Bri Manning

App Store Versus Google Play Ratings

January 7, 2014

This is something I’ve pointed out to a few people and discussed before. It’s purely anecdotal at this point, but it seems like a trend to me that apps on Google Play are rated far worse than the same app on the App Store.

A really good case happened today with Jelly. It launched on both Android and iOS on the same day (something many apps don’t do, but that’s a different subject). Reading through reviews and seeing the ratings of each are very enlightening. Jelly on the App Store is currently sitting at 4.5 rating with three very positive reviews. Jelly on Google Play has a 3.0 rating with 90, largely negative, reviews.

The reason I use Jelly as an example is because it’s a small start-up launched by people who know what they’re doing. Biz Stone has certainly been around the block, and they’re a well-rounded team without being large and bloated.

Now, there are a few possibilities here to explain why Jelly has such a discrepancy between stores:

Let’s take each possibility in order.

While the issues at hand could be team-based – QA, developer talent, project management, etc, I doubt that’s the case considering the backgrounds of those involved. That’s not to discount this possibility, I just think that it’s more remote than other possibilities.

I don’t have extensive iOS development experience (nor Android, if I’m being totally honest with myself), and while there are plenty of complaints about Xcode, I do like what I’ve seen in Xcode. On the other side, Android Studio has been a great IDE to work with, even while being new and rough around the edges. Purely in my own beginner experience, while Android fans try to downplay fragmentation, the fact is that I do need to test on a bunch of devices when I develop for Android. While true to some extent with Apple, the number of devices to test on is much smaller. I think these issues can be overstated, but they aren’t solely responsible for the discrepancy in ratings.

Given the design roots and the power users on iOS, I highly doubt Apple fans would highly rate an app they found lacking. There are plenty of apps that get banged with one star reviews and people certainly love to criticize online, so I really don’t think that that’s it.

This may be exhibiting my own bias, but I believe Android users being more demanding is where the crux of the problem is. In Jelly’s reviews, you have reviews of the service, the idea, criticism and skepticism of the company itself, beyond just a focus on the app. The poor reviews are harsh, the demand for features is high (nearly every social app out there has someone asking for Google Plus integration), and the tone is so often more negative.

Finally, this isn’t limited to Jelly. GMail on Google Play is at 4 stars while being at 4.5 for the App Store. Twitter is higher rated in Google Play than the App Store, but read those reviews, harsh! Facebook’s right at 4 stars for both, so there’s that as a counter-point.