Android News

Android Market “bug” leads to questionable search results, major decline in some app sales

July 12, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka



Something is seriously wrong with the Android Market, says a group of developers upset that a recent change has dropped their apps in search result rankings on Android phones. These complaints are not the rumblings of a few developers mad because their apps have lost prominent positioning. The problem seems to be a serious bug affecting search results on Android phones.

That the Android Market produces woeful search terms is not news. Everyone knows that despite building its name on search, queries on the Android Market are far from ideal. The latest problem seems to be especially bad because it lacks consistency.

Since late June, the Android Market has been listing apps that would normally be in the top of search results much lower than their previous positions. The most elite of brands – the Netflix’s, Skype’s, and Google Maps’s of the bunch – are unaffected, but others are not so lucky.

In a Google Support Forum thread on this issue, Epek Ware complained that his Word Help For Friends app would normally appear directly after Zynga’s Words With Friends when searching for the app title. Now, his app doesn’t even appear anywhere near the top of the 1,000 apps, many of which have nothing to do with WWF (Epek Ware’s app suggests words to play in WWF). Shouldn’t a 4-star app with at least 10,000 downloads that actually has something to do with Words With Friends be ranked higher than a 2-star app for studying the SAT’s?

The phone-based results differ from the Android Market website. Epek Ware’s Word Help for Friends is nowhere to be seen when I search for the app on my phone, but is ranked 3rd in results on the Android Market website. When searching for Kof Software’s “Hip Hop’s Latest” on the Android Market website, it’s the first of only two results. However, when entering the same term in the Android Market, more than 6 swipes through the 205 results don’t reveal the HHL app. Instead, the $1.99 Hip Hop Official app from GoTV takes the top spot, despite being rated 2.5 stars and having only 500 downloads. HHL has 4.5 stars and more than 10,000 downloads.

The recent changes present serious problems for developers who have seen their sales and download totals nose dive since late June. One developer went from seeing 70-100 app sales per day to 40-60 since July 1st. Sales of TalkaDroid were hit harder, falling 80 percent since June. “This is not a small bug and it directly impacts many small developers’ livelihoods,” TalkaDroid’s developer said in the complaint thread.

Here’s the kicker: even Angry Birds can’t escape the Market’s problem. Multiple international users report that when they search for “Angry Birds” in a non-English market (German, French, Spanish, etc.), the first apps listed have nothing to do with Rovio’s game, which isn’t even in the Top 20 results. Language and localization changes probably cause that, but it’s still peculiar.

We put in a request for comment from Google and have yet to hear back.

A Google employee appeared in the support forum and claimed that Google was aware of the issue and was fixing it, and Google later claimed to be rolling out a fix on June 29th that would address it. The problem persists today.

Thanks to Mario for bringing this to my attention