When Paul Turner introduced App Previews to Apple's developer community, he emphasized that the videos are “strongly encouraged.” Apple knows that video is an extremely effective way introduce prospective customers to an app (just look at their app-specific ads), and they added embedded videos to the App Store so that developers could take advantage of the power of video right in their app listings.

Developers publishing on Google Play have had the option to add a video for years now, and they’re equally encouraged to do so there. Just this fall, I spoke to a top member of the Google Play team who said that having a video embedded in a Play Store listing makes a big difference in the visibility of the app.

So, unless you have an app that is so simple that it can be fully explained in a few screenshots (a basic calculator, for example), a video should be an essential part of your app store listing — no matter which store you use.

Unfortunately, you can’t use the same video for both stores, as Apple’s rules for App Preview videos are very specific and strict:

  • 15-30 seconds in length, made only from screen-captured footage of your app with minimal graphics.
  • Device-specific (separate videos for iPhones and iPads)
  • Cannot show the device or a any interaction (e.g. just the screen — no hands or phone)

Basically, an App Preview is supposed to look like your app “coming to life” on the viewer’s phone, which is a great idea in theory, but can be tricky in practice. Without seeing the taps and swipes that it takes to actually use the app, these videos can be a bit hard to follow, so you’ll probably want to make sure that the video isn’t too fast-paced, and you may want to consider adding a voiceover to make it easier to understand.

Here’s an App Preview we made for ShareTheMeal, which was developed in partnership with the UN World Food Programme:

Google Play is much more flexible when it comes to videos, with very few limitations on what you can post. This leads to lots of apps having very poor-quality “homemade” videos, which means that posting a quality video can really make you stand out from the crowd.

Despite being able to post just about any video on Google Play, we have some guidelines that we recommend you follow:

  • 45 seconds - 2 minutes in length, though most videos are typically in the 60-90 second range
  • Show realistic use of the app, including real interaction with it (hands touching the screen are a lot easier to follow than a disembodied phone acting on its own)
  • Make sure that the app is clearly visible, and that its main functions are obvious to viewers
  • Include either a voice over or onscreen text to explain the visuals (and get a good recording — preferably from a professional — to make sure that it is clear and engaging).

We also made a video for the Android version of ShareTheMeal for use on Google Play:

Just by comparing our two examples, you can clearly see that Google Play videos are basically a normal “demo video” that is embedded into an app’s listing. This means that any video you create for Google play can also be used more generally on social media and video sharing sites, your website, or sent out with a press release or other publicity communications. App Previews, unfortunately, are pretty limited in their usefulness because they only contain screen capture from the device.

So, if you have a multiplatform app and can only create one video, we recommend that you make a video that is suitable for Google Play, as they are much more versatile. However, creating a video for each app store listing is definitely the best option, which is why we offer discounted App Previews with our other videos — we believe that they are an essential part of any App Store Listing.