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Google Play preps a new full-screen app discovery feature and adds more developer tools

Though overshadowed by AI news this year, Google’s I/O 2024 developer conference also focuses on what’s new for those building for Android. This year, it’s Google Play that’s getting attention, with a new discovery feature for apps, new ways to acquire users, updates to Play Points, and other enhancements to developer-facing tools like the Google Play SDK Console and Play Integrity API, among other things.

Of particular interest to developers is something called the Engage SDK, which will introduce a way for app makers to showcase their content to users in a full-screen, immersive experience that’s personalized to the individual user. Google says this isn’t a surface that users can see at this time, however.

Instead, the Engage SDK is being offered as a developer preview so developers can leverage the upcoming surface to highlight the most important content from users’ installed apps, personalized recommendations and promotions. If the user already has the app installed, it can highlight the most important content from those apps. If the user doesn’t have the app installed, developers can use this space to show off their app’s most compelling features. It can also offer personalized promotions and deals.

Developers will need to integrate with the Engage SDK — something that takes about a week to complete — to tap into this new feature. For now, the Engage SDK is offered as an invite-only preview.

Play Points, the Play ecosystem’s rewards program, is used to launch coupons, discounts and exclusive in-game items. Now it’s also easier to monitor these promotions through the Play Console, so developers can better optimize their campaigns.

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Google also made it easier to integrate with Play Games Services and expanded its Google Play Games on PC program to more than 140 markets. The program’s catalog now includes over 3,000 titles, the company noted.

For SDK developers, Google is opening up its SDK Console to all SDK makers, as long as they’re distributed by a canonical Maven repository source that Google can verify. The SDK Console, first launched in 2021, aims to help SDK makers improve their performance by offering tools like crash reporting, insights, and the ability to communicate with developers more directly. With the expansion, it will now also be open to smaller SDKs and open source SDKs that weren’t previously supported. That will allow a broader range of SDK makers to provide developers with tools to update to SDK versions that fix bugs and issues and comply with the latest Play Store guidelines.

Developers are also able to share crash reports and ANR (Application Not Responding) errors with SDK owners to help them improve.

Image Credits: Google

The Play Integrity API, launched in 2022, is also being updated. The API helps developers ensure that user actions and server requests are coming from an unmodified version of their app as a means of protecting against risk and fraud. Now it will add three new features. One is the public beta of “app access risk,” which lets an app know if another app is capturing the screen, displaying overlays or controlling the device. (It won’t be triggered by features used for accessibility, however.) The API can also now respond with a Play Protect verdict, which lets developers know if Play Protect is turned on or if it has found any known malware on the device. Another feature, “recent device activity,” will let developers detect devices making a high volume of requests, which could be a sign of automated traffic or an attack, says Google.

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To help developers acquire and engage users, the Play Store is rolling out custom store listings, which allow developers to change their listings and optimize them for different audiences. They can also now create listings based on what keywords users are searching for and the Play Console will make keyword suggestions. Google’s Gemini AI can also be used to help write app descriptions.

Image Credits: Google

Following other changes to make the Play Store more useful to those on different form factors, like tablets or watches, the listings can now display screenshots, ratings, and reviews specific to each form factor. This will also help when users filter apps by device type or explore the page dedicated to apps for “other devices.”

Developers who use deep links to their app — or links that direct to a particular page inside their app — can now update those links without submitting an app update for review. Instead, they’ll be able to use the deep links patching feature in the Play Console to experiment with different links and then push them live.

The company also ran down various changes it’s made to Play Store commerce, including the support for UPI in India, Pix in Brazil, the ability for parents to approve purchases for kids within a Google Family setup, and, in India, the ability to ask a family member or friend outside of your family group to purchase an app or in-app product. The latter is handled by sharing a payment link through a text or email.

Google noted it’s automatically updating prices on the Play Store to reflect currency fluctuations against the U.S. dollar and is now letting developers price products as high as USD $999.99 (or the local equivalent). Developers can also use a new Play Billing Lab app to test features to improve the customer experience around one-time purchases and subscriptions.

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Its installment subscriptions feature, which has been in early access in select markets, allows customers the ability to pay over time for long-term subscriptions. So far, the program has seen an increase of 8% in total subscription sign-ups and 4% in user spending, but Google didn’t say when it would roll out more broadly.

Image Credits: Google

To take advantage of features, developers will need to upgrade to Play Billing Library 7.0 later this month, Google said.

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Miranda Cosgrove

My Miranda cosgrove is an accomplished article writer with a flair for crafting engaging and informative content. With a deep curiosity for various subjects and a dedication to thorough research, Miranda cosgrove brings a unique blend of creativity and accuracy to every piece.

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