Google Play Store on smartphone stock photo 2
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

The Google Play Store is one biggest and most important parts of Android. It’s the central hub for all app and game content as well as off-shoots for ebooks, movies, TV shows, and music. The Play Store is a little overwhelming at times but you can learn how to easily navigate it with a little help. 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, 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.

What is the Google Play Store?

Google Play Store 2020 best Android apps
Joe Hindy / Android Authority

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 various apps and games. However, the Play Store also sells ebooks, TV shows, and movies. Everything, aside from apps and games, has its own app so you can optionally browse those sections only.

The store was originally the Android Market and it came out in October of 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. That’s why the Play Store isn’t available on Android forks like Amazon’s Fire OS. 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!

The basics

Play Store notification settings

There are some basic settings with some simple controls. The Play Store grants easy control over notifications, download settings, and some other fine-tuning. We’ll give you brief tutorials on where each one is and how to access each one.

Change Google Play notification settings:

  • Tap the 3-line menu button in the top left corner. Scroll down and tap Settings and then Notifications should be at the top of the list.
  • You can get (or deny) notifications for regular updates, auto-updates, deals, promotions, and when pre-registered games become available. There is also a notification setting for your account in case there are any account problems. We recommend leaving that one on.

Change Google Play download settings:

  • There are actually two download settings. Both reside in the same spot. Once again, hit the 3-line menu button, and tap Settings.
  • The first option is App download preference. This setting is used when you download new apps or games from the Play Store. You can set it to any network, Wi-Fi only, or have it ask you every time you download something new.
  • The second option is Auto-update apps. This setting is used when your existing apps get updates from the Play Store. We highly recommend auto-updating over Wi-Fi only since that happens in the background and you don’t always see it. Optionally, you can also disable auto-updates and update manually if you want to.

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 left 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 3-line menu button, and tapping the Wishlist option. Tapping anything on the list takes you to that media’s Play Store page so you can either download or buy it or remove it from your Wishlist.
  • You can also go into the Settings again, click on Google Play Preferences, and tap the Clear wishlist option to remove all items in one go.

Change your Google Play Store theme:

  • This one is easy. Tap the 3-line menu button and select Settings.
  • There should be a Theme option on the main Settings page. Your options should include light, dark, and system theme. The system theme changes from light to dark when you put your phone into light mode or dark mode.

Change Google Play Protect settings:

  • Tap the 3-line menu button and select the Google Play Protect option.
  • Tap the cogwheel icon in the top right corner to view the Google Play Protect settings.
  • 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 other Google Play Store settings:

  • Click the 3-line menu button and select the Account option.
  • At the top there are four tabs you can scroll between. The first lets you opt-out of emails from Google Play.
  • The second tab is another method to redeem promo codes for gift cards or apps and games.
  • You can view your Google Play purchase history in the third tab as well as set a budget for each month.
  • Finally, you can view family settings in the fourth tab. 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 3-line menu button and tap Settings.
  • Select the Google Play Instant option and enable it on the next screen. Please note, this may take a bit to actually show up in things like web searches.

That should cover all of the basics. The only other thing we can think of is deleting your search history, which you can do by entering into the Settings and tapping the Clear local search history option. Otherwise, that covers everything.

How to log in and out of the Play Store

Remove Account Android

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.
  • You’re done.

Log out of the Google Play Store:

  • Enter the Settings, navigate to Accounts, and click on the Google account you want to log out of.
  • On the next page, tap the Remove account button. A prompt will appear. Select Remove account a second time to remove the account.

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 the Play Store as you would with the tutorial above. Simply repeat the process for as many Google accounts as you need.
  • To access each account, open the Play Store app, click the circular profile picture on the right side of the search bar at the top.
  • A new window should open with all of your Google accounts. Select the one you want to switch to.
  • Old Method: In case you’re stuck with an older version of Google Play, here’s how it was done previously. Tap the 3-line menu button in the top left corner. From there, click the down arrow to the right of your name and email address. A drop-down menu shows up with all of your accounts. Tap on the one you want to switch.

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

Google Play Install Button

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 3-line menu button in the top left corner of the screen on the Play Store home page.
  • Select the My apps & games option.
  • You should see a list of all your apps and games. You can update individual apps by clicking the Update button next to any app’s name or update everything with the Update all button at the top of the list.

How to unregister from games, upcoming events, and beta programs

  • Tap the 3-line menu button and then Settings.
  • Select the Google Play preferences.
  • From there you can unregister from beta programs, upcoming events, and cancel pre-registrations from unreleased games.

We also have a tutorial on how to get a refund from apps and games purchased through the Google Play Store as well as how to cancel a subscription. Click the links to read them.

Adding and removing Google Play Store payment methods and gift cards

Google Play Payment Methods

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 3-line menu button to open the side menu. Click the Payment methods option.
  • Scroll down to the Add payment method section of the menu.
  • The number of options here can vary by country, mobile carrier, and other factors. However, you should have the ability to add a credit or debit card, redeem a gift card, add a Paypal account, use carrier billing, and flat out buy Google Play Credit.
  • Select the option you want and follow the on-screen prompts to finish the process.

How to remove a payment method from Google play:

  • Click the 3-line menu button to open the side 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.

How to redeem a Google Play gift card:

  • Follow the steps above for adding a payment method. Under the Add payment method section, there is an option to Redeem a gift card.
  • Enter the code from the back of the gift card to add the gift card to your Play Store balance.
  • Please note, you can use Google Play gift cards for anything on the Play Store except for subscriptions.

How to check your Google Play Balance:

  • The first (and easiest) way is to tap the 3-line menu button and then scroll to the bottom to see the Redeem option. Simply redeem your code there.
  • A second option is to click the 3-line menu button and select the Payment methods option.
  • Your Google Play balance (from gift cards, Google Opinion Rewards, etc) is listed at the very top of the Payment methods menu.

Require authentication for purchases:

  • Tap the 3-line menu as usual and enter the Settings.
  • Find the Require authentication for purchases option and tap it.
  • 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 phone to play mobile games.

With those tutorials, you should be able to easily add and remove permanent payment methods as well as add gift card balances to your Play Store account.

Add, hide, and remove devices from Google Play

Play Store Hide Phones

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 and remove Google Play access to a certain device, though, and we have that tutorial above. For the sake of organization, you can hide devices from your Google Play list 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.

This presents a security risk and 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.

Other tutorials

Google Play Services 2

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.

If there’s something we missed, tell us about it in the comments and we’ll look into adding it to the tutorial!