For many, the Google Play Store is just an app marketplace: You see an app you like, you tap Install, and you go on with your day. But the Play Store has a bunch of lesser-known features and secrets that can kick your enjoyment of Android up several notches.
Don’t know the first thing about the Play Store? Then check out our introduction to downloading Android apps. Once you’re comfortable with that, here are several tips and tricks that will make app management much easier on Android devices.
1. Test and Refund Apps
Did you know that you can get refunds for paid apps in the Play Store? Google is pretty lenient regarding what you can refund and reasons for claiming a refund, and the process is fast and straightforward. And yes, you can return an app if you “later decided you didn’t want it.” Learn more in our article on Google Play Store refunds.
For paid apps and games, you have two hours after your purchase to request a refund (or 48 hours if you make your refund request on the web instead of through the Play Store app). The only exception is for unauthorized purchases, which have a limit of 65 days.
2. Search Apps by Developer
When searching for apps in the Play Store, you can use the pub:[developer’s name] modifier to filter the search results and only show apps whose developers match that query. This is great when you really like a certain app and want to see what else the developers have made, or if you know who made an app but forget what it was called.
3. Unlock Early Access and Beta Apps
Sometimes you’ll hear of an upcoming app that’s generating a lot of buzz but hasn’t been released to the public yet. You can check if it’s available as an “early access” app, and if it is, you may be able to try it out ahead of time. Beware that early access apps are often buggy, glitchy, poorly optimized, and prone to crashes.
The Play Store also allows developers to offer separate beta versions of already-released apps. These beta apps often have more features and other improvements, but may not be quite ready for public release due to crashes, bugs, glitches, etc. Learn more in our article on beta Android apps.
4. View Only Relevant App Reviews
Have you ever downloaded a well-reviewed app only for it to be buggy on your device? Or maybe previous versions of the app were great, but the latest version introduced some big changes that worsened the experience? Yes, an app’s reviews can sometimes be misleading.
Fortunately, you can filter reviews and only see the ones that are relevant to you right now. Go to the app’s page in the Play Store app, scroll down to the reviews, tap Read All Reviews, tap Options on the right, then toggle “Latest version only.” You can also enable “From this device model only,” but the older your device, the less useful this option will be.
5. Install Region-Blocked Apps
This tip resides in a morally gray area, so feel free to skip ahead.
Sometimes an app is only made available in a particular country, whether because the developer only has resources to support one area or perhaps due to an agreement with publishers. Regardless, if you’re in Europe and want to use a US-only app (or vice versa), you may be able to get around the region block using a VPN.
A VPN, or virtual private network, essentially masks your IP address. Connecting to a VPN server in the US makes it look like you’re in the US. Fortunately, using a VPN on Android is easy, but we recommend staying away from free VPN services because paid VPNs are safer and more reliable. See our list of the best VPN services to get started.
6. Don’t Add New Apps to Your Home Screen
Don’t you hate it when you install a new app and Android automatically puts a shortcut on the home screen? If you’re like me and have a single full home screen, this ends up creating a second page — and having to delete it every time can be quite a nuisance.
The good news? You can disable this once and for all. In the Play Store, tap the menu button and go down to Settings. Under General, uncheck the box for “Add icon to Home screen.”
7. Reinstall Owned Apps in Bulk
Your Google account keeps track of all the apps you’ve ever purchased and/or installed. This is great for when you upgrade to a new device and want to restore a bunch of your apps, but searching for and installing them one by one can be a huge pain.
Fortunately, there’s a better way. In the Play Store app, tap the menu button and select My apps & games. Switch over to the Library tab to see a massive list of all the apps tied to your account. Just scroll down and tap Install for the ones you want.
8. Disable Auto-Updates for Certain Apps
You know how sometimes you wake up and an app updated overnight, but the new version is decidedly worse than before? Some developers are notorious for this. Other apps push updates every few days, and that can get really annoying.
Fortunately, the Play Store allows you to disable auto-update for certain apps. Go to the app’s page in Play Store, tap the menu button at the top-right (you’ll only see it if the app is currently installed), and uncheck Auto-update.
9. Prevent Children from Installing Apps
The Play Store offers three distinct ways to “lock down” app installations, which come in real handy if you regularly let your kids play games or stream videos on your device:
- Fingerprint block: If your device has a fingerprint scanner, you can restrict purchases to your fingerprint by going to Settings > User Controls > Fingerprint authentication.
- Parental control PIN: You can also restrict purchases by going to Settings > User Controls > Parental controls. Turn it on, set a PIN, and you’re good to go.
- Mature content filter: You can set when the PIN is necessary by going to Settings > User Controls > Parental controls > Set content restrictions. Disallowing Teen, Mature, and Adults Only apps should be enough in most cases.
10. Create App Wishlists
If you decide that you want to install an app but can’t right now, or maybe you want to wait and see if it improves before committing, then start using the Wishlist feature.
On the app’s page in Play Store, tap the bookmark icon with the plus sign at the top. This immediately adds it to your wishlist. To view your wishlist, tap the menu button and select Wishlist. Here you can choose to install or remove each app.
The Google Play Store Isn’t Perfect
Despite the usefulness of all these tips and tricks, you’re bound to run into problems with the Play Store from time to time. We’ve covered some of the most common Play Store issues, so start there in case something goes awry on your end.
Furthermore, the Play Store may be the official option for finding and downloading apps, but it isn’t the only one. The Amazon Appstore is a strong alternative, and you can see our comparison of the Play Store vs. the Amazon Appstore for more details. You’ll find a lot of apps there that aren’t available on the Play Store.
How do you like the Google Play Store? Know of any other tips and tricks that we missed? Or do you prefer an alternative app store? Let us know in the comments!
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