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Google Play Store: A definitive guide for beginners

The Google Play Store is one of the most important parts of Android. Here's what you need to know.

Published onFebruary 5, 2024

Google Play Store 2021 0
Joe Hindy / Android Authority

The Google Play Store is one of Android’s biggest and most important parts. It’s the central hub for all app and game content, including many of the best Android apps. The Play Store is sometimes a little overwhelming, but it’s not bad once you get used to it. There are a ton of commands, actions, and other activities within the app. Here is just about everything you can do in the Google Play Store, and if your device doesn’t have it, you can also learn how to download and install the Google Play Store.

Please note that some actions are more complicated than others. If you are experiencing Play Store issues, we also detail the most common Google Play issues and how to solve them.

What is the Google Play Store?

Google Play Store 2021 1
Joe Hindy / Android Authority

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 spun into separate apps.

The store was initially called the Android Market and came out in October 2008. It received many UI updates over the years and 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 an extra software for Google’s specific Android experience, powered by Google Play Services. 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; the Play Store is part of that package. There are alternate app stores available for Android as well.

How to use the Play Store: The basics

Google Play Store 2021 4
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
First, let’s cover some basic settings and simple controls. The Play Store grants easy control over notifications, download settings, and other fine-tuning. We’ll give you brief tutorials on where each is and how to access each.

How to change Google Play Store notification settings

  1. 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.
  2. You can enable (or deny) notifications for your account when updates are available and installed. There are also additional options for when a pre-registered app or game launches, along with a deals and promotions notification.

How to change Google Play Store download settings

Google Play App Download Preferences
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  1. There are 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.
  2. The first is App download preferences. You can set this only to download apps over a Wi-Fi connection or any network or ask when you choose to download.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

How to access, view, and alter your Google Play Wishlist

Google Play Wishlist
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  1. 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.
  2. You can remove any media by returning to that media’s page and repeating the process, except this time, select Remove from wishlist.
  3. 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 to download, buy, or remove it from your wishlist.
  4. 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.

How to change your Google Play Store theme

Google Play Store Theme
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  1. This one is easy. Tap the profile picture button and select Settings.
  2. Tap the General section to expand it, 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.

How to Change Google Play Protect settings

Google Play Protect 2021
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  1. Tap the profile picture button and select the Google Play Protect option.
  2. Tap the cogwheel icon in the top right corner to view the Google Play Protect settings. You can also force a scan to ensure your apps are all good.
  3. We 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.

How to view payment history, balances, and redeem gift codes

Google Play Budget and History
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
  1. Tap the profile picture button and then tap Payments & subscriptions.
  2. From here, you can select Payment methods, Subscriptions, Budget & history, and Redeem gift code. All the selections do exactly what you think they do.
  3. There is a second option to redeem a gift card under the Payment methods section and an option to buy Google Play Credit directly.

How to view other Google Play Store settings

Google Play Store Other Settings
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  1. Click the profile button and select the Settings option.
  2. Under the About header, you can view the Google Play Store version, your Play Protect certification, and Open source licenses.
  3. Finally, you can view family settings under the Family header. You’ll find important tools for managing family settings on Google Play here.

How to enable and disable Instant Apps

Google Play Instant Apps
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  1. Instant Apps is a feature that temporarily loads apps from web links and other places without downloading the app, so you can try it before downloading it. To access it, tap the profile picture button and tap Settings.
  2. 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 web searches.

How to log in and out of the Play Store

Google Account Sign In
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You generally log into the Play Store when you log into your Google account as you set up your phone. However, if you didn’t do that by chance, you can still do it in other ways. Logging out is a rarer move, but still entirely doable.

How to log in to the Google Play Store

Here are two methods to log in to the Google Play Store:

  1. The first method is to open the Play Store app.
  2. It will recognize that no one is signed in and prompt you to log in with your Google account.

Here’s another method if the first doesn’t work:

  1. Go to Settings, navigate to Accounts, and click the Add account option. Select Google on the next page.
  2. 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.
  3. That should be it. Re-open the Play Store and start surfing for stuff.

How to log out of the Google Play Store

Google Play Remove Account
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
  1. 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.
  2. 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 and every other Google app are tied to the Play Store. Thus, it is impossible 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 logged into the Google Play Store simultaneously.

How to use multiple Google Play Store accounts on the same device

Google Play Store Multiple Accounts
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
  1. Log into your first account using any of the methods listed above.
  2. You have two options to add additional accounts. First, 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.
  3. 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.
  4. To switch accounts, tap the profile picture button, tap the circled down arrow button, and then select one of the other listed accounts.

How to install and update apps on the Google Play Store

Google Play Store Download Pokemon Unite
Joe Hindy / Android Authority

The most common activity is downloading applications and games. This is a fairly simple endeavor, and you can find apps and games everywhere.

How to Install apps or games on the Google Play Store

  1. 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.
  2. Click the Install button. The Play Store will now download the app or game and automatically install it.
  3. Note: If the app or game isn’t free, you must pay for it before downloading it. Tap the price button, and Google Play will take you through the process. 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.

Thankfully, there’s no need to pay for every app on the Play Store. There are some great free Android apps available to kick off your collection.

How to Update your apps and games on the Google Play Store

Google Play Store Update Apps
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  1. Click the profile picture button in the top left corner of the Play Store home page.
  2. Select the Manage apps & device option.
  3. Hit the Manage tab to 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

Google Play Clear Wishlist Unregister
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  1. Click the profile picture button and then tap Settings.
  2. Under the General header, click the Accounts and devices preferences option.
  3. 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.

If you’re unhappy with a game, you can (in certain circumstances) get a refund for those purchased through the Play Store. You can also easily cancel subscriptions or view your purchased apps from the Store.

Adding and removing Google Play Store payment methods and gift cards

Google Play Store Add A Payment Method
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Of course, if you ever want to purchase things on the Play Store, you’ll need to add a method to pay for stuff eventually. Luckily, this isn’t very difficult.

How to add a payment method to the Google Play Store

  1. Click the profile picture button to open the menu. Click the Payments & subscriptions option.
  2. Tap the Payment methods option on the next screen.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 the Google Play Store

Google Play Remove Payment Method
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
  1. Click the profile picture button to open the menu and click the Payment methods option.
  2. Scroll down and select the More payment settings option.
  3. A web browser will open to view your Google Pay payment methods (Google Play uses Google Pay).
  4. 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 Store gift card

Google Play Redeem Code
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  1. Click the profile picture button and select payments & subscriptions.
  2. Tap the Redeem gift code option on the next page.
  3. From here, either scan the gift card using your camera or enter the code. Tap the Redeem button.
  4. 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 slightly faster.

How to check your Google Play balance

Google Play Store Balance
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  • Tap the profile picture button
  • Next, tap the Payment methods option.
  • The balance shows up at the top above your other payment methods.

How to require authentication for purchases

Google Play Store Authenticate Purchases
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
  1. Tap the profile picture button as usual and enter the Settings.
  2. Open the Authentication header.
  3. 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.
  4. The second option lets you choose how often you want Google Play to authenticate purchases.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Finally, the For all purchases through Google Play on this device option will ask you for a password anytime you try to spend money.

We recommend this to everybody, especially parents who let their children use their phones to play mobile games. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with Google Play’s parental controls.

How to 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. 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.

How to hide devices in Google Play

  1. Use a web browser and go to the Play Store home page.
  2. Click the cogwheel button in the upper right corner.
  3. You should see a list of all of your Android devices. There is also a column called Visibility. Untick the box for 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 now, 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 access your account through the device.

Google Play Store FAQs

To install Google Play Store, you’ll need to download it as an APK file through a reputable site. You’ll then open the APK through a dedicated APK installer tool or a file browser.

If you own a Windows 11 machine, then yes, you can download and install Google Play Store on your computer. You can install an Android emulator if you don’t have a Windows 11 machine.

To access Google Play, open the app on your Android phone. Alternatively, you can access a web version of the Play Store using a browser.

No, the Google Play Store will only work on Android devices. However, you can browse a list of apps available on the Play Store by visiting it through a browser on iPhone.

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