Google Play downranks slow apps

Google announced yesterday a new Play Store search and ranking algorithm that takes into account an Android application's performance metrics.

According to Google, the new algorithm will downrank apps that crash or cause any other performance issues like excessive battery usage and slow render times.

Engineers created the new system after they conducted an internal study of all one-star ratings and discovered that half of these negative reviews mentioned app stability as the main factor for the low score.

"Developers who focus on app quality can see improvements in their rating, and ultimately their retention and monetization," Andrew Ahn, Product Manager for Google Play said on the topic.

Google's decision won't affect popular apps like Facebook or Instagram, who even if they're known as some of the biggest battery hogs on the Play Store, are mainly driven by their popularity, rather than search discoverability.

Google's decision will affect makers of smaller apps who heavily rely on the Play Store search for new installs.

Google is also making available a tool called Android Vitals in the Google Play Console to help app makers learn how their app behaves and find the key points they need to address to improve app performance. This is the type of data Android developers can expect to find via Android Vitals:

  • ANR (Application Not Responding) rate
  • Application crash rate
  • Render time: slow rendering (16ms) and frozen UI frames (700ms)
  • Battery usage: stuck wake locks and excessive wakeups