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Google's Play Store does not sort its 'Top' apps by number of downloads. This prevents you from discovering the true order of which apps people are downloading the most, making you often not know about useful apps whose numbers of downloads speak for themselves - yet are not promoted in the 'Top' lists on the Play Store.

It's as if Google is deliberately not allowing us to see which apps are actually used the most by people.

Is there some way I'm not noticing, nifty trick, or external site - whether on Android or the Desktop - to see rankings of Android apps by sheer download numbers?

  • 3
    Google only shows numbers as ranges, no raw numbers. Even so, I don't see how precise numbers would be useful. Not all apps have been in the Play Store for the same length of time. Further, downloads != people using the app; I'm sure there are plenty of overhyped apps that a lot of people downloaded and soon thereafter uninstalled. – ale Oct 26 '13 at 1:12
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    @Al Everett even if it ranked apps by range (and I bet it would still rank apps in order of exact downloaded count - Google obviously having this data for each app), it would be a huge help. It would STILL show apps in general order of download popularity, instead of having apps with only 1,000,000 dls artificially promoted in with other 100,000,000 apps and then having a jumble of 10,000,000 apps in between. – user31812 Oct 26 '13 at 6:34
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There's not, and there are several reasons why this list would be bad for Android users:-

  1. Every new app starts at zero downloads. Focusing on the number of downloads alone would keep old apps at the top of the list, even if they've stopped being updated, while making it much harder for new apps to take off. Even among apps that are all as popular as each other, the older one would always be higher in the list.

  2. If a million people downloaded an app but uninstalled it right away, that means it's less likely to be good, not more likely. Using only number of downloads would give you the wrong information.

  3. Free apps get more downloads than paid apps, because there's less risk: if it doesn't do what you want, or it doesn't work, or you just don't like it, you can uninstall it again. There's already a widespread feeling in the industry that only free apps can survive in the market, for this reason. This is what's led to the growth of apps with ads (and no option to pay to remove them), and microtransaction-based games. Making a list based on only downloads would further depress the sales of paid apps, driving the industry towards making more microtransaction-based games and apps.

  4. Google Play already has a big problem with fake downloads, ratings, and reviews. Unscrupulous developers pay (say) $1 a time for a download with a five-star rating. The download might be performed by a user in an affiliate scheme (so he gets paid, or some other reward, for downloading the app) or using devices with malware. It's an arms race between Google finding these scams, and the unscrupulous agencies performing them. The fact that Google keeps the exact method it uses to decide which apps to show secret is its main tool in making the system hard-to-game. Having a list based on downloads alone would make fake-downloads more effective, which in turn makes the list even less useful, and would increase the value to hackers of compromised Android devices and Google accounts.

It seems you've already realised a little about these differences: in one part of your question, you ask about "number of downloads", then about "which apps people are downloading the most" (i.e. recently, not total number of downloads ever), and then later you want to know "which apps are actually used the most". These are all different quantities.

To come up with the right answer to all your questions, you need a number that's based on the number of downloads over time, weighted to take more recent popularity into account more, along with the "bounce rate" (how many users uninstall the app right away or after a single use), and users' ratings, also considering the statistical difference between free and paid apps. On top of this, it needs to discourage people gaming the system by not giving too much weight to any one parameter.

This is exactly what Google Play already does.

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    Ok, good to know about all those 'SEO'-like problems of black hat promotion etc. - but the problem is, time and time again I've discovered (from sources other than the App Store top list) VERY popular and WELL-LOVED apps, (often free, a prime more recent example being QuickPic) - wait, I already said all this in my reply to wbogacz's answer!.....duh.....so as you can see, while this is still happening, Google DOES need to fix things in their algorithm - for people to miss genuinely 'Top' apps like that, proves that their system is by no means perfectly effective or unbroken... – user31812 Jan 25 '14 at 21:30
  • I'm not saying that Google's rankings are the best they could ever be, and I'm sure they'll keep working on improving them. I'm only saying that the list you're asking for would be worse than what you already have. – Dan Hulme Jan 26 '14 at 11:59
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This answer cheats a little, by suggesting a competitor site for downloads. I use Appbrain AppMarket, because its recommendations are broader, and collected over a variety of dimensions - Hot Today, Hot This Week, All-Time Popular, Highest Rated, Latest, Popular by Country, Demographics (Men, Women, Age (young, 20s, 30s, and older)). This is more data than Google's Play Store carries or reports.

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    The problem is this: I didn't discover the amazing QuickPic photo gallery app (vastly superior to Android's stock Gallery app), until I found it via googling/word of mouth means. It has over 10M downloads yet is NOWHERE to be seen in the top apps yet certain 1M apps are. This is madness and why I'm trying to find a MUCH better indicator of what apps are actually the best and popular and used by everyone, instead of what Google decides to (probably) earn money from promoting, etc. (I appreciate having rating & other factors taken into account for 'Top' apps, but we need a 'most used' too.) – user31812 Oct 26 '13 at 6:39

protected by Dan Hulme Oct 29 '15 at 11:33

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