Finding Apps on Google Play

Google Play
Screen Capture

As more developers submit their apps to Google Play, it is becoming challenging to navigate your way through the tens of thousands of options. The Android store has come a long way and is fairly easy to navigate your way through once you learn a few simple shortcuts.

So if you are new to Google Play or find yourself struggling to find what you are looking for, these tips should get you in and out of the Android store more quickly (unless you just enjoy window shopping!)

The information below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

Use the Search tool

If you heard about a great app from some friends or from some Internet forum, use the Search tool at the top of the Play Store screen, and type in the name of the app. Don't worry if you can't remember the exact name of the app. Enter in as much as you can remember of the name or even what the app does.

Search on the Google Play Store

For example, let's say you heard that Cardio Trainer is a great running app and you decide to install it. Unfortunately, by the time you get around to it, you can't remember the name. Start typing "cardio," "fitness," or "running" will bring up a listing of all the market apps that match your search criteria. Obviously, the more of the app name you enter the greater likelihood that you will find the exact app, but the search tool is smart enough and powerful enough to bring you results that closely match your criteria.

If you're looking for a popular app, like Spotify, the Play Store will suggest it first, even displaying its logo, as soon as you start typing something similar. This way, finding popular apps is much quicker.

You can also search for a certain task or function that you want to find an app to do. In the pictured example, a search for "buy tickets" brought up a series of apps that allow you to purchase tickets to various events online.

Category Searches

Every app in Google Play is assigned a specific category. If you are looking for a new game to play, choose the Games category and scroll through all the apps that fit that category. Each app will be listed according to its name, the app developer, and the total customer-rating. The apps are listed out in categorized rows, and there are a lot of them. The common ones you can usually find are; Recommended, Top Rated, Top Paid, and Top Free. Depending on the category you're under, you'll see more rows tailored to different ways to sort that type of app.

Google Play Store categories

If you want an ever further breakdown, you can choose the Categories section within your category. Under Games, you'll find all sorts of genres of games that can help you to narrow your search and browse for something you may not have expected to find.

When you find an app that looks interesting, tap on it to read a brief description of the app, see a few screenshots and read customer reviews. If you rely on customer ratings as your main resource, make sure you read as many of the reviews as you can. Many people write wonderful reviews but give the app only 1 star. Others give low ratings as they expected the app to do something that the developer never stated that the app will do. As of the writing of this article, there are 26 different categories in Google Play and range from Books and Reference to Widgets.

Apps on the Home Screen​

When your first launch Google Play, you'll arrive on the home screen. This screen is broken down into rows that try to show you relevant content, like apps you recently installed on other devices and new apps in a category that you like. You can keep scrolling through these, and you might just find something worth installing.

Google Play Store home screen

The home screen also offers a few other ways to find apps. Use the menu across the top to take a look at the Top Charts. These are the biggest or newest free and paid apps, and you'll be able to see the apps and games that are getting the most attention.

Then, you can always defer to the Play Store's editors with the Editor's Choice section. These are people that review apps professionally, and they usually know what to look for. The page is broken into common app categories to help you find what you need.

Forums and Social Media Sites​

One thing is for sure, people love to share. And (thankfully) one thing that people like to share is information about their favorite apps. If you visit any Android forums, you'll probably come across an app review complete with a scannable barcode. If you have an app like "barcode scanner" installed on your Android phone, you can use it to scan in the barcode directly from your computer's monitor and be taken directly to Google Play where you can download the app. Many app developers are advertising in print media and including barcodes that you can scan and be directed right to either Google Play or to a specific website that provides details about the app. 

An Android smartphone without any apps installed is like a computer without any programs. Though Google Play and all the choices available may be intimidating at first, using these simple tips and spending some time browsing around the market will get you quickly acclimated. Before long, your friends and co-workers will be coming to you for app advice.