google play and google logos

In the Google world, there are two store names you’ve probably seen. While the Google Play Store and the Google Store may sound similar, they are very different. Each one serves an important purpose in the Google ecosystem.

What Is the Google Play Store?

google play store on the web
Google Play Store in a desktop browser

The Google Play Store—sometimes called simply “Google Play”—is the company’s digital marketplace. It comes pre-installed on Android phones and tablets as well as on Android TV and Google TV devices. The Play Store can also be accessed online through any web browser.

The main purpose of the Play Store is to be a place for Android users to download apps and games. In fact, it used to be called the “Android Market.” At one time, it only had Android apps and games, but as Google expanded it, that name no longer made much sense.

RELATED: What Is the Google Play Store?

As the Android Market grew to include music, e-books, and movies, Google rebranded it as “Google Play.” Since some of the content wasn’t exclusive to Android, it didn’t make sense for it to be in the “Android Market.” Now, all of Google’s digital content can be found under the Google Play umbrella.

google play store on mobile
Google Play Store on Android

So what is all of this content? As previously mentioned, apps and games are the main things people get from the Play Store. The other categories include “Movies & TV” and “Books.” The Play Store used to include music as well, but that changed with the introduction of YouTube Music.

RELATED: How to Switch From Google Play Music to YouTube Music

The simple way to think of the Play Store is that it’s the place to download and purchase anything digital from Google.

What Is the Google Store?

While the Play Store is for digital content, the Google Store is the company’s online market for physical products. That includes Pixel phones, Chromebooks, Chromecasts, Nest devices, and some products from Google partners.

Up until 2015, Google’s few physical products could be purchased in the Play Store from the “Devices” tab. As the company started to focus more on building its “Made by Google” devices, it shifted the physical products to the dedicated Google Store. There is still a “Devices” tab on the Play Store website, but it links to the Google Store now.

RELATED: What Is the Google Store?

Google products can be purchased from a number of retailers, including Best Buy and Amazon. However, the Google Store sometimes has more options and discounts. You can also get Google customer support if you go through the Google Store, which is more likely to replace a broken device.

google store website
Google Store website

An equivalent of the Google Store would be the Apple Store. It’s a store owned by the company that makes the products that are sold. In both cases, there are some products from partners, but the majority of the items are from the store owner.

Unlike the Apple Store, the Google Store is only an online market. There are no “brick-and-mortar” Google Stores in the real world. You may find specific Google sections in stores like Best Buy, but that’s it.

The one exception to the “physical products” rule in the Google Store is subscriptions. You can purchase subscriptions to services such as Google One, Stadia Pro, and YouTube Premium. These are subscriptions that typically go along with physical products.

The difference between the Google Play Store and the Google Store is really quite simple. The Play Store is for digital content, while the Google Store is for physical products.

Google’s marketplace started with the Android Market, evolved to the Play Store, and eventually split to include the Google Store. If you want to purchase anything in the Google ecosystem, these are your two main destinations.

Profile Photo for Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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