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

Let me know if this has ever happened to you: you come across an article with one or more interesting Android apps and you go to download one of them… only to find that you can’t see it in the Play Store. You ask around and other people can see it, but you can’t.

This was a common question when Pokemon Go first came out (a number of people, myself included, couldn’t see it in the Play Store).

Or maybe you can see it but can’t download it for some reason. Or maybe it gets stuck. Regardless, there’s an app you want but can’t get. While these kinds of problems aren’t exactly common, they aren’t rare either. The good news is that there are workarounds. The bad news is that they aren’t always easy.

Device Restrictions

The most common explanation is that the developers of the app have simply marked it as “incompatible” for your device.

This doesn’t actually mean that the app won’t work on your device (though that’s certainly a possibility). The more likely reason why developers do this is because there may be weird glitches or bugs on particular models that can’t be fixed or the developers don’t have the resources to fix.

Image Credit: Bloomicon via Shutterstock.com

One way around this is to download the APK and force an install How to Download an APK from Google Play to Bypass Restrictions Need to get your hands on the installable APK file for an app from Google Play? We got you covered. Read More . Do this at your own risk, however, because there may actually be incompatibility issues that could harm your device in some way. (More likely you just won’t be able to access certain features.) You may also run into malware when doing this Did You Treat Yourself To Pokémon Go Malware? You REALLY want to play Pokemon Go, so you've installed region-free copy acquired from a third party mobile store. But did you know that you could be opening your Android device to malware? Read More !

Also note that sometimes developers will mark an app as “phone only” or “tablet only”, which is just an easier way to make that app incompatible with a broader range of devices. That’s why some apps can’t be installed on your Moto G or Kindle Fire but will work fine on a Galaxy Tab.

Region Restrictions

The other most common explanation for an unavailable app is that you’re located in an unsupported region of the world. I know it seems unfair, but there are many apps that, for example, only work in the US — and in order to stave off clueless reviews, the developers made the app region-restricted.

Image Credit: Denys Prykhodov via Shutterstock.com
Image Credit: Denys Prykhodov via Shutterstock.com

You could go ahead and try forcing an install for these kinds of apps as well, but region restriction is a bit more complicated than device restriction.

I mean, there’s no point to installing the apps for Hulu or Ally Bank if you live in France because even if you manage to get the app installed, you still won’t be able to create an account or use their services — so the only effective solution is to contact the developers and ask them to expand into more regions.

Missing Device Features

If you’re like me, then you like to avoid upgrading your device whenever new models come out because it’s an effective way to sidestep a lot of unnecessary spending. Unfortunately, if you’re too frugal about upgrading your device, it won’t be long before you fall behind in specs and features.

Gyroscopes, accelerometers, ambient sensors, temperature sensors, humidity sensors, proximity sensors, and even geomagnetic field sensors — these are all bits of hardware that may or may not be missing from your device, especially if you have a budget model or a device that’s several years old, and certain apps require these sensors to work properly.

The only real solution is to upgrade to a more modern device. This is why a lot of people actually upgraded their phones to play Pokemon Go. That’s the potential headache of being frugal with your gadgets and devices!

Outdated Android Version

Just as apps can have hardware requirements, many apps also have software requirements in the form of your current Android version.

Every new version of Android comes with a handful of new features and improvements Everything You Need to Know About Android N Want to install Android N or just learn about the next Android version? We've got your back. Read More that apps can take advantage of and use. If an app relies on one of these features, then it may not work at all, and there’s no point in allowing you to install the app.

Image Credit: mirtmirt via Shutterstock.com
Image Credit: mirtmirt via Shutterstock.com

However, it’s more likely for apps to be labeled incompatible simply for the convenience of the developers. Underlying structural changes to Android from version to version may require developers to include workarounds for “backwards compatibility” — and instead of wasting valuable time on this, they may just mark the app incompatible.

As always, you can try to force an install, but don’t be surprised when certain features don’t work or when the app causes your device to crash. The better alternative is to update your Android version, assuming updates are available to you Why Hasn't My Android Phone Updated Yet? The Android update process is long and complicated; let's examine it to find out exactly why your Android phone takes so long to update. Read More .

Manufacturer-Specific Apps

A not-so-common hurdle is that some apps are produced and maintained by device manufacturers, and such apps are designed to take advantage of features that are only available on the manufacturer’s devices (or so they’d like you to believe).

The result? Some apps are only compatible with Samsung devices, or Motorola devices, etc. The good news is that most of these manufacturer-specific apps have alternative apps Replace Samsung Apps With These Better Alternatives Whether you have a Samsung device and want to avoid the built-in apps, or you just want some of those cool Samsung features, these are apps you should check out. Read More that you can use instead (and they tend to be better anyway) so don’t bother forcing an install or switching out your device unless you really want a particular app.

Google Play Store Is Buggy

If you run into an app that appears compatible with your device (i.e., the Play Store allows you to download and install said app) yet the download doesn’t work for some reason, the problem may be elsewhere — like within the Play Store app itself.

If a download or installation isn’t working, run through these potential solutions in the order that they’re listed:

  1. Log out of the Play Store app, open the device Settings and navigate to the Applications section, find and tap on “Google Play Store”, then tap on Clear Data and Clear Cache. Log back into the Play Store app and try again.
  2. Uninstall the Play Store app (which will revert it back to factory settings and disable it), then re-enable the Play Store app and try again.
  3. Reboot the device by holding the power button and selecting Reboot. This may solve temporary issues like another app’s update request being stuck and blocking your ability to download a new app.

If none of those solutions work, then the problem is likely elsewhere (not in the Play Store app) and the exact solution is beyond the scope of this article. Consider attempting to install the app using a non-Play Store method instead 10 Best Android Apps Not in the Play Store The Play Store isn't the end-all-be-all of Android apps. If you've never ventured outside of it, you're really missing out. Read More .

Insufficient Storage Space

Apps take up a surprising amount of storage space. Just browsing through my own app list, I see that OneNote, Spotify, Maps, and Dropbox take up over 100 MB each while Groupon, SleepTime, YouTube, Gmail, and a bunch of other apps are using over 50 MB each.

It all adds up and can result in insufficient storage space on your device, especially if you’re using an older device (which is likely if you’re dealing with app incompatibility issues) — and when you don’t have enough space, apps can’t be downloaded or updated.

The only real solution here is to free up space on your 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 by uninstalling unused apps, moving photos and videos to external or cloud storage, deleting extraneous files, and clearing system and app caches.

Which Apps Can’t You Download?

Now that we’ve shed some light, we hope you better understand why that app you want to download is incompatible with your device. Except for upgrading your device or downloading the app APK and forcing an install, there isn’t much you can do.

If you can’t download an app that you’re sure is available where you live, you might need to update the country/region setting in Google Play Store How to Change Country/Region in Google Play Store Need to change your Google Play Store country? Here's how to change the Google Play Store location on your phone. Read More .

Explore more about: Android Tips, Google Play, Troubleshooting.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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.