What Is Google Play?

It's a store where you can find and download apps for Android devices

Two people checking out an Android phone.

 Allison Joyce/Stringer/Getty Images

Google Play is the one-stop-shop for Android apps, games, music, movie rentals and purchases, and e-books. On Android devices, the entire Google Play Store can be accessed through the Play Store app. Standard apps appear in the Android system tray, but Play Games, Play Music, Play Books, Play Movies & TV, and Play Newsstand are all libraries of downloadable content. Each has separate player apps that access your content. That means you can also view Play Music, Play Books, and Play Movies on laptops and non-Android smartphones.

The Google Play store (and all of the information covered in this article) should work no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

The Google Store and Smartphones, Watches, Chromecasts, and Nest Thermostats

Google Play previously offered a Devices tab in the Play Store, but device transactions are not the same as software transactions. Devices require transactions like shipping, customer support, and potential returns. So, as Google's device offerings expanded, Google split the devices into a separate location called the Google Store. Now, Google Play is strictly for downloadable apps and content.

Chrome and Chromebook Apps

Chrome apps are available in the Chrome Web Store. This is where apps that run on both the Chrome web browser and the Chromebook are found. Google split Chrome-related apps away from the Play Store because those apps are strictly for Chrome-based products. However, you can still use the Google Play Store in Chrome environments.

Previously Known as Android Market 

Prior to March 2012, the Android Market handled app content, and Google Music and Google Books handled books and music. YouTube was the source for movies (and it is still a location for movie purchases and rentals). You can access your library in both locations.

Android Market used to be just an Android app store. When it was the only Android app store, this was pretty straightforward. Amazon, Sony, Samsung, and many phone and Android tablet makers began offering separate app stores.

Why Google Play?

The word play implies that the store only sells games. The logo points to a different reason. The new Google Play logo is a triangle that looks similar to the Play button on videos. This as a combination of the content consumption definition of play and being playful in exploring what content is available.

Android Apps on Google Play

Google Play sells Android apps, available through the Home and Games section of the Play Store. Play Books, Play Music, Play Movies & TV, and Play Newsstand also have dedicated sections that show top recommendations based on your previous downloads. In addition, there are links to quick navigation, like Top Charts, Categories, and Editor's Choice. Google-powered search capabilities make it easy to find anything in the store.

Google Play apps home page

Find Your Tunes in Google Play Music

The old Google Music logo has been retired. However, the Play Music store still works the same way as the old standalone Google Music product. The player operates the same way, the difference is that it's located in the Music section of Google Play.

Google Play Music

If you're a Google Play customer, watch your email. Occasionally, Google offers promotional free songs and albums.

Grab a Great Read from Google Play Books

Google Books used to be divided between book search and eBook purchases. Now, Google Books is not the same as the Books section of the Google Play Store. Google Books is an online database that contains a library of scanned books from the collections of public and academic libraries.

Google Play Books website

Google Play Books is an e-book distribution service where you can download and read or listen to e-books and audiobooks. If you had Google books before the change, your library is still there. It's the Library tab in the Play Books app, and the app serves as your e-reader.

Binge Watch with Google Play Movies & TV

Movie rentals are available through the Google Play Movies & TV app and through YouTube Purchases. This gives some flexibility, as many devices support YouTube. If you want to play a movie on a mobile device (for example, when getting ready to fly somewhere and want to download a movie to watch on the plane), use Google Play Movies & TV. If you watch shows on a computer or a device that supports YouTube but not Android, use YouTube.

Google Play Movies & TV website

You also have access to a wide range of television episodes from shows that appear on network and premium channels. Those work in the same way movies.