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Google Play website gets its first redesign in years, looks like a big app

Google Play website gets its first redesign in years, looks like a big app

 November 21, 2021 at 8:28 am   |     Author:   |     Technology  

The new Play Store website design. It looks just like the Android app.
Enlarge / The new Play Store website design. It looks just like the Android app.

The Google Play website is getting a long-overdue redesign. Android Police was the first to spot the dramatic new look. It’s not exactly official yet but is rolling out to several people.

While the Play Store app on Android devices is continually updated, the website has mostly been forgotten. The current Google Play website design dates back to 2013. The site has had some small tweaks since then, but the bones of the site are still eight years old, and it presents content in a card motif that Google has moved on from. The new website looks just like the Android app. That means lots of whitespace and a layout focused on app icons and video thumbnails.

Back in 2013, Google envisioned the Play Store as a one-stop shop for all content from Google. At the peak of its powers, the Play Store sidebar had six sections: Apps (and Games), Movies & TV, Music (and podcasts), Books, Magazines (and News subscriptions), and even a physical “Devices” section for Nexus phones. Today, Google Play is a lot less powerful. Music has been taken from Google Play Music and is now a YouTube product. Podcasts now live at Google Podcasts and will probably also be taken over by YouTube in the future. YouTube and Google Play Movies & TV currently overlap, since they both sell premium Hollywood video content. On some platforms, like Smart TVs, Google is shutting down the Play section in favor of YouTube. Devices are now sold at the standalone Google Store website.

A page for an individual app. There's a huge title, a huge app icon, and then a dual-pane layout.
Enlarge / A page for an individual app. There’s a huge title, a huge app icon, and then a dual-pane layout.

With this new redesign, Google Play is only home to Apps (and Games), Movies, and Books. It’s a very odd selection of content right now. Assuming Google does the obvious and lets YouTube take over video distribution, it just needs to find a new home for Books, and then Google Play can just sell apps and games. The other interesting section change here is that “Games” is now the first section instead of apps. Games are the most popular part of the Play Store and the biggest moneymakers, so that makes sense.

With a focus on apps, it looks like the Play Store is going to get a lot better at helping users find the apps they’re looking for. Several screenshots show a filter for form factors, a feature the Play Store website has desperately needed for years. You’ll finally be able to limit the Play Store to apps for Phones, Tablets, TVs, Chromebooks, Watches, or Cars. Android devices come in a million form factors, and often the device-specific Play Store will filter apps for compatibility, but since the Play Store website is neutral ground, it has mostly just thrown everything into a big, unmanageable bucket. It’s particularly exciting to see a “Tablet” section, where previously it was just up to users to dig through the phone app store.

You can now filter by form factors like

You can now filter by form factors like “tablet” or “watch.”

Android Police

These new filters are yet another sign Google is showing a renewed interest in pushing Android beyond phones, Android’s most successful form factor. Just in the past year, Google relaunched its TV platform as “Google TV,” and the first Android Automotive car, the Polestar 2, started shipping. Google revamped Wear OS with the help of Samsung, and it announced a tablet-and-foldable-focused release of Android, called “Android 12L.” The Play Store is even offering discounted fees to developers who support more form factors, hopefully pushing developers to support more of these products. Letting users sift through everything from the comfort of their web browsers sounds like a great idea.

There is no sign of dark-mode support yet, but I would be shocked if that wasn’t one of the early updates when this becomes official. The other touch missing is any kind of “Material You” color scheme, which is Android 12’s new color-matching UI. The phone app matches the overall color scheme of your wallpaper, while the website is still a stark white. Google says that one day it wants to sync your color choices across your Google account, where it can work on the web, but that doesn’t exist yet, so the Play Store website is a stark white right now.

Android Police notes the current design feels like “a work in progress,” so it could be a while before it rolls out to everyone. If you don’t currently have access to the new design and are looking for a sneak peek, some people report seeing the new design using the Korean or Taiwanese region options.

Listing image by Google Play Store

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