Update, 10:30PM CST: Wow, it looks like Google really dropped the ball on this one. While previous Play Store launches have been problematic, today's Nexus 6 pre-order has left the vast majority of prospective buyers high and dry. Google seems to have sold out of a low initial stock almost instantly, and there was never a single point in the afternoon where you could reliably go to the Play Store and pay for a phone.
Whenever we post a story about a new app or game that has had a considerable delay in coming from iOS to Android, we get commenters asking us what took so long, or even saying that they won't download it because of the delay. We get it, and it's no less frustrating on our side. But despite Android's market share and sales dominance, developers continue to prioritize iOS. Various studies and statistical presentations say (with increasing repetition) that this is because people spend more money on the App Store than on the Play Store.
Go to the Play Store on your Android device and look for Tiny Death Star, the Star Wars-themed version of Nimblebit's smash hit casual game Tiny Tower, and you won't find it. If that's surprising, you're not half as shocked as Nimblebit. According to a report from Pocket Gamer, Lucasfilm's new owners at Disney decided to un-publish the game without even telling the developers their plans. Disney also pulled a Star Wars card game, Assault Team, though that me-too CCG title is hard to get upset about.
Amid a flurry of news from a certain (ahem) other watch today, it looks like the powers that be at Google have matched Best Buy's price for the LG G Watch. The Android Wear device is now being sold for $179.99 in the United States, a $50 reduction over the initial price. According to promotional text on the Play Store, this reduced price will only last until September 23rd.
At the moment the G Watch is in stock and leaving the warehouse in 1-2 days.
Over the last day or so we've been seeing reports that Google is now replacing broken Nexus 5 units under its Google Play warranty program, even if those specific phones were damaged by an accidental fall or water damage. That's a pretty significant shift from the usual warranty coverage on the Play Store and elsewhere, which tends to cover a replacement or repair only if the unit is defective or malfunctioning.
Update, December 16th: Google Play gift cards are now available in all five countries. Good things come to those who wait.
Good news, European readers: physical gift cards for the Google Play Store are coming to more of you soon. Google updated its list of supported countries for gift cards today, marking Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden as "coming soon." We can't say exactly when - a few other countries like Greece, Poland, and Portugal got the same treatment earlier this month, and they're still marked as coming soon instead of linking to the relevant page.
Google sells a lot of games, but often, the ones downloaded from the Play Store require Internet access even in single-player modes. (Square Enix, Gameloft, we're glaring at you.) So for the latest promotion, they've decided to highlight games that don't require such frivolities. You can play them on a train. You can play them on a plane. You can play them in a box. You can play them with a fox.
Update: After we reached out to a Google representative, the company gave us the following statement:
We’ve been working closely with the European Commission and consumer protection agencies for the last few months to make improvements to Google Play that will be good for our users and provide better protections for children.
The representative was unable to comment on potential changes for the Play Store in the US or other non-European locations.
Google's recently launched Android Wear platform had a bit of a rough weekend when it ran into an unexpected snag regarding paid apps – it couldn't install them. It turns out that the behavior could be traced to a Play Store security feature that was responsible for encrypting paid apps to make them more difficult to pirate; but in doing so, it had also made it impossible to extract and install any micro-apps contained within the apk.
Google's hot new item, Android Wear, is barely out of the box, but there's already a pretty big issue deserving of a place in our Bug Watch series. The initial rush of native Android Wear apps is starting to roll into the Play Store as developers get their hands dirty with the freshly released SDK. So far, most of these apps have been given away at no cost, but the few that have attempted to charge a fee have run into a wall.