Android app writers are about bathe in newfound powers within the Google Play Store. A handful of features will improve star ratings, ease the process of dealing with user feedback, customize their landing page, and force app updates even when the app is in active use. Here's the skinny.
The in-app udpate API is a handy tool for convincing users to update their apps. According to Google, automatic app updates are helpful but still leave too-large a number of devices running old app versions. Google has been testing this API for several months already and it reached general availabiliy this week. Essentially, developers can push updates to apps while people are using the app. The user won't have to stop using the app, nor relaunch it. The idea is to improve version updates acorss the board, as updates often address security and performance issues.
Suggested replies are meant to help the shy or non-confrontational developer get in touch with app reviewers. With suggested replies, the Google Play Store will generate three canned responses to reviews. These won't be simply replies, but messages catered to the content of the actual review. Developers can then elect to send one of the messages (or, preferable, write their own). Google says reviewers who interact with developers often upgrade their rating of the app in questions.
Speaking of app ratings, your star count is about to get better. Google knows that star ratings, as they function today, are a cumulative number that reflects the entirety of an app's lifetime. For apps that have always enjoyed good reviews, that's not much of a problem. Apps that have had good and bad reviews, however, should benefit from the new, weighted system. Starting in August, star ratings will be weighted to show the overall score of the more recent version of the app.
Other Play Store changes developers can get excited about include customized listings. A new feature will let developers assess whether or not a user has installed their app and then direct them to custom versions of the landing page with specific marketing messages.
Developers have more control over the size of Android App Bundles, sharing and testing apps internally no longer requires full version codes and signing keys, and Google Play Console Data now offers developers more information about their app's status in a glance.
Many of these are already coming online and others will follow in the weeks and months ahead.