Your guide to the Google Play app: How to get more from Google’s store

Find deals. Enable parental controls. Learn about app permissions. Wrangle the Google Play store with these tips.

google play store
Nick Mediati

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Google Play packs a whole lot of power into its Android app—you’ll find everything from parental controls to a wishlist to automatic update options. You may have been using it to download apps for months or years without even realizing all the cool stuff it can do. This guide will walk you through the more advanced features of the Google Play app.

Use parental controls to manage what your kids can download

Want to control what your kids can download onto their phones? Google Play’s parental controls are for you. With these parental controls, you can set download restrictions for just about everything on the Play store.

Open the Hamburger menu or swipe in from the left edge of your screen, scroll down, then tap Settings. Tap Parental controls under the User controls subhead, then slide the toggle switch to the “On” position. Set a PIN when prompted, and you’ll be able to set limitations for apps and games, movies, TV shows, books, and music.

parental controls

Google Play’s parental controls can help keep your kids from downloading things they shouldn’t.

For apps, games, movies, and TV shows, you can set limitations based on industry-standard ratings systems: For example, you can prevent your kids from purchasing movies that carry a rating above PG-13. For books and music, you can restrict sexually explicit content.

Change your password preferences

While you’re in Google Play Settings, take a look at your password authentication preferences. By default, Google Play requires you to enter your password every time you purchase an item from the store, but if you aren’t concerned about others making unauthorized purchases on your device, you can change this if you want.

require authentication google play

Don’t want to enter your password each time you buy something? You don’t have to. Changing this setting does increase your risk of unauthorized purchases, though.

Tap Require authentication for purchases and choose between three options—always require a password for purchases, require a password after 30 minutes, or never require a password. 

Learn about app permissions

android permissions details

The permissions details screen for the Spotify app for Android.

Each app page on the Play store provides details on the sort of permissions that app may request—whether it’ll ask to access the camera, your contacts, your photos, your location, and so on. Go to any app’s page on the Play store, scroll down, and tap Permissions details to get a full readout of what the app may want to access, before you download it.

Change auto-update settings

auto update settings

Limiting Android’s automatic app updating can help spare your data plan.

By default, Android will download and install app updates automatically in the background. While this is useful for keeping you up to date, it could eat up your data plan. You can change your preference by opening the Hamburger menu, tapping Settings, then tapping Auto-update apps. You can choose to turn off auto-updates, auto-update apps at any time, or auto-update apps only when on Wi-Fi (a good in-between option).

Redeem a gift card or promo code

redeem code

Redeeming a gift card is just a tap or two away.

When you pop open the Google Play app, it isn’t immediately obvious how to redeem a gift card or enter a promo code. It isn’t hard to do, though. From the Google Play homescreen, tap the hamburger menu (or swipe in from the left edge) then tap Redeem. Enter your gift card or promo code in the box that pops up, then tap the Redeem button.

Manage your wishlist

Google Play offers a wishlist that makes it easier to track the apps, movies, books, and music that you want to purchase or download, but aren’t ready to do so just yet. To add something to your wishlist, go to any item on the store, then tap the small bookmark icon with a “+” in it. The icon will change color and a checkmark will appear in the middle of it.

google play wishlist


You can view all items on your wishlist from swiping in from the left-hand edge of the screen while in the Play app and selecting My wishlist.

Discover something new

It takes only a little poking around on Google Play to find a fun new game or a great new album. Take a look at the Recommended for You section on each landing page in the Play store for suggestions based on your purchase history.

The Similar Items feature can also be a good way to discover new apps or media. Tap on any app, video, album, book, or Newsstand item, then tap the Similar button, and you’ll get a listing of other items that are similar to whatever you happen to be looking at.

similar apps

Tapping the Similar button for any item in the store brings up other items you might like.

Want more new stuff? We’ve got you covered. Visit our Apps section for the latest news on hot new apps, reviews, and roundups of apps worth checking out. And in our Five to Try column, Andrew Hayward takes a look every Friday at five new or updated apps that are worth your attention.

Find some deals

A good many apps on Google Play are free to download, but for those items you do have to pay for, you can find some good deals if you know where to look.

The first place to look is on the Play Store itself. The store’s landing pages do a pretty good job at highlighting suggested apps and media, as well as things on sale, so start there.


The Play Store offers up some deals, but it isn’t the only place to look in order to find bargains.

Beyond the store, you have some options. Start by browsing the Google Play Deals subreddit: This crowdsourced listing is updated continuously with new deals, and is a good place to look for bargains. The Google Play section on Dealnews is another good place to look—it features discounts, deals, and promo codes for items across the Play Store.

And that’s just a start. Do a quick Google search for “Google Play deals” to find even more bargains.

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