Android apps: Google Play Store's review rules change, and updates get easier

Google Play Store app reviews will now place more weight on recent scores.

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Google has announced important changes coming to the Play Store to address Android security and the current state of app reviews. 

Google says it's making "big changes" to how it calculates stars based on user reviews. Currently, the stars are based on users' reviews over the entire lifetime of an app. In the future the app's Play Store rating will place more emphasis on the most recent ratings. 

Developers can preview their apps' new ratings in the Google Play Console today and end-users will start to see the new ratings in August. 

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According to Google, the change is in response to developer demand for a rating that reflects a more current version of an app. 

Google is also introducing a suggested replies feature to make it easier for app developers to respond to user comments and reviews. The suggestions will be based on the content of the user review. Developers will be able to accept the suggestion, customize it, or create their own message. 

Google's Play Store security improvements are aimed at improving the security of apps via the Android App Bundle. 

The app bundle now features app signing key upgrades for new app installs. This is aimed at helping developers upgrade the cryptographic strength of keys for signing new installs and updates on the Play Store. As Google notes, developers often sign their apps with old keys. The new feature is the "only backwards-compatible way to increase their strength", according to Google. 

The company is also addressing the challenge developers face in getting users to update an app. A new in-app updates feature allows users to update an app without leaving it. 

Developers can implement this update process with either an "immediate" or a "flexible" flow. The former option presents a full-screen prompt that tells the user they need to download the latest version in order to use the app. 

The flexible option allows the user to keep using the app while downloading the update. Google announced this feature in November and it's now in general availability.