Sources close to Google Play told TechCrunch on Tuesday that the company has increased its efforts in recent weeks to clean out spammy and other non-compliant apps from the Android-based virtual storefront. App deletions reportedly hit an all-time high with 60,000 apps removed just in February alone. Many apps were also pulled by their publishers and wireless carriers.
This should be good news for Android device owners who have up until now waded through a vast sea of apps looking for a specific gem. While the mobile industry has seemingly applauded the open-source Android OS for allowing more freedom and creativity over Apple's closed iOS platform, that freedom has also led to a plethora of apps intended to do more harm to the end-user than good.
As an example, sources said that many app pulled in the February cleaning resided in the MP3/ringtone category, a segment that's notorious for playing host to apps that allow users to download "free" music listed on the Internet. Other apps that were kicked out of Google Play were misleading in their description or contained keywords to manipulate their search engine ranking. Some had fake or inflated rankings to increase their chances of discovery.
Google takes a different approach to app monitoring by scanning the app store after the apps have been loaded and fired at the Android audience – Apple has an "army" of reviewers to dissect apps one-on-one before they're allowed to go live on iTunes. Google's method supposedly allows the company to improve its algorithms and automated efforts at handling spam.
Google's spring cleaning has reportedly paved the way to Google Play 4.0 which is now rolling out to Android device owners with Android 2.2 "Froyo" and above. The virtual storefront received a design overhaul that focuses on bigger images that "jump off the page" as described by Michael Siliski, group product manager for Google Play.
"Similarly themed content is grouped together so you can hone in on a magazine to read or an app to try," he said. "As you move down the page, new recommendations continue to appear so there is always more to see and explore. We’ve also simplified purchasing so you can breeze through checkout and get to enjoying your movie rental or other content."
Based on screenshots provided by Google (the new app hasn't arrived on my Nexus tablets sorry), the company has canned the "black market" look and brought back the Android green/white color scheme used in the earlier days of the OS. The grouped content is presented as cards on the front page, allowing for larger graphics and a larger touch target. This method allows for more apps to be presented on the home page than in previous versions.
Purnima Kochikar, Director of Business Development, Games & Applications, said the new updated Google Play UI offers a better in-app purchasing experience for customers by providing a dramatically simplified, dialog-based purchase flow. When the purchase is complete, users return directly to the place they left, without the app having to reconstruct its state.
With a new design and far less garbage to sift through, Android owners should have a better experience hunting down apps and other content for their smartphones and tablets from here on out. Could this launch be leading up to Android "Key Lime Pie" which is expected to be introduced at Google I/O 2013 next month? We'll see in a matter of weeks!