A few days ago, Droid Life posted what appears to be the first preview of version 4.0.16 of the Google Play Store, the newest version of the marketplace application present on most Android devices. Chiefly the update brings a redesigned user interface that emphasizes the different types of products and services Google offers through the Play Store. The design language of the new UI seems to reflect what Google uses across its other services currently and seeks to establish a look more consistent with its other applications. Before we delve into the new changes, however, let us take a moment to examine how the Play Store looked in its previous iterations.
The first screenshot appears to be of a beta version of the Android Marketplace, the name of the service before Google rebranded it to the Google Play Store on March 6, 2012, just over a year ago.
The interface is mostly black and grey and displays the icons for feature apps across the top of the screen in a horizontal bar as the only images. Each entry in the list features light text on a dark background with only simple icons. The entries in the list contain the names of the apps, as well as the names of the developers, prices, and ratings; all of the information is present, but nothing about the way this looks makes me excited about it. The design aesthetic of the old Marketplace was very much second to functionality and lends itself mostly to downloading new apps strictly on the basis of need. Of course, Android was only in its infancy then and thus the design was not as large a priority as functionality, but certainly the design has come a long way; the way the Play Store looks now makes me want to look for new apps to download.
The next screenshot depicts a much lighter colored interface and features the icon for the Android Marketplace app in a banner across the top.
Just beneath the banner, three boxes, each with different categories, indicate an early implementation of the one Google uses now to handle its apps with multiple panes that can be selected by swiping horizontally across the screen; granted we cannot tell whether that swiping motion was present then, but it appears that selecting a category would at least move the screen over to the adjacent category in a similar fashion as it does today.
The third screenshot reveals a theme very much associated with the same color green of the Android mascot himself.
At this point, Google had increased the number of images it was using throughout the Marketplace to create a more visually appealing interface. I purchased for my sister this past Christmas a new HTC Incredible, now over two years old I believe, and when I found that it still came preloaded with the Android Marketplace and I could not force an update to the Google Play Store, I immediately downloaded and installed an .apk for it so I could tolerate setting it up for her. Again, the design was an improvement, but Google has come a long way with what it offers currently.
The final screenshot depicts version 3.10.14 of the Google Play Store that most of us know and love today.
The screen comprises a number of images, representative of different categories of applications and media, which Google has begun to sell in the past year or so. Everything from books to television programs to movies to music is available on the store, and Google is starting to show that it wants to place a greater emphasis on highlighting those offerings for users. How so? Have a look at the screenshots of version 4.0.16, courtesy of Droid Life, below:
What do you think? I rather enjoy the use of different colors to identify different media: red for Movies & TV, orange for Music, blue for books, etc. You will notice too that Google is moving toward a design language that shares a great deal in common with the card-like visual style of Google Now, the predictive search feature that ships on devices with Jelly Bean (Android version 4.1 and up).
While a number of Android news outlets appear to be accepting the new Play Store .apk and screenshots as being indicative of finalized changes on the horizon, a number of aspects of the updated service do not appear to be functional or live just yet, which means Google could update it even more before they release it. I would expect for Google to announce/release a new version of the Play Store closer to, if not after, Google I/O, its developer conference scheduled for May. In the meantime, all we can do is wait and see. Or, if you are feeling adventurous and do not mind playing around with a somewhat broken app, you can side load the new .apk, which is available on Android Advices (though I would not be the least bit surprised if Google contacts them in the coming days to remove it).
That does it for our history lesson on the Google Play Store and first impressions of its newest version. If you have any other categories you would like us to tackle, any apps you would like us to review, or any lessons about Android you would like to learn, please let us know those in the comments too. Thank you for reading!
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