or bugs with your particular model. Alternatively, you might have a rooted device that’s not compatible with certain apps.

One way around this is to download the APK from an alternative site The 5 Best Sites for Safe Android APK Downloads Need to download an APK to your Android device without the Google Play Store? Check out the best safe APK download sites. Read More and force it to install. Do this at your own risk, however, because if there are actual incompatibility issues, they could potentially harm your device. Most likely, though, you won’t be able to access certain features in the app.

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2. Region Restrictions

Google Play Region Not Available

Another common explanation when you can’t find an app on Google Play is that it doesn’t work in your region of the world. This could be due to government restrictions, but more than likely, it’s a decision by the developers to filter out people who can’t use their app anyway.

For example, there’s little point to installing an app for a US-only bank if you live in Australia. Even if you force the app to install by sideloading it How to Manually Install or Sideload Apps on Android Want to sideload apps on your Android phone? Installing APKs manually on Android opens up a whole new world of apps, and it's easy to do. Read More , you won’t be able to create an account or use the bank’s services anyway. Another example is Hulu, which is only available in the US.

In other cases, an app may only service certain locations in its early stages, so the owner decides to limit who can download it. This prevents negative reviews from confused users and makes sure they’re testing with the right people. If you’re not sure why an app is region-restricted, it’s worth reaching out to the developers to ask.

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If you’ve moved recently, you may need to update your region setting in the Google Play Store to access compatible apps.

3. Missing Device Features

No AR mode in Pokemon Go

As long as your device is from the last several years, it probably includes the latest hardware features. Gyroscopes, accelerometers, ambient sensors, proximity sensors, and other functions allow your device to pick up data from the world around it.

Some app require these tools. If your phone is really outdated and missing a component that an app requires, then you can’t install it from the Play Store. Budget phones are more likely to skip out on these features than flagships, of course.

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An app also might require more powerful hardware than your phone has. Apps that need a lot of resources might demand a certain amount of RAM, for example. This was a big problem when Pokemon Go launched—many people were left out when the game didn’t run on their phones due to insufficient hardware.

The only real solution here is upgrading to a more modern device. It’s frustrating, but it’s probably time anyway if you run into this problem.

4. You’re Running an Outdated Android Version

Google Play Requires Android

In addition to the hardware requirements discussed above, many apps also have software requirements in the form of your phone’s Android version. To check this, visit the app’s page on Google Play’s web interface. Scroll down, and you’ll find it as Requires Android in the Additional Information section.

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Every new major version of Android comes with a handful of new features and improvements that apps can take advantage of. If an app relies on one of these features that you don’t have, it may not work at all. There’s no point in allowing you to install the app if that’s the case.

Much more common, however, is the developer deciding on the oldest version of Android the app will support as a cutoff point. Like desktop software, it’s difficult to keep Android apps backwards-compatible for versions released many years ago. Almost nobody uses ancient Android versions (such as Jelly Bean) anymore, so it makes no sense for developers to keep supporting them.

Unfortunately, Android’s fragmentation means that your old device will probably never see another update. Consider the best Android manufacturers for timely updates Which Smartphone Manufacturers Are Best for Android Updates? Android phones aren't always guaranteed updated, so how do you know which manufacturer to go for? Read More to avoid this issue when you buy your next phone.

5. Insufficient Storage Space

Apps take up a surprising amount of storage space. If your device has a small amount of storage, you may be unable to install any more apps until you make some room. This can even prevent you from installing app updates, in some cases.

You should thus free up space on your Android device How to Free Storage Space on Your Android Device If you've run out of storage space on your Android phone or tablet, we can help you free it up. Read More to make room for the new app. You can do this by uninstalling old apps, removing local photos and videos that you’ve saved to cloud storage, and similar. If this becomes a recurring problem, you should look at getting a new phone with more storage space.

6. Google Play Store Glitches

If you run into an app that appears to be compatible with your device, yet the download doesn’t work for some reason, the problem may lie elsewhere. Chances are that you have an issue with the Google Play Store app.

When a download or installation from Google Play doesn’t work right, you should first reboot your phone. If that doesn’t work, read our full troubleshooting guide to fixing Play Store issues 5 Simple Fixes for Common Google Play Store Problems Is the Google Play Store not loading or is it not downloading apps? You can reinstall the Store or try these other fixes. Read More .

7. Unavailable Manufacturer-Specific Apps

Google Play Samsung Music Unavailable

A less common reason you can’t find an app in the Play Store is that it’s intended only for devices from certain manufacturers. Some apps are (supposedly) designed to take advantage of features that are only available on that company’s devices. As an example, the Samsung Music app is on the Play Store, but won’t install on a Pixel 4.

If the app has a manufacturer name in its title, it might not be compatible with other devices. The good news is that most of these manufacturer-specific apps have alternatives that are often better anyway. You shouldn’t bother forcing an install or switching to a new device unless you really want a particular app.

Resolving Play Store App Issues

Now that we’ve explained why some apps don’t show in the Play Store or let you download them, you should understand why the app you want to download is incompatible with your device. Hopefully it’s an easy fix, but a lot of the time, the app won’t work until you get a new device.

Note that when you search the Play Store on your phone, it will only show apps compatible with your device. However, if you search the Play Store’s web interface, you’ll see all available apps on the platform. Knowing this will help you check on an app’s availability.

Don’t fret if the Play Store fails you, though. It’s easy to download Android apps from alternative app stores The 4 Best Google Play Alternatives for Downloading Android Apps Don't want to use the Google Play Store? Or don't have access to it? Here are the best alternative app stores for Android. Read More .

Related topics: Android Tips, Google Play, Google Play Store, Install Software, Troubleshooting.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Malaquias Peppér
    April 13, 2020 at 6:35 am

    Great info, I feel informed now. PCM is for me!

    Thanks

  2. Darryl styer
    March 5, 2019 at 12:34 am

    The "RV Life" app can be downloaded from "rv life.com" with Google play at the bottom of their web page but it does not appear in the store.

  3. Cameron
    October 2, 2018 at 1:33 am

    So im trying to download instagram and twitter but it always says authentication required and then it tells me to log into my google acc. (Which i already am) and it downloads most other apps just fine and there are absolutley no restrictions set. Can you help me?

  4. Wendy
    May 17, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    I am comming across an issue and finding more and more games i am unable to down load from google play store. I seem to be getting that dreadful "Your device is not compatible" message more frequently. I am using a Samsung Galaxy tab 4. Android version says 4.4.2. Do you think i should just bite the bullet and buy something newer? I love this tablet and it has been very good to me over the years.

  5. Rob
    July 2, 2017 at 12:49 am

    I used to have hulu on my Samsung tablet, when I restored it I cant install hulu app on it now. Any ideas?

  6. Doc
    September 29, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    One app I've been unable to download to my Nextbook Aries 11.6 is Star Trek Timelines, probably because there's no Intel Atom-compatible version (installed fine on my phone and 7" tablet, both ARM).

    • Joel Lee
      September 30, 2016 at 6:48 pm

      Hey Doc, I've never heard of that app but it sucks nonetheless that you can't install it. This really is one of the bigger downsides to the Android ecosystem -- no standardization across ALL devices like what you'd find on iOS. Bah. Thanks for sharing!

      • Doc
        October 1, 2016 at 3:41 am

        It's a bummer that some apps won't work across different devices - my first tablet, a MIPS device, would play some apps extremely slowly (limited CPU), and wasn't compatible with some entirely (either they didn't show up in the Play Store, or errored out on install) - but that's the strength of Android - a multitude of devices at different price points, which is iOS's huge weakness: one manufacturer.