I get quite a bit of spam mail offering me to boost the download count of my own apps on Play (thanks Google for requiring me to maintain a spam support address). I also get occasionally asked if my APK downloader can be used to increase an app’s download counter. The short answer is: you can’t use Raccoon to cheat on Play. Period.

As far as Google Play is concerned, app installs are something entirely different from app downloads. Think about it:

  • When a device starts an APK download, will it complete? Network connections are notoriously fragile, Wi-Fi on battery powered devices double so.
  • Even if a download succeeds, the app is not guaranteed to get installed. The user might have recorded a short video in the mean time and there’s no space left on the device.
  • Each failed attempt would add an undeserving +1 to the install counter.

When the Play app finishes downloading an app’s APK (OBB) file, it passes the file over to Android’s packagemanager. The packagemanager performs the installation and, upon success, sends a system broadcast, which the Play app then relays back to Google Play. That way Google knows exactly when an app is installed on a device (and also when it gets uninstalled again).

I suppose, I could make Raccoon spoof the app install notification, but using tools for artificially inflating an app’s install count is against the developer TOS (if anyone really wants to risk a strike on their developer account, I’m sure, I can forward them a suitable offer from my spam mail folder).

Posted in Android