Reviewing Android apps on the Play Store

Following a question on the VI-Android mailing list (A mailing list for all things related to using Android as a low vision or blind user, send an email to vi-android-request@freelists.org with the word subscribe in the subject to join), I thought it would be worth posting this piece on reviewing apps on the Play Store, particularly for Talkback users, as while visually the star rating etc isn’t too hard to find, it isn’t so obvious with speech.

When you rate an app, you fill in three things:

– A star rating

– A summary (kind of like the subject of an email)

– A comment (like the body of an email – more space where you can provide greater detail about why you rated the app the way you did).

The star rating is out of five stars and means the following:

1 star = Poor

2 stars = Below average

3 stars = Average

4 stars = Above average

5 stars = Excellent.

It is important to rate apps as it’s not only a public way of congratulating fantastic apps and shaming bad ones but also to provide constructive information not otherwise obvious for others considering using the app.  People often use the star rating of an app to decide whether they will download it or not.  Surprisingly a lot of people seem to only rate most apps 5, and occasionally 1 to apps they can’t get to work, so much like most of these kinds of feedback, the ratings do tend to be artificially high unless an app does have real problems, however it can still be a valuable resource for information on what people have found does and doesn’t work about an app before you download it.  Of course it’s always a good idea to check other information before downloading an app, for instance If an app has been downloaded 10 million times, it may contain ads and tracking software (particularly if it’s “free” – see my Android housekeeping pt 2 post), but it is less likely to contain malware than say a version of “Flappy Birds” which has been downloaded 5 times, was uploaded yesterday and asks for all kinds of invasive permissions.

Your name is attached to the reviews you leave – Don’t let this discourage you from reviewing, rather it just means you should probably try to be factual and not overly rude in your rating.  I will usually try and email a developer before giving a bad rating, as I think that’s only fair, though developers can and sometimes do respond to reviews you leave on the play store – you may get an email from Google saying that this has happened and it’s often a good idea to check what they’ve said as they may be saying “Thanks for highlighting the accessibility issues with our app, you’ll be pleased to know these have been addressed in the new version!”.

You do need to have downloaded an app before you can rate it though you don’t need to have it on your device currently.  The only exception is if you purchase an app and then get a refund on the app in the first 15 mins, it’s as though you never purchased it, so you can’t leave a review after that time (I’ve never thought to leave a review before getting a refund, though you can – just don’t take too long thinking of what to write or your refund time may expire!).

So to rate an app using Talkback (non-talkback users can follow the gist of these steps, just skip all the swiping and tap directly on what you want):

  1. Locate the app in the Play Store and go into its page (where you downloaded it from).
  2. Swipe until you get past the screenshots.  The next swipe should say something along the lines of: “59,076 downloads with an average rating of 4.2, 10,000,000+ downloads, updated on 8 Jan 2014, Download size 15.4MB” – that is the current details for the Google Keyboard – so it’s been downloaded over 10 million times though only 59,000 of its users have actually rated it and added all together they’ve rated it 4.2 out of 5 (you can’t give partial stars, but if I rate something 5 and you rate it 4 then between us that’s an average of 4.5).
  3. Keep swiping a couple more times and after the “+1” button which says how many Google+ users have “+1” the app (much like “liking” something in Facebook, the next one is “Rate and review”.
  4. Double tap when you get to “Rate and review” – it will select an amount of stars depending on exactly where you double tap so it might say “average” but we can change that next:
  5. In the screen that pops up, swipe once to “Review by”, then again to “Quentin Christensen” (It will have your own name there), then swipe once more and it will make the swipe sound but not announce anything.  This is where we want to be.
  6. Swipe right then left quickly in one gesture and it will say “Your rating for Google Keyboard is: Above average”.  You can then swipe right then left again to give a higher rating, or left then right for a lower rating.
  7. Once you are happy with the number of stars (see the top of this message for the translation of number of stars to “Poor”, “Excellent” etc), swipe once more and it will announce what you have set it to again.
  8. Swipe once more to move to “Summary”, you can then double tap and type several words indicating what you think.
  9. The next field is “Edit box: Comment” and you have more room here to expand on your reasons for rating the way you did.
  10. The last step is the submit button, which will, as you can guess, submit the review (Many keyboards have “Next” and “Submit” buttons to move you between these fields automatically).

Finally, you can change your review for any app you’ve reviewed previously – so if a developer has responded to issues with one version of their app, and it now works really well, you may want to review your rating and rewrite it.  The steps are the same as above, though the summary and comments box will already have your previous comments which you can change, delete or add to as you would text in any other field.

Happy reviewing!

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