Google’s new rules appear to be successfully purging the Play Store

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  • Google purged almost 115,000 apps from the Play Store in the first half of 2021.
  • The total number of Android apps is down for the first time since 2018.
  • Tougher rules for Play Store titles and images are likely having an effect.

Google removed nearly 115,000 apps from the Play Store in the first half of 2021, making for the first substantial decrease in the total number of Android apps in three years.

Over 58,000 apps were pulled between January and April, and some 65,000 disappeared in May alone, according to SafeBettingSites, citing data from Google and analytics firms including App Annie, AppBrain, and Statista. There are now north of 2.8 million apps in the Play Store, down from 3 million as recently as September 2020. The last major drop happened in 2018 when totals slid from a peak of 3.6 million to 2.8 million.

The reason for the surge of removals in May 2021 is thought to be a sweeping set of new rules Google announced towards the end of April, aimed at blocking apps with misleading names and images. Developers were for instance stopped from embellishing titles with promotional claims, or even exceeding 30 characters.

Controlling the quality of Play Store titles has been a long-standing and seemingly intractable problem. The updated rules still don’t directly address developers who produce low-quality clones or in some cases outright fake apps that don’t work. The latter can be reported, but the appeal of easy money can result in new apps slipping in to replace what Google removes.

The Play Store reportedly amassed 56.2 billion downloads in the first half of 2021, up 6% year-over-year, while Sensor Tower data indicates that revenues were up 30% to $23.4 billion. Google still lags far behind Apple in financials, however, as it’s estimated to have earned $41.5 billion in 1H21 App Store revenue with far fewer apps on the market.

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