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Google Play Store: A definitive guide for beginners
The Google Play Store is one biggest and most important parts of Android. It’s the central hub for all app and game content. It’s also a reasonably decent place for movies, TV shows, and e-books. The Play Store is a little overwhelming at times, but it’s not bad once you get used to it. There are a ton of commands, actions, and other activities within the app. Don’t worry, though — we’re going to cover basically all of them. Here is just about everything you can do in the Google Play Store.
Please note that some actions are more complicated than others. We may link you to a separate tutorial for the longer stuff in the interest of space. If you are experiencing Play Store issues, here are the most common problems and how to fix them as well as some common error codes and what to do about them.
Finally, we highly recommend using the Find In Page function on your browser if you’re looking for something specific. This is a fairly long tutorial overall.
JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS
What is the Google Play Store?
So what is the Google Play Store, anyhow? The Google Play Store is a digital storefront for various types of media. People most commonly use the app to download apps and games. However, the Play Store also sells e-books. There used to be movies, TV shows, and music, but each of those spun off into their own separate apps.
The store was originally the Android Market, and it came out in October 2008. It received many UI updates over the years, along with additional content and functionality. It changed its name to the Play Store in March 2012, and it’s been that way ever since.
While Google Play is strongly associated with Android, it is not a part of the stock Android experience. It’s actually an extra piece of software for Google’s specific Android experience. Thus, just because a device runs Android doesn’t mean it automatically has Google Play Store support. OEMs must adhere to a specific set of rules to get Google apps, and the Play Store is part of that package. There are alternate app stores available for Android as well.
If you need the Play Store, we have a full tutorial on how to download and install the Play Store here. Okay, let’s get started with those tutorials.
Change Google Play notification settings:
- Tap your profile picture in the top right corner and tap the Settings option. From there, tap the General section, and the notifications option should be there.
- You can enable (or deny) notifications for your account when updates are available and when updates are installed. There are also additional options for when a pre-registered app or game launches, along with a deals and promotions notification.
Change Google Play download settings:
- There are actually two download settings in the Google Play Store. Tap the profile picture again and go to Settings. This time, you want to tap the Network preferences section where the download settings live.
- The first is App download preferences. You can set this to only download apps over a Wi-Fi connection, over any network, or ask you when you choose to download.
- The second is Auto-update apps. The first option lets you download updates over any connection, the second limits everything to Wi-Fi only, and the third option turns off auto-update entirely.
- While it isn’t a download setting, you can also turn off auto-play videos in this part of the menu. I recommend doing so as it’s a senseless waste of data.
Access, view, and alter your Google Play Wishlist:
- You can add any app, game, movie, TV show, book, or song/album to your wishlist by going to that media’s page, tapping the 3-dot menu in the top right corner, and tapping the Add to wishlist option.
- You can remove any media by returning to that media’s page, repeating the process, except this time, select Remove from wishlist.
- View your Wishlist by going to the Play Store home page, tapping the profile picture button, and tapping the Library option. Tapping anything on the list takes you to that item’s Play Store page so you can either download, buy it, or remove it from your wishlist.
- You can also go into Settings again, click on General, and then Account and device preferences. From there, tap the Clear wishlist option (toward the bottom) to remove all wishlist items in one go.
Change your Google Play Store theme:
- This one is easy. Tap the profile picture button and select Settings.
- Tap the General section to expand it, and then tap the Theme option. Your options should include light, dark, and system theme. The first two options are self-explanatory. The system theme option makes the Play Store dark or light based on your device’s theme.
Change Google Play Protect settings:
- Tap the profile picture button and select the Google Play Protect option.
- Tap the cogwheel icon in the top right corner to view the Google Play Protect settings. You can also force a scan to make sure your apps are all good.
- We honestly don’t recommend turning anything off, since all data collected is anonymous, and Google Play Protect works better than antivirus apps in virtually all cases. However, if you want to disable them, you can here.
View payment history, balances, and redeem gift codes:
- Tap the profile picture button and then tap Payments & subscriptions.
- From here, you can select Payment methods, Subscriptions, budget & history, and Redeem gift code. All the selections do basically exactly what you think they do.
- There is a second option to redeem a gift card under the Payment methods section as well as an option to directly buy Google Play Credit.
View other Google Play Store settings:
- Click the profile button and select the Settings option.
- Under the About header, you can view the Google Play Store version, view your Play Protect certification, and see Open source licenses.
- Finally, you can view family settings under the Family header. We have a whole tutorial for family settings on Google Play.
How to enable and disable Instant Apps:
- Instant Apps is a feature that temporarily loads apps from web links and other places without actually downloading the app so you can try it before you download it.
- Tap the profile picture button and tap Settings.
- Tap the General section and select the Google Play Instant option. Enable it on the next screen. Please note, that this may take a bit to show up in things like web searches.
That should cover all of the basics.
How to log in and out of the Play Store
Of course, let’s cover the basics first. You generally log into the Play Store when you log into your Google account as you set up your phone. However, if by chance you didn’t do that, you can still do it in other ways. Logging out is a rarer move, but still entirely doable.
Log in to the Google Play Store (two methods):
- The first method is to open the Play Store app. It will recognize that no one is signed in and prompt you to log in with your Google account.
- If the first step doesn’t work, you can go to Settings, navigate to Accounts, and click the Add account option. Select Google on the next page.
- Enter your email address and hit the Next button. Do the same with your password on the next page. Finally, deal with any two-factor authentication if you have that enabled.
- That should be it. Re-open the Play Store and start surfing for stuff.
Log out of the Google Play Store:
- Enter the Settings and use the search bar to search for Accounts. Once there, select the account you want to log out of the Play Store.
- On the next page, tap the Remove account button. A prompt will appear. Select Remove account a second time to remove the account. Removing an account logs you out of Google Play automatically.
Unfortunately, your Google account is tied to the Play Store along with every other Google app. Thus, it is not possible to log out of the Play Store but stay logged into Gmail. This is a limitation of Android because your Google account controls everything. Even if you have two Google accounts, they are both logged into the Google Play Store at the same time.
How to use multiple Google Play accounts on the same device:
- Log into your first account using any of the methods listed above.
- You have two options to add additional accounts. The first is to go into your phone’s Settings, head to the Accounts section, and add another Google account. Since Google accounts are also Play Store accounts automatically, it will sign you into the Play Store too.
- The second option is right in the Play Store. Tap the profile picture button and then tap the circled down arrow to the right of your username and email address. Tap the Add another account option and follow the prompts to add a second account.
- To switch accounts, tap the profile picture button, tap the circled down arrow button, and then select one of the other listed accounts.
That should do it. With the above tutorials, you can log in, log out, and log in with multiple accounts on the Play Store.
How to install and update apps on Google Play
The most common activity is downloading applications and games. This is a fairly simple endeavor, and you can find apps and games all over the place.
Install apps or games on Google Play:
- Find the app or game you want by searching for it, utilizing the Categories section, or with Google’s recommendation engine. Click on the app you want once you find it.
- Click the Install button. The Play Store will now download the app or game and automatically install it.
- Note: If the app or game isn’t free, you will have to pay for it before you can download it. Simply tap the price button, and Google Play will take you through the process step by step. You will need to add a payment method if you didn’t earlier. Click here to be magically taken to the proper location in this tutorial to add a payment method.
Update your apps and games on Google Play:
- Click the profile picture button in the top left corner of the screen on the Play Store home page.
- Select the Manage apps & device option.
- Hit the Manage tab, and you should see a list of all your apps and games. Tap the Updates available button to see all available updates. From there, you can hit the button to update them all at once or click each app to update them individually.
How to unregister from games, upcoming events, and beta programs:
- Click the profile picture button and then tap Settings. Under the General header, click the Accounts and devices preferences option. From here, you can turn off promotional emails from Google Play, clear your search history, unregister for events, leave beta programs, and unregister from pre-registration.
Adding and removing Google Play Store payment methods and gift cards
Of course, if you ever want to purchase things on the Play Store, you’ll need to eventually add a method to pay for stuff. Luckily, this isn’t very difficult.
How to add a payment method to Google Play:
- Click the profile picture button to open the menu. Click the Payments & subscriptions option.
- Tap the Payment methods option on the next screen.
- The top half of the page shows your existing payment methods. The bottom half allows you to add more. You can add a credit or debit card, use carrier billing (where available), add your PayPal, redeem a code for Google Play credit, and buy Google Play credit.
- Select the option you want and follow the prompts to add a payment method. The prompts should be pretty straightforward.
How to remove a payment method from Google play:
- Click the profile picture button to open the menu and click the Payment methods option.
- Scroll down and select the More payment settings option.
- A web browser will open to view your Google Pay payment methods (Google Play uses Google Pay).
- Find the payment method you want to delete and tap the Remove button. This should remove the card from your account.
Redeem a Google Play gift card:
- Click the profile picture button and select payments & subscriptions.
- Tap the Redeem gift code option on the next page.
- From here, either scan the gift card using your camera or enter the code. Tap the Redeem button.
- There is a second way. Follow the same steps to add a payment method, except this time, you can tap the Redeem code button and follow the same prompts as before to redeem a code. We recommend the first option, though, as it is a little bit faster.
How to check your Google Play Balance:
- Tap the profile picture button and then tap the Payment methods option. The balance shows up at the top above your other payment methods.
Require authentication for purchases:
- Tap the profile picture button as usual and enter the Settings.
- Open the Authentication header.
- The first option lets you use biometric authentication if you want to. The option uses your default biometric method (fingerprint, face unlock, etc) to authenticate purchases.
- The second option lets you choose how often you want Google Play to authenticate purchases.
- The Never option makes it, so you never have to enter a password to buy content from the Play Store. It’s the least secure option.
- The Every 30 minutes option will let you download and buy stuff without a password for 30 minutes after you make your first purchase. This is a reasonably decent security option.
- Finally, the For all purchases through Google Play on this device option will literally ask you for a password anytime you try to spend money. This is the one we recommend to everybody, especially to parents who let their children use their phones to play mobile games.
With those tutorials, you should be able to add and remove permanent payment methods easily as well as add gift card balances to your Play Store account.
Add, hide, and remove devices from Google Play
There are some good news and some bad news about this process. The good news is your device is automatically added to Google Play as soon as you sign in to your Google account on your phone, and nothing else is needed on your part.
Unfortunately, you cannot permanently remove devices from Google Play at this time. You can log out to remove Google Play access to a specific device, though, and we have that tutorial above. For the sake of organization, you can hide devices from your list on Google Play, and we’ll show you how to do that.
Hide devices in Google Play:
- Use a web browser and go to the Play Store home page.
- Click the cogwheel button in the upper right corner.
- You should see a list of all of your Android devices. There is also a column called Visibility. Untick the box for any devices you don’t want to be shown in your Google Play account.
We hope Google reconsiders its stance on letting us remove devices from our Google Play accounts. For the time being, we recommend logging out of the Play Store on any phone you intend to throw away or sell and performing a factory reset manually to ensure nobody can get access from that device.
There are a bunch of other things you can do in the Google Play Store. Unfortunately, some of them require some extra steps, and this article is long enough! Here is a list of additional Google Play tutorials that we don’t cover in this article.
- Everything you need to know about Google Play parental controls
- How to enable Google Play developer options along with the internal app sharing feature
- Play Google Play games on your PC with the best Android emulators for PC
- Get free Google Play credit with the Google Opinion Rewards app [Google Play link]
- Everything you need to know about Google Play Services, an essential part of Google Play.
- Here is a tutorial on how to refund any purchase from the Play Store.
If there’s something we missed, tell us about it in the comments, and we’ll look into adding it to the tutorial.