Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Secret hacks for Google Play

Secret hacks for Google Play

Google Play just celebrated its fifth birthday, but there’s always something new to learn about the app-and-entertainment store. Robert Irvine reveals its best secrets

Earn credit towards Play purchases

You don’t get something for nothing in this world, but thanks to Google Opinion Rewards ( you can make easy money for very little effort. Just answer a few quick questions about shops you visited recently or similar topics and the app will reward you with credit, which you can save up to spend on Google Play.

The information you provide in the short, simple surveys about your views and habits is collected anonymously, and you can trade your credit for Android apps, music, films, TV shows and books in just a couple of taps.

There’s usually at least one threequestion survey per week, with rewards ranging from 6p to 60p.

Add useful new features to Play

The simplicity of the Play Store is one of its biggest strengths, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t benefit from a few extra features. You can improve your Android experience by installing the Chrome extension Toolbox for Google Play Store (, which adds several useful options to each app’s page. These include a button for downloading an app’s APK file to your PC, one that links to information on alternative app store AppBrain ( and another that takes you to coverage of the app on the Android Police blog (

Additionally, Toolbox can tell you if an app offers a beta-testing program that lets you try the latest version before everyone else – see our next tip on the right. You can choose which options to show or hide by clicking the extension’s toolbar button.

Try new apps before everyone else

Several developers use the Play Store to recruit brave, foolhardy guinea pigs – sorry, eager early adopters – to try new features in apps before they’re released to the public. As described in the previous tip, you can use the Toolbox extension to see which apps currently run beta-testing programs.

If one is available, select the ‘More info’ link, then click ‘Become a Tester’ to receive the special testing-version update (you’ll need to download the app if you don’t already have it). Alternatively, if you don’t want to install Toolbox, you can check the app’s description or website to see if a beta test is mentioned, then follow the relevant link.

Popular apps that are currently running tests include All 4, Avast Antivirus, BBC iPlayer, Facebook, Google Maps, Kodi and WhatsApp, which should give you plenty to play around with for starters. Remember, though, that in return for these feature previews, developers ask you to provide feedback on their hard work, so make sure you keep your side of the bargain!

Install apps that Google Play blocks

When Google tells you that an app is only compatible with “some of your devices”, it’s usually because it will work on your phone but not your tablet, or because one of your devices doesn’t have the necessary version of Android. This is different from an app being “incompatible with all your devices”, which is usually due to geographical restrictions – and regular our readers know how we feel about those!

If you’re unable to use an app for the latter reason, you could feasibly solve the problem by using a VPN. However, if you’ve previously bought an app from Play, your account will be locked to the UK, so you’ll still be blocked. One way around this is to create a new Google account, add it to your Android device and open the Play Store app from there using a VPN such as TunnelBear (

Alternatively, you could go into Settings, then Security on your device, allow the installation of apps from unknown sources, then find and download the APK file of the app. However, this can be very risky because many APK files contain malware.

Update all your apps in one go

The Play Store website lets you see all the apps you have installed, but if you want to update them – either individually or collectively – you’ll need to use the app version. Open this on your phone or tablet, then tap the three-line menu button in the top-left corner and choose ‘My apps & games’. In the list of installed apps, either click Update next to all those that need updating or tap the Update All button. This screen also lists any beta apps you may have volunteered to test, so you can get the latest updates.

Create a wishlist of Play content

The Play Store is so vast that it’s easy to stumble across an interesting app, game, album or film, then not be able to find it again when you decide to buy it (perhaps when you’ve earned enough Rewards credit, as per our first tip). To make sure this doesn’t happen, it’s worth compiling a ‘wishlist’ of content you want to purchase or download at a later date – much as you would on Amazon. Just click the ‘Add to wishlist’ option above the Buy or Install button. You can access your wishlist via the link on the left-hand side of the page. To remove an item, click the ‘Added to wishlist’ option above the button.

Get refunds for unwanted purchases

You can claim a refund for an unwanted app or other purchase by going to your Account on the Play Store website or in the app and scrolling down to your order history. If the item is an app or game, you can claim your money back without question for two hours after you installed it, simply by selecting Refund. If the app or game is defective, not as you expected or was bought accidentally, click the three-dot icon next to the purchase and choose ‘Report a problem’. Select your reason for not wanting the app or game and click Submit, but make sure you do so within 48 hours, before the option disappears.

Likewise, you have up to seven days to request a refund on any Google Play Music, Movies and TV purchases, provided you haven’t started playing the song, film or show.


You’re no doubt familiar with Google Play app categories such as Tools, Entertainment and Photography, but the store also has a hidden section called Indie Corner. Here, you’ll find apps from small developers who risk getting swamped by larger ones in the main store. Or, as Google puts it: “the latest and most innovative releases, our current favourites and must-have Indie masterpieces all in one place”.

Indie Corner isn’t listed in the Play Store’s menus, but you can access it directly at Currently, the section features the Top 10 finalists of the Google Play Indie Games Contest, including the amazingly cute and addictive Happy Hop: Kawaii Jump.