Feb 23rd, 2017

Take a look at the two screenshots above. The results are completely different, but can you spot the difference in the search box? It’s very subtle. The first screenshot shows maiou moon;, the second screenshot shows miaou moon. Putting the “i” after the “a” completely throws off the search results in the Play Store. This is a problem.

The example above can be recreated very easily. Here it is again with a game called Super Sticky Bros. Leave out the “y” and you get completely different results. You can scroll down the page all you want. Super Sticky Bros is nowhere to be found. Just one letter off.

Google is a company built around search, which is what makes this problem so incredibly frustrating. Google Search outside of the Play Store is very forgiving. You can miss a few letters or write something completely incomprehensible, but a lot of the time Google knows what you mean. That’s not the case in the Play Store. To compare the Play Store with Google Search, look at the results below. Again, one letter completely breaks the results in the Play Store.

But what happens if we try the same thing on regular ‘ol Google Search? That’s more like it. Google knew what I meant. So why isn’t the Play Store smart enough to do this?

This is a problem that has existed before the Play Store was called the “Play Store.” Back in 2013, Google talked about how search works in the Play Store. There are two types of search queries: categorical and navigational. Categorical searches are like “weather apps” or “puzzle games,” whereas navigation searches are for exact titles, like the ones shown above. That’s where the problem lies.

Relying on exact search terms gives the user zero margins for error. You could be misspelling an app name and not even know it. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to find an app that you think you know the name of. Not only does this create user frustration, but it can be bad for developers of apps with unusual names. One letter can make the difference between the app being installed or not.

Search in the Play Store is frankly not up to par with Google Search. Why does such an important part of the Android ecosystem have a second-rate search function? Have you ever had trouble finding something in the Play Store?

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