Google’s Hidden Message to Android App Publishers? Stay Within The Walled Garden

Apps installed outside Play Store are not being counted as Installs in Play Store but uninstalling the same app is resulting in an increase in uninstalls.
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Android App developers must have noticed a little note by Google on top of their developer console indicating some changes in install metrics. Google has not shared much details on the actual changes and “Learn more” leads to a very small description talking about corrections on counting factory resets for pre-installed apps and apps that are used by multiple users on the same device.

Notification For Android App Publishers
Notification For Android App Publishers

First lets figure out what Google means here:

  1. Factory Reset for Pre-installed Apps: Some Apps are embedded into the phone along with the OS and they are categorized under preinstalled Apps. What Google possibly means here is, that they might be either calculating a factory reset as potential uninstall first and then reinstall as a new install affecting overall numbers. Or they were not counting them as part of installs altogether. Either ways, they seem to have fixed this issue probably.
  2. Apps used by Multiple users on the same device: If you have 2 devices but use common Google ID then Play Store would take that into account as you can see from the drop down in Play Store’s developer’s console. However they may not be calculating more than one active user from a same device. It is possible that a tablet/phone is shared by 2 family members and they have their own Google IDs associated with it. So technically these are 2 active users for your App but Google might still be counting one active user earlier which seems to have been fixed now.

Android2

While this is a detailed explanation of what Google is trying to explain, I have my own theory to this which is based on careful analysis of few Apps’ analytics I have access to. I studied the following in last 8 days:

  • Daily App Installs & Uninstalls on Google Play
  • Daily App Installs & Uninstalls outside Google Play (Opera App Store, UC Web Store, Amazon, OEM embeds et al).

Findings reveal something interesting and many inferences can be drawn from it. While my inference here may be completely wrong since it is based on just couple of Apps, but its not illogical either.

Apps installed outside Play Store are not being counted as Installs in Play Store but uninstalling the same app is resulting in an increase in uninstalls.

How I concluded this? If Play Store had 100 installs/30 uninstall and Amazon store had 100 installs/35 uninstall then Google’s developer console is now showing (post algorithm change) 100 installs/65 uninstalls. This drastically increased the uninstall rate to 65% for that particular App from originally 30%
Since Play Store takes uninstall rate in to account in deciding the App Ranks, imagine the loss Apps would suffer if they rely heavily on non-Play store installs.
I spoke to few big app owners and only the ones actively getting downloads outside Play Store have felt the impact.

My Inference from this: Google is penalizing app developers for any installs done outside its ecosystem. They want to discourage app developers to submit their apps to any other App store. Google will never openly admit this but by making the algorithm change recently they are indirectly sending signals to all the big app developers by showing increase in their uninstall rates.

How to circumvent this

If you have pre-embed deal with OEMs or you work with lot of Android App stores then you can do the following to escape the above impact:

– Push an App update. If you push an App update then Play Store will sync the Install numbers and it would bring back the uninstall rate to its original base. Even if you don’t have any meaningful updates to make, you still need to keep pushing a new version at regular intervals to bring all the installs under Play Store dashboard.

– Use a different package name and sign APK with a different signature: Another way to completely stay clear from this is to create a separate version of your App with a new package name. This way Google will not be able to link it with the Play store version and your stats wont get affected. Only issue with this solution is that you will have to maintain different versions. And pushing updates to pre-installed App or other App Store apps would not be straightforward.

Since Google has not shared any details on this topic, idea of this blog is to reach out to more Android App developers and hear their thoughts on this.

[About the author:[About the Author: Deepak Abbot is AVP at Paytm. He has worked in companies like Reliance Entertainment- Digital, Zapak & Satyam computers handling product, marketing & analytics. E-mail: dabbot@gmail.com]

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