When a user searches or browses for apps to download on Google Play, the results are filtered based on which applications are compatible with the device. For example, if an app requires a camera, Google Play would not show the app to devices that do not have a camera. This filtering helps developers manage the distribution of their apps and helps ensure the best possible experience for users.
Filtering in Google Play is based on several types of app metadata and configuration settings, including manifest declarations, required libraries,architecture dependencies, and distribution controls set in the Google Play Console, such as geographic targeting, pricing, and more.
Google Play filtering is based in part on manifest declarations and other aspects of the Android framework, but actual filtering behaviors are distinct from the framework and are not bound to specific API levels. This document specifies the current filtering rules used by Google Play.
How filters work on Google Play
Google Play uses the filter restrictions described below to determine whether to show your application to a user who is browsing or searching for applications from the Google Play app.
When determining whether to display your app, Google Play checks the device's hardware and software requirement, as well as it's carrier, location, and other characteristics. It then compares those against the restrictions and dependencies expressed by the application's manifest file and publishing details.
If the application is compatible with the device according to the filter rules, Google Play displays the application to the user. Otherwise, Google Play hides your application from search results and category browsing, even if a user specifically requests the app by clicking a deep link that points directly to the app's ID within Google Play.
You can use any combination of the available filters for your app. For example, you can set a
minSdkVersion requirement of
"4" and set
in the app, then when uploading the app to Google Play you could target European countries (carriers)
only. Google Play's filters will thus prevent the application from being available on any device
that does not match all three of these requirements.
All filtering restrictions are associated with an application's version and can change between versions. For example, if a user has installed your application and you publish an update that makes the app invisible to the user, the user will not see that an update is available.
Filtering on the Google Play web site
When users browse the Google Play web site, they can see all published applications. The Google Play web site compares the application requirements to each of the user's registered devices for compatibility, though, and only allows them to install the application if it's compatible with their device.
Filtering based on the app manifest
Most filters are triggered by elements within an application's manifest file, AndroidManifest.xml (although not everything in the manifest file can trigger filtering). Table 1 lists the manifest elements that you should use to trigger filtering, and explains how the filtering for each element works.
|Manifest Element||Filter Name||How It Works|
An application indicates the screen sizes that it is capable of supporting by
setting attributes of the
As a general rule, Google Play assumes that the platform on the device can adapt smaller layouts to larger screens, but cannot adapt larger layouts to smaller screens. Thus, if an application declares support for "normal" screen size only, Google Play makes the application available to both normal- and large-screen devices, but filters the application so that it is not available to small-screen devices.
If an application does not declare attributes for
keyboard, navigation, touch screen
An application can request certain hardware features, and Google Play will show the app only on devices that have the required hardware.
For more details, see
An application can require certain device features to be present on the device. This functionality was introduced in Android 2.0 (API Level 5).
For complete information, see
Filtering based on implied features: In some cases, Google
Play interprets permissions requested through
An application can require that the device support a specific
OpenGL-ES version using the
For more details, see
An application can require specific shared libraries to be present on the device.
For more details, see
Strictly, Google Play does not filter based on
In general, if an application requests hardware-related permissions,
Google Play assumes that the application requires the underlying hardware
features, even though there might be no corresponding to
For a list of permissions that imply hardware features, see
the documentation for the
||Minimum Framework Version (
An application can require a minimum API level.
Because you want to avoid this second scenario, we recommend that you always declare a
|Maximum Framework Version (
2.1 and later do not check or enforce the
Advanced manifest filters
In addition to the manifest elements in table 1, Google Play can also filter applications based on the advanced manifest elements in table 2.
These manifest elements and the filtering they trigger are for exceptional use-cases only. These are designed for certain types of high-performance games and similar applications that require strict controls on application distribution. Most applications should never use these filters.
Google Play filters the application if the device screen size and density does not match
any of the screen configurations (declared by a
Caution: Normally, you should not use
this manifest element. Using this element can dramatically
reduce the potential user base for your application, by excluding all combinations of screen size
and density that you have not listed. You should instead use the
Google Play filters the application unless one or more of the GL texture compression formats supported by the application are also supported by the device.
Google Play uses other application characteristics to determine whether to show or hide an application for a particular user on a given device, as described in the table below.
|Filter Name||How It Works|
Only published applications will appear in searches and browsing within Google Play.
Even if an app is unpublished, it can be installed if users can see it in their Downloads area among their purchased, installed, or recently uninstalled apps.
If an application has been suspended, users will not be able to reinstall or update it, even if it appears in their Downloads.
Not all users can see paid apps. To show paid apps, a device must be running Android 1.1 or later, and it must be in a country where paid apps are available. If a device has a SIM card, the SIM carrier determines whether paid apps are available. If a device doesn't have a SIM card, the device's IP address is used to determine whether the device is in a country where paid apps are available.
|Country Targeting|| |
When you upload your app to Google Play, you can select the countries in which to distribute your app under Pricing and Distribution. The app will then be available to users in only the countries you select.
|CPU Architecture (ABI)|
An application that includes native libraries that target a specific CPU architecture (ARM EABI v7 or x86, for example) are visible only on devices that support that architecture. For details about the NDK and using native libraries, see What is the Android NDK?
|Copy-Protected Applications|| |
Google Play no longer supports the Copy Protection feature in the Play Console and no longer filters apps based on it. To secure your app, please use Application Licensing instead. See Replacement for Copy Protection for more information.
Publishing multiple APKs with different filters
Some specific Google Play filters allow you to publish multiple APKs for the same application in order to provide a different APK to different device configurations. For example, if you're creating a video game that uses high-fidelity graphic assets, you might want to create two APKs that each support different texture compression formats. This way, you can reduce the size of the APK file by including only the textures that are required for each device configuration. Depending on each device's support for your texture compression formats, Google Play will deliver it the APK that you've declared to support that device.
Currently, Google Play allows you to publish multiple APKs for the same application only when each APK provides different filters based on the following configurations:
- OpenGL texture compression formats
By using the
- Screen size (and, optionally, screen density)
- API level
By using the
- CPU Architecture (ABI)
By including native libraries built with the Android NDK that target a specific CPU architecture (ARM EABI v7 or x86, for example).
All other filters still work the same as usual, but these four are the only filters that can distinguish one APK from another within the same application listing on Google Play. For example, you cannot publish multiple APKs for the same application if the APKs differ only based on whether the device has a camera.
Caution: Publishing multiple APKs for the same application is considered an advanced feature and most application should publish only one APK that supports a wide range of device configurations. Publishing multiple APKs requires that you follow specific rules within your filters and that you pay extra attention to the version codes for each APK to ensure proper update paths for each configuration.
If you need more information about how to publish multiple APKs on Google Play, read Multiple APK Support.