Google, which constantly twiddles its search results on the Web and in the Play store, has announced that they will begin downranking apps that consume too much battery power, among other “quality signals” related to the actual use of apps on its Play store. This happened after the company realized that about half the 1-star ratings for apps were due to stability or performance issues.
This is a welcome result, since many apps secretly continue running in the background, lowering battery life while reporting on user behavior. However, remember that Sustainable Virtual Design is not just about energy efficiency – at least directly. Poor Ux leading to confused users, as well as apps that crash and have to be restarted are part of the SVD framework, and have an effect on the usability of the smartphone as a device, not just the individual app.
Google apparently plans to monitor this by user uninstalls – which they’ve finally realized is part of the ‘customer journey’ or rather, an anti-pattern for a good one.
It would be nice to know how ‘vampire power’, or apps sucking the battery when apparently ‘off’ to the user, will factor in. A list from 2014 shows Candy Crush Saga and Plants vs. Zombies were one of the worst offenders. Once again, we run into the differences between the web design community (which has embraced Ux and related efficiency practices in Web Performance Optimization (WPO), and the game industry, which still revels in the pleasures of uninhibited excess.
A final point – the freebies are the worst – they’re paying for their free install by monitoring users or installing malware. As anyone involved in sustainability knows, there’s no free lunch.