Android Market Gets a Facelift

The Android Market gets a much-needed updated and makes some important strides forward in how apps are distributed.

More than an after-thought

For a couple of years now the Android app purchasing experience has been largely on-device as the web based “market” page was little more than a page with a handful of top-selling applications.

Want to search for an app? Go to the on-device app client.

Want to purchase one of the top sellers or top downloads? Same answer, go to the on-device app client to make your purchase.

Want to see what you’ve downloaded already? Go to the on-device app client.

etc. etc.

Of course the Google app store is not the only option for Android — that is after all one of the great appeals about Android when compared to say…. iPhone. We actually have choices. And there are numerous app stores for Android across the web with various “niches” or “advantages” for either the developer and/or the consumer, however the lack of a clean, consolidated and Google-sponsored marketplace has been as surprising as it has been disappointing.

Fortunately, it looks as though the situation has improved somewhat as the Android market seems to have gained some functionality and with it some momentum.

This is good news for Android developers looking to pay the rent by selling applications.

Signal to Noise ratio

With a couple hundred thousand titles in the app store to choose from, it is easy for your applications to get lost — both as a consumer and as a publisher. The new Android Market presents a fresh new look with some useful functionality.

The new Android Market
The new Android Market

The web based Android Market allows us to browse by two major categories: Games & Applications. Within each category there are numerous sub-categories.

This is helpful when trying to find an application to try out. It is also helpful as a developer contemplating the release of a new application — a little market research to check out the competition is never a bad idea. And it is an even better idea to do this before coding the latest mouse trap app as it can be disheartening to spend energy on an application only to learn that there are already 300 excellent and free applications in your target sub-category!

Oh, and yes, you can search for an application. I searched on my own name to find the two applications I recently published in conjunction with a book project:

Searching for applications
Searching for applications

Note that both of these applications are marked as “Installed”. This means that I currently have them installed on my phone. How does the market know that? Yep, they know lots about us — too much one might argue.

Now, let’s search for something timely — Super Bowl XLV should do.

Sure enough a number of applications are available. I click through to the “free” version — after all, I know that the Packers won the game so there is little sense in paying for an application now unless it could tell me who is going to win next year!

Let’s see what happens.

Contemplating a new application
Contemplating a new application

OK, free works for me, so I select “Install”.

Now, the application is queued for installation to my phone, which takes place in less than a minute from the request on the web.

Queuing the application for install
Queuing the application for install

So, not only can I search for and install an application, I can also view my activity including all of the previously downloaded applications:

Order/Download History
Order/Download History.

This is actually a very useful feature and is helpful for keeping track of what has been tried before — you know, with a couple hundred thousand apps they all tend to look alike before too long.

And to keep with the “Google already knows way too much about me” theme, the market is kind enough to also track just which devices I have been using:

Which phones are active?
Which phones are active?

Look for this feature to become increasingly important as many of us mature to more than one Android based device.

Keep an eye out for an upcoming screen cast where this functionality is demonstrated right here on Linux Magazine.

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