Google apps are among the most downloaded apps in the world. In fact, a good chunk of the Google apps on the Play Store have over 100+ million downloads. That includes the likes of Gboard, Google’s Clock app, and Google docs. There’s even a few that have over a billion downloads, such as Gmail, Google Photos, Google Calendar, Google Chrome, and of course YouTube. While Google has the most impressive stable of apps that are updated quite regularly, their release notes are not.
It seems that the more apps Google publishes on the Play Store, the worse and worse they get about updating release notes on their major applications. A lot of the times for app updates, the release notes show a rather generic statement: Bug fixes and performance improvements. This can be found on many of the aforementioned top Google apps.
Is Google being lazy, or do they just assume their users won’t care? Either way, it is a disservice to their users by not updating their release notes. I know there are thousands upon thousands of different Android devices out there, but wouldn’t it be nice to know that Gmail was recently updated to fix an issue with the Galaxy S8 for example? Or that the an app was updated to patch security security vulnerabilities to further protect user data?
Gmail’s release notes compared to Relay for Reddit’s
Now I know I’m in the minority, but I like to read release notes before I update my applications. A few apps that do an exemplary job at this are Fenix and Relay for Reddit. Every time a new version of the app is released, both developers provide details into what made it into this release, no matter how small. I like to know how my usage with the app will be affected with an update, whether it is user experience, user interface, or even small bug fixes.
Not only is Google doing a disservice to their users, they are also not following their own rules. As shown above, Google posted a notice to developers about their app updates. The image, courtesy of /u/Balaji_Ram, tells developers to post release notes for every new release because it helps “users understand the benefits of upgrading to the latest version of your app.”
Poor release notes isn’t just a Google problem
This isn’t just a Google problem, many other major app developers do the same thing. Some that are just as bad at updating their release notes include Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, and Pinterest. Although their release note messages are slightly different, they are never updated. They don’t post any changes, just let their users know that the apps are always updated to provide improvements. A few examples can be seen below.
A few minor updates to make Twitter an even better place.
We’re always making changes and improvements to Spotify. To make sure you don’t miss a thing, just keep your Updates turned on.
Every week we polish up the Pinterest app to make it faster and better than ever. Tell us if you like this newest version at http://help.pinterest.com/contact
At the end of the day, app developers will follow the leader, and Google is setting a bad example. Release notes are often overlooked, but they are important. An update can affect the way an app interacts with a certain phone or change the overall usability. Users won’t know until the app is downloaded, unless developers start doing a better job updating their release notes… looking at you Google.