What Is Google Play?

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 allow you to 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

In addition to devices, Chrome apps have their own store in the Chrome Web Store. This is where you find apps that run on both the Chrome web browser and the Chromebook. The company 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 markets were more siloed. 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 your movie purchases and rentals. You can access your library in both locations).

Android Market used to be as simple as that. An Android app store. When it was the only Android app store, this was pretty straightforward. Amazon, Sony, Samsung, and just about every single phone and Android tablet maker began offering separate app stores.

Why Google Play?

The word play implies that the store now only sells games. The logo points to a different reason. The new Google Play logo is a triangle in the familiar play button on videos. We're still not sure how a book plays, but we can see 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 apps home page

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

Find Your Tunes in Google Play Music

Google Play Music

The old Google Music logo has been retired for those who remember Google's original song storage locker. However, the Play Music store still works the same way as the old standalone Google Music product. The player operates like you're used to it working, the difference is you find it under the Music section of Google Play. If you're a Google Play customer, watch your email. Every once in a while, Google offers promotional free songs and albums. 

Grab a Great Read from Google Play Books

Google Play Books website

Google Books used to be confusingly 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 massive library of scanned books from the collections of public and academic libraries.

Google Play Books is an e-book distribution service where users 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 a tab (Library) in the Play Books app now, and the app serves as your e-reader

Binge Watching with Google Play Movies & TV

Google Play Movies & TV website

Your movie rentals are available both through the Google Play Movies & TV apps and through YouTube Purchases. This sometimes gives you some flexibility, as a lot of devices support YouTube. If you're playing a movie on a mobile device - say you're getting ready to fly somewhere and want to download a movie for watching on the plane, use Google Play Movies & TV. If you're watching from a computer or a device that supports YouTube but not Android, use YouTube.

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 do, so the guidelines above apply.