Google brings AI and more to the Play Store

Google is bringing its AI technology to the Play Store. At this week's developer event, Google I/O, the company announced several new ways for developers to use its AI to build and optimize their Android apps for the Play Store, alongside a host of other tools to grow their app's audience through things like automated translations and other promotional efforts.

The AI updates present another way Google is aiming to infuse AI technology into all its products, from search to productivity apps to code writing tools and beyond. They also set the stage for how AI could be used in terms of app publishing and promotion, leaving many to wonder if Apple will introduce similar tools at its upcoming developer conference, WWDC, in June.

AI updates

One of the new AI features for app developers is a Generative AI tool that helps developers draft new Play Store listings, using Google's PaLM 2 model. Initially available in English as an experimental feature, this AI helper will generate a draft copy after the developer enters a couple of prompts, explains Google. The tool could be used to generate listings or even uniquely categorized app descriptions for different types of users, which developers can then edit, discard or use. For example, they could ask for an app description based on the app's key audience or the app's theme.

On the plus side, such a capability could help developers craft descriptions if they have a hard time articulating their app's feature set in an appealing way. But it could also encourage more app spam, as it simplifies the process of doing some of the manual labor with writing app listings.

Generative AI is being used to help users, too. Another AI feature called "User Review Summaries" will pull together and synthesizes users' comments about the developer's app from the comments left in the reviews on the Play Store. Also initially available in English, the tool will allow users to quickly see what people are saying about the app they're considering. Google says other languages will be supported later this year.

In addition, developers will gain access to a machine translation tool that leverages AI to translate the developer's app and their Play Store listings in minutes into another language. 10 languages from Google Translate will be available at launch in the Play Console, says Google, and will be able to translate the app and app store listing in a matter of minutes.

The new AI listings generator will become available to developers today.

Overall, this use of AI clearly fits into the overall theme of AI at Google I/O, with the company focusing on where it can find specific areas in existing services to plug in its AI models.

Play Store Updates

While the AI-powered features may get the most attention, Google is also rolling out a series of updates to the Play Store and other developer tools focused on helping developers grow their app businesses.

For starters, it's building on the ability introduced last year that lets developers create at least 50 custom store listings, by country and pre-registration status. Now, they'll also be able to customize listings to target their app's inactive users in an effort to lure them back and give the app another shot. Later, developers will be able to use Google Ads App campaigns to serve these custom listings to users on AdMob and YouTube, directly segments of users to Google Play. To support this process, it's adding Store Listing Groups that are created by customizing the base listing and overriding specific elements.

Image Credits: Google

The company also touched on new subscription options, like its recently launched multiple prices per billing period, which lets developers offer different auto-renewing and prepaid plan prices -- like giving “VIP” users a recurring discount. And it mentioned its User Choice Billing Pilot program, which allows developers to offer third-party billing alongside Google Play Billing's system in their apps for a small discount. Spotify and Bumble are early adopters.

Promotional Content

Taking a page from Apple's App Store in-app events, Google Play earlier introduced Promotional Content that lets app developers promote important events taking place in their app, like new content or exciting offers. Almost 25,000 apps and games already have access to Promotional content, and this year, it will roll out to more titles, the company notes.

The Play Store will also now incorporate in-app events in new places, including through Play Store notifications, the For You section on the Apps and Games tabs on the Play Store app, within Play Store search results, beneath the search results for a specific app by its title, and even on the Search screen itself, before you type in a query, above other recommendations. Google was recently seen testing ads in this spot as well.

Image Credits: Google

Google's Play Console will include an updated reporting section so developers can track how their Promotional content and in-app events are performing across Google Play.

The ability to promote events and other content through the Play Store or have an app featured by editors is limited to "high-quality" games and apps, Google notes. To help developers better understand what that means, it's launching a unified framework for app and game quality that explains how apps and games are evaluated across a number of dimensions.

Image Credits: Google

Elsewhere in Google Play, developers later this month will be able to run price experiments for in-app products in order to test different price points across markets. They'll also be able to sell their in-app items directly on Play through a new kind of promotional content called "Featured Products." These items will appear in their own cards underneath the app listing and can be nominated for promotion across other areas of the Play Store, too.

Image Credits: Google

The ability to market more than just the app downloads themselves across the Play Store reflects the mature app store market where users are now not only looking for new apps to try but also to be updated as to what's taking place or available for sale inside the apps they already own and use.

The changes are rolling out at different times, with some arriving in the coming days while others are expected throughout the course of the year.

Read more about Google I/O 2023 on TechCrunch
Read more about Google I/O 2023 on TechCrunch