The Google Play Console, Google’s main tool for helping developers manage their Android applications in its store from beta to retirement, is getting a major update at Google I/O today.
In the last year alone, Android users in 190 countries downloaded 82 billion apps. According to Google’s data, the number of developers who have highly popular applications with more than a million downloads grew 35 percent.
Matt Henderson, the group product manager for Play Apps and Games, told me that these updates fall into two categories: features that are meant to help developers grow their business and those that help them to increase the quality of their apps.
Let’s start with app quality. To improve the quality of their apps, developers obviously need to know more about how their applications perform for their users. So with this update, the company is providing developers with significantly more data about their apps’ performance than ever before. The updated Play Console statistics page, for example, now makes it far easier to see all the important metrics around an app.
But maybe more importantly, the new Android vitals service now lets developers see what the actual user experience is like after somebody has downloaded the application. It shows data around app stability (crash rates, App Not Responding rates), battery usage (stuck wake locks, excessive wake ups) and render time (slow rendering, frozen UI).
Overall, the Play Console now also shows a wider range of data for crashes and allows developers to see stack traces when those crashes happen to help developers in the debugging process.
Often, developers try to ensure that apps run well by restricting them from running on many devices (or older Android versions). Henderson argued that a lot of developers leave money on the table by being too restrictive here because they don’t have enough data. The updated Play Console allows developers to segment not just by devices and Android version, but also by other performance indicators like RAM and which system-on-a-chip those devices use. This feature is powered by Google’s new device catalog, which indexes all of this data and also shows on how many of them your app has been installed.
As for more directly business-related features, Henderson noted that during the release process, developers want to mitigate their risks. The new release dashboard in the Console now allows them to better track this process, see if there are issues and halt the roll-out if necessary.
Google is also adding better support for subscriptions with the help of yet another dashboard. Henderson told me that subscriptions are the fastest growing business on Google Play and that the number of active subscriptions doubled in the last year.
One somewhat esoteric feature Google is launching with this update is all about app signing. To sign an app — and have it listed in the store — developers traditionally had to generate their own keys. But those keys can get lost or mistakenly end up in a public GitHub repository. Now, however, developers will be able to have Google handle all of this for them. This also means that Google gets more access to these apps and can automatically optimize them to reduce their size, for example.