Google Play Store is suffering from a weak app discovery experience.  In spite of the redesigns and the web presence they introduced recently, most people still suffer from finding great apps in the newly named Play store.

Some people will point to the fact the search experience is broken. But search is only a minor element of discovery. On the mobile where it matters people are more sensitive to curation and passive discovery where recommendations are served to the users without searching.

One of the main driver to discovery is the ability to stimulate the trial of paid apps. Just look at iOS, about 3000 apps go from paid to free or cheaper every day. And users love to feel they can access those deals (Appsfire Deals grow insanely on this). Apple allow this. Google does not.

Why? hard to know. All you can do as an app developer in the Play store is reduce the price of a paid app to a cheaper price (eg 2.99$ to 0.99$) but you can’t make your paid app free and then put it back to paid. Google forces you to stay paid forever or free forever. If you decide to make your paid app free, it will have to stay free or you will need to resubmit your app fully and lose your history (download, ratings, reviews,..)

This is a big miss, because developers can’t allow users to try their apps for free and generate enough buzz around it. It helps accelerate adoption, rating collection,…

But most importantly Google should aknowledge, like Apple did, that an important part of the discovery will take place outside of the play store and should incentivize publishers to track and cover their play store. This already happens : many android app review site exists, but far less than iOS app site and far less well executed. Why? Because there is no affiliation program.

Apple’s affiliation program (managed by Linkshare and Tradedoubler) allow publishers to make some money out of app they cover or review if a transaction happens. Since the transaction includes the session, it also stimulates the review of free apps which can generate to the discovery of paid apps in the App Store

Google has no affiliation program. We hear they have no plan to have one (no confirmation on that). Right now if you recommend a paid app and it gets downloaded you get nothing as a publisher.

But most importantly, and beyond the incentive, Google would allow publishers to access the Play store data in a uniformed structured manner. Right now there is no official feed to enable publishers to gather the metadata of the play store. Every one is using its own cooking (mostly scrapping)


Google would dramatically boost app discovery outside of the play store if they allowed Developers to really drop the price of their app to FREE without constraints and create a true incentivized affiliate program.

It would improve options for discovery for consumers, interest more publishers and enable the deep curation Google can’t handle by themselves.

Consumers want trusted 3rd party recommendations and this is a good way to start..

  • Sylvain Gauchet

    Good post. I hadn’t thought about the fact that there is no affiliate program…But I’m sure review sites did. This might explain why they are not so keen on reviewing paid apps, too.