Opinion: Google, Please Update Your Release Notes on App Updates

Yesterday, Google Calendar had a nice update drop in the Play Store.  The problem is, if you only read the release notes, you would have had no idea that a great new feature in the app.  That feature, the ability to drag & drop appointments to new days and times, was not mentioned in the release notes.  At all.  In fact, the release notes are from some four months ago.

The problem is that users of apps on Android need those release notes to know what they are getting in the update.  Be it a new feature or even a little bit of detail around what was fixed if it is a maintenance release would go along way.  Instead, users are dependent on sites like ClintonFitch.com and others to dive into the updates as soon as they drop or do APK tear downs to find out what’s new.  Believe me, I appreciate you coming and finding out what is new in a release but really, should it be such a guessing game?  No, I don’t think so.

While Google is hardly the only one guilty of not updating their release notes, it is a disservice to Android users.  Android users, just like iOS users, are fans of the platform for the post part.  They want to know what the latest thing that an app can do when they update.  The thing is, if Google would update the release notes and outline the new features, the adoption rate, at least temporarily, would go through the roof as people tried it out.  Instead, people are forced to hunt-and-peck or try to find out from sites like this one to find out what’s what.

To compound the problem, even within Google, the release notes are inconsistent.  For example, every update to Google Express I have seen always details the new features and/or fixes in the update.  The same generally goes for the G Suite app updates too.  But the big hitter apps like Gmail and Calendar, when those app updates happen, it is a rare event that the release notes get updated to reflect the new features.

Google is hardly the only developer that doesn’t provide decent (I’m not looking for perfection here…).  Microsoft is hit-and-miss with their updates while other developers never seem to update their release notes other than the generic “bug fixes and performance improvements”.  But Google, by being the very platform for which these app updates are done, should be leading by example.  They should be outlining what is updated in their apps each and every time across all of their apps.

To be fair, there are times that an update is indeed only a bug fix and/or a performance update.  Find.  I get it.  But what bug did you fix?  I’m not suggesting that code be shared but something simple like “We fixed a bug that was impacting some customers when they did this particular thing in the app” would be great.  It help the end users and, being selfish here, it helps sites like mine, Android Police, 9to5Google and others get the information to users more quickly.

So Google, step up on this please.  Give us a better indicator of what you are fixing in your app updates so people can try them out and they can be clearly and concisely reported upon.  It’ll help you, me and more importantly, the end user of your apps.