Google Play Store gives ‘star-stuck’ app ratings a nudge

Changes are afoot for the Google Play Store that should make the app repository a more informative place for both regular people and developers. Google debuted new behaviors for various aspects of the Play Store at its Google I/O developer conference this week.

Here’s what’s on deck and what it means for you.

A star is reborn

App ratings are a vital metric that Android users rely on day in and day out to inform their downloading decisions. Does the app score three stars? Four? What’s your threshold, particularly if the app costs real money?

An issue faced by users and developers alike is that the current star ratings for apps are cumulative. That means if the version 1.0 build of any given app was garbage and scored one million one-star votes, those votes will still impact the app’s overall score years later — even after the app reaches version 20.0 and is flawless. This is about to change.

Google says beginning later this year, app ratings will be weighted to reflect the most current version of the app. Developers can see the new rating via the Google Play Console starting immediately, though end users won’t see the new system until August.

Suggested replies

Any avid Android user has likely taken advantage of suggested replies in Gmail or Android Messages. “You bet!” Thanks!” “I’ll call you later.” Now, developers will be able to send generic responses directly to app reviewers. But don’t get offended.

Rather than offer developers an automated and impersonal way out of interacting with users, the idea is to push developers to respond at all. Google says developers will see three suggested replies to any given bit of user feedback. These replies will be created automatically based on the content of the review. Developers can choose to send one as-is, augment one, or write their own.

This tool is available in English to start with, and other languages will be added in subsequent versions. Google claims reviewers who receive feedback from developers are apt to improve their rating by an average of 0.7 stars.

Fine-tuned landings

Developers’ Google Play Store listings are their home, their castle. They are the central spot where developers can entice Play Store users to download their app. The message matters, and that’s why Google is giving developers more control over this vital space.

Google says app writers will soon be able to create custom listings for apps based on install date or status of the viewer. For example, developers can send surfers to alternate versions of the storefront depending on whether or not they’ve installed the app. These alternate storefronts can offer customized marketing messages tailored to score downloads or re-downloads.

Updates get pushy

Developers and users alike can already take advantage of automatic app updates. The Play Store will signal phones when new app versions are available, and then download them in the background. This is effective, but not effective enough, according to developer feedback.

The new in-app updates API makes it possible for applications to update mid-use. This API has been in testing for several months and Google says developers have created smooth processes for upgrading apps while in use. This improves the overall acceptance rate of app updates by a respectable percentage. The API has reached general availability, so expect to see this in the real world before too long.

In-App Updates for Google Play Store

Stats for nerds

Developers gain some hardcore nerdy stuff to get excited about, starting with the “bundle” of joy.

A photo of Google Play's version number

Android App Bundles are party to some enhancements. Bundles are a way of delivering apps in smaller packages. Now developers can set more parameters for controlling when and how the bundles are sent to phones over the air.

Sharing apps internally is now more seamless, according to Google. Google smoothed over the process of testing new builds to trusted reviewers without the messy overhead of version codes, signing keys, or other validations.

Last, the Google Play Console Data now offers more information at a glance, allowing developers to better ascertain the stats of their apps.

While some of these changes are developer-facing only, others will soon become part of the everyday Google Play Store experience.

How to get Android Q beta 3 on compatible non-Pixel phones

It’s great to see Android Q beta 3 with so many new features, but it’s also great to see the beta open up to non-Pixel phones. Here’s how to get Android Q beta 3 for compatible non-Pixel phones.

Asus Zenfone 5Z

Zen UI

According to Asus, known issues include SD cards with exFAT format not being supported and no beep when the volume up or down buttons are pressed.

  1. Turn off your Zenfone 5Z.
  2. Hold down the Power and Volume Up buttons until your phone reboots.
  3. Connect your Zenfone 5Z to your PC.
  4. Download and decompress the Android Q’s image file.
  5. Double-click on “update_image.bat,” which starts the flash image command
  6. When the flash finishes, hit the Enter key to restart your Zenfone 5Z.

Essential Phone

Before we start, make sure to download the factory image. Also, download the fastboot tool from the Android SDK Platform-Tools package and add it to your path so the flash scripts can find it.

Finally, turn on OEM Unlocking and USB Debugging from within Developer options. To get to developer options, tap the build number multiple times until you see the “You are now a developer!” pop-up message.

  1. Connect your Essential Phone to your PC.
  2. Use the ADB tool to run the command adb reboot bootloader
  3. Reboot your phone while holding the Volume Down button.
  4. Unlock your bootloader.
    1. Run the command fastboot flashing unlock
    2. Use the Volume Down button to go to the YES option and press the Power button to confirm
    3. While your Essential Phone is rebooting, press and hold the Volume Down button to return to Fastboot mode.
  5. Flash your factory image.
    1. Unzip the previously-downloaded factory image and go to where you unzipped the files.
    2. On Windows, run the command flashall.bat
    3. On Linux and MacOS X, run the command flashall.sh
  6. Relock your bootloader
    1. You don’t have to re-lock your bootloader, though doing so improves security.
    2. Run the command fastboot flashing lock
    3. Go back to Fastboot mode and run the command fastboot flashing lock_critical

Huawei Mate 20 Pro

The twilight back of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.

Keep in mind that you must have released at least one app on the Google Play Store and use a Huawei Mate 20 Pro to qualify. Also, your Huawei ID must be registered with the same email address used for your Google Play Store developer account.

Finally, the beta is available from tomorrow, May 8 through June 30. After registration, the first version of Android Q beta 3 will be pushed out this Saturday, May 11. Following versions will be pushed out every Tuesday and Thursday.

You can go here to learn more about possible restrictions.

  1. Open this link on your Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
  2. Download and install the Beta app from the aforementioned link.
  3. Log in to the app with a Huawei ID registered with the Google Play Developer account’s email.
  4. Sign up for the Huawei Mate 20 Pro Developer project.

LG G8 ThinQ

LG G8 ThinQ Review display

Before installing Android Q beta 3, LG advises device owners to do a factory reset of their devices. Also, known issues include the camera with limited functionality, SD cards over 32GB not being recognized, Wi-Fi hotspot not working, voice calls over a Bluetooth headset not working, and some apps on the Google Play Store not working due to Q-OS compatibility issues.

Finally, you’ll have to use LG Beta Downloader every time there’s an update.

  1. Download and install LG Beta Downloader v1.0 or later (only works on Windows).
  2. Start LG Beta Downloader and follow the displayed instructions.

Nokia 8.1

The Nokia 8.1 screen.

Note that the beta only supports models TA-1119, TA-1121, and TA-1128 and associated 00WW images. Also, you must go here to sign up for a Nokia account and add the Nokia 8.1 to your account. From there, you can request Android Q beta 3 for your device.

Nokia is cagey on exact instructions, so make sure to have a compatible Nokia 8.1 device and follow the on-screen instructions.

OnePlus 6/6T

Even though the OnePlus 7 series also supports Android Q beta 3, the phones aren’t out yet. We’ll update this section with any new steps once the OnePlus 7 phones launch.

  1. Download the latest ROM upgrade zip package from the specified server, which you’ll find below.
    1. OnePlus 6
    2. OnePlus 6T
  2. Copy the Rollback package to the phone storage.
  3. Go to Settings -> System -> System Updates.
  4. Tap the top right icon, then tap Local upgrade.
  5. Tap on the corresponding installation upgrade, then tap Upgrade -> System upgrade completed to 100%.
  6. After the upgrade is complete, tap Restart.
  7. Your phone will reboot into recovery mode to format user data, then reboot again after updating.

Oppo Reno

Oppo Reno Hands On rear glass panel

Oppo hasn’t yet posted instructions on how to get Android Q beta 3 for the Oppo Reno. We’ll update this section once that changes.

Realme 3 Pro

Realme 3 Pro back of the phone

Realme hasn’t yet posted instructions on how to get Android Q beta 3 for the Realme 3 Pro. We’ll update this section once that changes.

Sony Xperia XZ3

Sony notes that only versions H8416, H9436, and H9493 of the Xperia XZ3 support Android Q beta 3. Also, Sony advises that device owners factory reset their devices before flashing the software.

  1. Go here to download the latest version of the Xperia Companion app on your PC.
  2. Start the Xperia Companion app.
  3. Hold down the Alt key on your keyboard and click on Software Repair on the homescreen.
  4. Tick the checkbox My device cannot be detected or started, then click Next.
  5. Wait for the initialization to complete, then follow the on-screen instructions.

Every subsequent software update for Android Q will be an OTA update. As such, you don’t have to use the Xperia Companion app unless you want to return to factory settings.

Tecno Spark 3 Pro

Press render of the Tecno Spark 3 Pro.

Tecno hasn’t yet posted instructions on how to get Android Q beta 3 for the Spark 3 Pro. We’ll update this section once that changes.

Vivo X27

Press render of the Vivo X27.

Vivo notes that the first version will be released this month, with the second version releasing in early July. Once Android Q is available to the public, Vivo will no longer release beta updates.

  1. Download the Android Q beta firmware for the Vivo X27.
  2. Copy the firmware package to the root directory of the Vivo X27’s storage.
  3. Tap on the software package, then select Start Upgrade when prompted.

Vivo Nex S

Vivo Nex

As previously mentioned, there will be an update in early July. Vivo will end the beta program once Android Q is publicly available.

  1. Download the Android Q beta firmware for the Vivo Nex S.
  2. Copy the firmware package to the root directory of the Vivo X27’s storage.
  3. Tap on the software package, then select Start Upgrade when prompted.

Vivo Nex A

As previously mentioned, there will be an update in early July. Vivo will end the beta program once Android Q is publicly available.

  1. Download the Android Q beta firmware for the Vivo Nex A.
  2. Copy the firmware package to the root directory of the Vivo X27’s storage.
  3. Tap on the software package, then select Start Upgrade when prompted.

Xiaomi Mi 9

Xiaomi Mi 9 hero shot

Xiaomi notes that there are seven known issues with Android Q beta 3 for the Mi 9. You can read the known issues below.

  • Alarm does not ring when the device is switched off.
  • Device restarts after user selects wireless projection device in the Wireless display.
  • Settings app stops running after user deactivates shortcut to mute device.
  • Settings app stops running when Gesture is selected in Settings.
  • File app stops running after refresh.
  • Unable to switch screen color in Settings.
  • Unable to add a fingerprint.

Also, you must opt-in through the fastboot method that’s listed in the steps below.

  1. Download the Android Q beta firmware for the Xiaomi Mi 9.
  2. Download the MIUI ROM Flashing Tool.
  3. Unlock your device.
  4. Turn off your Mi 9.
  5. Press and hold the Volume Down and Power buttons to enter Fastboot mode.
  6. Connect the Mi 9 to your PC.
  7. Double-click the downloaded firmware to decompress it.
  8. Open the file folder for the decompressed firmware and copy its path on the PC.
  9. Once the MIUI ROM Flashing Tool is installed, open MiFlash.exe and paste it into the address bar the firmware file folder path copied in the previous step.
  10. Click the first button (circled out in yellow) to refresh.
  11. Click the second button (circled out in red) to flash the firmware to your Mi 9.

If these steps don’t help you, you can download the Mi PC Suite. From there, put your Mi 9 in Fastboot mode, connect the phone to your PC, and select the firmware.

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G logo

Xiaomi notes that there are seven known issues with Android Q beta 3 for the Mi Mix 3 5G. You can read the known issues below.

  • Alarm does not ring when the device is switched off.
  • Device restarts after user selects wireless projection device in the Wireless display.
  • Default print service stops after device connects to Wi-Fi to print photos from gallery.
  • Settings app stops running after user deactivates shortcut to mute device.
  • Settings app stops running after user selects “Gestures”.
  • File app stops running after refresh.
  • Unable to switch color in settings.
  • Settings app crashes after Automatic brightness is selected.

Also, you must opt-in through the fastboot method that’s listed in the steps below.

  1. Download the Android Q beta firmware for the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G.
  2. Download the MIUI ROM Flashing Tool.
  3. Unlock your device.
  4. Turn off your Mi Mix 3 5G.
  5. Press and hold the Volume Down and Power buttons to enter Fastboot mode.
  6. Connect the Mi Mix 3 5G to your PC.
  7. Double-click the downloaded firmware to decompress it.
  8. Open the file folder for the decompressed firmware and copy its path on the PC.
  9. Once the MIUI ROM Flashing Tool is installed, open MiFlash.exe and paste it into the address bar the firmware file folder path copied in the previous step.
  10. Click the first button (circled out in yellow) to refresh.
  11. Click the second button (circled out in red) to flash the firmware to your Mi Mix 3 5G.

If these steps don’t help you, you can download the Mi PC Suite. From there, put your Mi Mix 3 5G in Fastboot mode, connect the phone to your PC, and select the firmware.


And that’s it! Let us know in the comments if you have any of the devices listed here and plan to install Android Q beta 3.

2019 Google Play Awards nominees announced ahead of Google I/O

Screenshot of the 2019 Google Play Awards. Android Developers Blog

Google announced today on its Android Developers Blog that the 2019 Google Play Awards will take place Monday, May 6, one day before Google I/O 2019 starts. There are a total of 45 nominees for nine categories, with Google announcing winners at 8:15PM PST (11:15PM PST).

Editor’s Pick

The categories range from accessibility and innovation to design and social impact. According to Google, the nominees were picked by various internal teams. Criteria includes a high star rating on the Play Store, Android vitals, and either had a launch or major update since April 2018.

You can check out the categories and nominees below. We will update this article once Google announces the winners.

Standout Well-Being App

Best Accessibility Experience

Best Social Impact

Most Beautiful Game

Best Living Room Experience

Most Inventive

Standout Build for Billions Experience

Best Breakthrough App

Best Breakthrough Game

Apply now to go to Google I/O 2019, which will cost you $1,150 if you get in

Google I/O 2019 is months away at this point but is closer than you might think. Today, registration applications are open if you’d like to try your luck at attending one of the biggest events of the year when it comes to all things Google.

Remember, this is an application to register, not an actual registration. Google will randomly select registrants from the no doubt thousands and thousands of applications it will receive from people all around the world.

You have until February 27, 2019, at 5:00 P.M. PST to get your application in.

Editor’s Pick

Before you rush off to try your luck, keep in mind that if you do get into Google I/O 2019, it’s going to cost you a pretty penny: a single ticket is $1,150. If you are currently an active full-time student, professor, faculty, or staff of a high school or higher education institution, you could get a discounted ticket which knocks down the price to $375.

To fill out the application, you’ll need to give Google your credit card information. Google will place a temporary deposit hold on your account to complete the application. If you get in, the full ticket price will then be charged. If you don’t get in, the deposit hold will get returned to you within seven days after February 27.

Click the button below to try your luck!