Android and its Market: So Close Yet So Far

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By: Hillel Fuld

It is no longer a secret that out of all the many mobile operating systems out there, such as Windows Mobile, Symbian, Maemo, WebOS, Android, and iPhone, only two really understand where the future of mobile lays. Have you figured it out yet? There is a pattern among the former four members of that list that is in complete contrast to the latter two.

Android and iPhone, while they happen to be the most user friendly operating systems of the bunch (some might argue for Web OS), they are best known for their wide variety of available apps. Apple’s latest numbers stand at a staggering 185,000 apps available for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, and Android, this week surpassed the 50,000 mark.

Now, let’s analyze those numbers for a minute. Does anyone really need 185,000 apps or even 50,000 apps for that matter? Of course not! What these numbers provide is variety. I think it is safe to say that any app you can imagine is already in the Apple App Store. As a person who often reviews mobile apps, and is familiar with a large number of them, people often approach me with ideas for new apps. Four out of five times, I end up sending them the link to an already existing app that fulfills the functionality they were suggesting. The App Store has it all…

The same is true for the Android Market and its 50,000 apps, but in my opinion, there is one primary difference. I find the Android market when compared to the App Store, to be a huge mess. I know Android is open and iPhone OS is closed, but that does not mean the Market has to be filled with app extensions, themes for your phone, and skins for your keyboard or home screen.

I know Android users are generally very passionate about the open source advantage of their OS, but there is definitely something to be said for Apple’s strict guidelines and rules when it comes to what is allowed to be displayed in the App Store. I have no objection to Google approving almost anything for the Market, but I think such a policy requires a higher level of organization when it comes to the end user’s experience.

Additionally, there is another flaw in the Android app model that us users might not have noticed. Many Android developers have told me that creating apps for Android, compared to let’s say iPhone, is a huge headache. The reason is simple. While the iPhone is one phone, with certain specifications, Android is running on many devices, each with their own size screen, their own processor, and their own capabilities. An Android developer that makes an app for let’s say the Nexus One does not know whether the app will work on the Droid, Incredible, or to go old school, the Samsung Galaxy. Each one of those phones has its own specs, and that specific app might only work under certain conditions. This creates a mess. Not only do the different devices cause a mess, but the fact that Android is so open also brings with it other disadvantages for the average developer.

Since the code of Android is open and available, we know that certain manufacturers create their own customized Android for their phones. So, the Android running on one phone, is not the Android running on another. Where does this leave app developers?

One last issue that I have with apps on Android, is the lack of ability to update all your apps at once. The latest rumors circulating the Web is that this feature will be included in 2.2, but my question is, what took so long?

In conclusion, I will say that Open source clearly has its advantages, and 50,000 apps on Android is an impressive number, however, in my opinion, Android still has a lot of catching up to do, less on the quantity side of things (predictions are that Android will hit the 100,000 mark by September), and more on the quality of their OS, their market, and its organization.

What do you think? Do you find the Android Market to be on the same level as the App Store? Please let us know in the comments.

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7 Discussions on
“Android and its Market: So Close Yet So Far”
  • WebOS’s app catalog has the best application update system yet, not only can you update all your apps, you can pause or stop individual app updates in progress (for those times you may be bandwidth limited) and, like most WebOS apps, it can multitask, informing you of its progress with notifications (which are of course much better than the iPhone’s notification’s, for example) as you do other things.

  • A little research shows that there’s a high percentage of “adult” themed apps, a line that Apple won’t dare (or doesn’t have to) cross. To make matters worse, a significant amount of these apps are the exact same app under slightly different titles, so there’s clearly a way-to-low barrier of entry.

    That’s not to say there aren’t quality apps, but it’s clear that one of the issues Google will have to focus on next is Quality vs Quantity. Also, keep in mind that nearly 60 percent of all apps in the Android market are free, compared to about 25 percent in the app distribution services of the competing platforms.

  • I must admit, although i have an Andriod phone, that the ITunes Apps Store is the best.

    At the moment the ability to use a proper compuiter to view the apps sells it fro me, the Andriod store is just overly time consuming when looking for apps on your phone.

  • One thing you forgot to make note of is the fact that the app store NEEDS every thinkable app because of what it lacks in functionality. Everything the Android has is mostly just an added bonus.

  • A lot of the “apps” in the Android Market are very basic and useless applications. Check it out. There are literally hundreds of apps that do nothing but show a photo of something when you finish a call. Since many of them are sport related, each one is counted as a separate app. The Longhorns one is a separate app from the Aggies one, etc. Repeat this for the NFL, NCAA, NHL, NBA, and all of the other sport conferences and you suddenly have a LOT of apps. Let’s not forget the hundreds of soundboard apps and lowbrow apps of “top sexy girls” too.
    I had a brand new Android phone just this past fall but ditched it when I found out that I was running into apps that I couldn’t use. Couldn’t use them because they required Android 2.0. Oh, my BRAND NEW device couldn’t update to 2.0 because there was no path from the carrier OR the vendor. If I wanted 2.0 I had to root my phone (almost the standard answer for Android) and install some unsupported warranty voiding mod from some website in the Ukraine or something.
    Android is a half baked joke of an OS. And I’ve been using Linux for years too.

  • I think Android will win. not becaouse of its market. because of other features. In Korea, ten anroid phones will be launched soon. Samsung is going to lanuch first android phone, Galaxy A. It has great hardware spec. And it has a feature, DMB which is be loved mobile TV platform in Korea. I-phone absolutely doesn’t have it. also people can enjoy flash and enjoy videos with converting video format. some people are addicted to apps. but most of people doesn’t care about apps. so many feature phone user will buy Android phones. But i am not sure about android market. although many android user can enjoy basic app like twitter apps, some popular games even though develper can’t earn much money.