How to Navigate and Use Google Play in a Web Browser

Google Play is the most comprehensive app store available for Android, filled with apps and other forms of content for you to consume on your mobile device. But how do you find that content? Here’s what you need to know.

Google Play is Google’s one-stop shop for content to enjoy on your Android device. The store typically comes pre-installed on Android products, but it’s also accessible via a web browser. The shop’s primary departments are all listed on the left-hand side: Store, Apps, Movies & TV, Music, Books, Newsstand, and Devices. “Store” covers everything, and it’s the default page when you visit the site. The others are self-explanatory.

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Inside each of these top level departments, you have the option to filter through content by category. Though the categories change depending on whether you’re looking at apps, books, music, etc., the option to filter is located in the same spot for each. Here we see the list of categories available for Android apps and games.

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Some categories make this list twice. Widgets, for example, is listed both under apps (on the left) and games (on the right). Clicking on either will show the appropriate apps, but there will be nothing on the page to signify this. Take a look at the screenshot below. You can tell these are game widgets, as opposed to app widgets, purely by recognizing that the results are related to games.

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Here is the full list of app and game categories available:

Apps

  • Books & Reference
  • Business
  • Comics
  • Communication
  • Education
  • Entertainment
  • Finance
  • Health & Fitness
  • Libraries & Demo
  • Lifestyle
  • Live Wallpaper
  • Media & Video
  • Medical
  • Music & Audio
  • News & Magazines
  • Personalization
  • Photography
  • Productivity
  • Shopping
  • Social
  • Sports
  • Tools
  • Transportation
  • Travel & Local
  • Weather
  • Widgets

Games

  • Action
  • Adventure
  • Arcade
  • Board
  • Card
  • Casino
  • Casual
  • Educational
  • Family
  • Live Wallpaper
  • Music
  • Puzzle
  • Racing
  • Role Playing
  • Simulation
  • Sports
  • Strategy
  • Trivia
  • Widgets
  • Word

Some of these categories are fairly ambiguous. “Libraries & Demos,” for example, refers to supplementary software, such as additional filters and effects for a camera app, extra languages for a dictionary, or plugins for a home screen launcher. “Live Wallpaper” may make sense under apps, but what about games? As it turns out, some games come with live wallpapers, and this category highlights those that do.

Getting apps onto your device is fairly straightforward. Just click on any app that interests you, and on the next page, you will see a big green “install” button at the top (if the app isn’t free, you will see the price along with the word “buy” instead).

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Below it you see a notice of whether the app is compatible with any or all of your devices. Clicking on this sentence will bring up a list of which of your devices are supported.

When you click on the install/buy button, it will then prompt you for payment (if necessary) and ask which device you want to install the software on. It will then appear on your device automatically.

The most popular and well-received apps make their way to the top of the page. This is convenient, but it also depends on user feedback in order to be useful. You can take part in this yourself by going to an app’s page and scrolling down to view its rating along with a number of comments.

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At the top right-hand side of this area, there is the option to “write a review.” Here you can give an app or item a 1 through 5 rating and leave a short blurb summarizing your impressions. To the right of that option is a right-facing area that will let you view more reviews that others have left. You have the option to filter these reviews by newness, rating, helpfulness, device, or version.

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Back on the home “Store” page, there are five additional options for managing your account.

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The first, “My Play activity,” shows your most recent app ratings and reviews. “My wishlist” shows a list of the apps, books, albums, and other content you want to purchase in the future. “Redeem” is where you go when someone’s given you a Google Play gift card. “Buy gift card” is where you go to buy a gift card yourself, whereas “Buy Google Play credit” is what you hit up to add credit directly to your account. In the US, options range from $5 to $50.

In the top right corner, there’s a settings cog where you can view your orders, determine which devices have access to the Play Store under your account, and use the Android Device Manager.

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That’s the gist of how Google Play’s web interface works. Sometimes having a full browser to work with can make discovering software an easier task than dealing with a small touchscreen. If you have any questions about how to navigate Google’s marketplace, feel free to ask them in the comments below.