Every Android application developer will now be able to reply to reviews left by users of their applications in the Google Play Store.
The change, which was announced today on the Android Developers Blog, will address what’s apparently become a huge deal for Android developers: that they aren’t able to directly address the concerns of their users directly through application stores like they can in the iTunes App Store and Windows Phone Store.
Because of the lack of communication, developers are forced to hope that users will email in with more information on app-breaking bugs, or comment on their application via Twitter, so that they can begin a two-way dialogue on their concerns.
According to the blog post, developers’ replies will be shown publicly for other users to see just underneath their user’s comments. Users who have received a reply from a review they’ve left in the Google Play Store will be notified by Google via an email notification and will have the option to also reply to the developers follow up messages. Users will also have the ability to update their reviews, though Google notes that they are not required to do so.
Google is also careful to note that developers who are going to make user of the new feature should adhere to some of the “best practices” it’s been promoting when communicating with users. These include checking reviews frequently, prioritizing and identifying potential bugs based on user reviews, informing users of issues, responding to both positive and negative comments, referring users to documentation and using the feedback to inspire new features and app improvements.
The company first announced that it would be allowing developers to reply to user reviews in the Google Play Store last June. At that time it opened the feature up only to what it considered “top developers” and provided no timeline for when all other developers might be able to expect it.
By allowing developers to comment on user reviews, Google is making another move to establish its app store as a premiere destination for developers who want to create the latest and great applications. Combined with the platform’s lack of an approval process, open source roots and the freedom of developers have to create almost anything they want, today’s announcement could be seen as the final step in cementing Android’s developer-friendly reputation.
With today’s app-driven experiences on smartphones, being among the first app stores to provide to feature notable features is widely believed to be a key part of growing market share and device sales in the smartphone market. If that’s true being able to communicate directly with their users could be a huge driver in continued app submissions to the Google Play Store.