Why Can’t I Download Certain Apps on the Play Store?

Let me know if this has ever happened to you: you come across an article with one or more interesting Android apps and you go to download one of them… only to find that you can’t see it in the Play Store. You ask around and other people can see it, but you can’t.

This was a common question when Pokemon Go first came out (a number of people, myself included, couldn’t see it in the Play Store).

Or maybe you can see it but can’t download it for some reason. Or maybe it gets stuck. Regardless, there’s an app you want but can’t get. While these kinds of problems aren’t exactly common, they aren’t rare either. The good news is that there are workarounds. The bad news is that they aren’t always easy.

Device Restrictions

The most common explanation is that the developers of the app have simply marked it as “incompatible” for your device.

This doesn’t actually mean that the app won’t work on your device (though that’s certainly a possibility). The more likely reason why developers do this is because there may be weird glitches or bugs on particular models that can’t be fixed or the developers don’t have the resources to fix.

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One way around this is to download the APK and force an install. Do this at your own risk, however, because there may actually be incompatibility issues that could harm your device in some way. (More likely you just won’t be able to access certain features.) You may also run into malware when doing this!

Also note that sometimes developers will mark an app as “phone only” or “tablet only”, which is just an easier way to make that app incompatible with a broader range of devices. That’s why some apps can’t be installed on your Moto G or Kindle Fire but will work fine on a Galaxy Tab.

Region Restrictions

The other most common explanation for an unavailable app is that you’re located in an unsupported region of the world. I know it seems unfair, but there are many apps that, for example, only work in the US — and in order to stave off clueless reviews, the developers made the app region-restricted.

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You could go ahead and try forcing an install for these kinds of apps as well, but region restriction is a bit more complicated than device restriction.

I mean, there’s no point to installing the apps for Hulu or Ally Bank if you live in France because even if you manage to get the app installed, you still won’t be able to create an account or use their services — so the only effective solution is to contact the developers and ask them to expand into more regions.

Missing Device Features

If you’re like me, then you like to avoid upgrading your device whenever new models come out because it’s an effective way to sidestep a lot of unnecessary spending. Unfortunately, if you’re too frugal about upgrading your device, it won’t be long before you fall behind in specs and features.

Gyroscopes, accelerometers, ambient sensors, temperature sensors, humidity sensors, proximity sensors, and even geomagnetic field sensors — these are all bits of hardware that may or may not be missing from your device, especially if you have a budget model or a device that’s several years old, and certain apps require these sensors to work properly.

The only real solution is to upgrade to a more modern device. This is why a lot of people actually upgraded their phones to play Pokemon Go. That’s the potential headache of being frugal with your gadgets and devices!

Outdated Android Version

Just as apps can have hardware requirements, many apps also have software requirements in the form of your current Android version.

Every new version of Android comes with a handful of new features and improvements that apps can take advantage of and use. If an app relies on one of these features, then it may not work at all, and there’s no point in allowing you to install the app.

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However, it’s more likely for apps to be labeled incompatible simply for the convenience of the developers. Underlying structural changes to Android from version to version may require developers to include workarounds for “backwards compatibility” — and instead of wasting valuable time on this, they may just mark the app incompatible.

As always, you can try to force an install, but don’t be surprised when certain features don’t work or when the app causes your device to crash. The better alternative is to update your Android version, assuming updates are available to you.

Manufacturer-Specific Apps

A not-so-common hurdle is that some apps are produced and maintained by device manufacturers, and such apps are designed to take advantage of features that are only available on the manufacturer’s devices (or so they’d like you to believe).

The result? Some apps are only compatible with Samsung devices, or Motorola devices, etc. The good news is that most of these manufacturer-specific apps have alternative apps that you can use instead (and they tend to be better anyway) so don’t bother forcing an install or switching out your device unless you really want a particular app.

Google Play Store Is Buggy

If you run into an app that appears compatible with your device (i.e., the Play Store allows you to download and install said app) yet the download doesn’t work for some reason, the problem may be elsewhere — like within the Play Store app itself.

If a download or installation isn’t working, run through these potential solutions in the order that they’re listed:

  1. Log out of the Play Store app, open the device Settings and navigate to the Applications section, find and tap on “Google Play Store”, then tap on Clear Data and Clear Cache. Log back into the Play Store app and try again.
  2. Uninstall the Play Store app (which will revert it back to factory settings and disable it), then re-enable the Play Store app and try again.
  3. Reboot the device by holding the power button and selecting Reboot. This may solve temporary issues like another app’s update request being stuck and blocking your ability to download a new app.

If none of those solutions work, then the problem is likely elsewhere (not in the Play Store app) and the exact solution is beyond the scope of this article. Consider attempting to install the app using a non-Play Store method instead.

Insufficient Storage Space

Apps take up a surprising amount of storage space. Just browsing through my own app list, I see that OneNote, Spotify, Maps, and Dropbox take up over 100 MB each while Groupon, SleepTime, YouTube, Gmail, and a bunch of other apps are using over 50 MB each.

It all adds up and can result in insufficient storage space on your device, especially if you’re using an older device (which is likely if you’re dealing with app incompatibility issues) — and when you don’t have enough space, apps can’t be downloaded or updated.

The only real solution here is to free up space on your device by uninstalling unused apps, moving photos and videos to external or cloud storage, deleting extraneous files, and clearing system and app caches.

Which Apps Can’t You Download?

Now that we’ve shed some light, we hope you better understand why that app you want to download is incompatible with your device. Except for upgrading your device or downloading the app APK and forcing an install, there isn’t much you can do.

Which app are you trying to install and what device are you using? Are there any other workarounds that you know about for incompatible Android apps? Share with us down below!

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