One of the things I was pretty excited to really delve into when I bought the HTC Hero was the Android Market. Like the iTunes App Store, this is the primary means of purchasing and downloading apps for Android devices. Fortunately, unlike the iTunes App Store, it is not the exclusive means of downloading and installing apps…but that is another article.
So far, I have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed browsing the Android Market. The search engine, as you might expect from Google, is fantastic, and the quantity of apps available is much deeper than I expected…though there is some room for improvement on the quality front. Still, as far as a device-based storefront goes, there is some room for improvement. Here are a few things Google needs to improve in order to make the Android market a truly worthwhile and enjoyable experience.
1. Screenshots. Screenshots. Screenshots: I truly do not understand how Google expects anyone to decide whether or not to purchase, download, and install any apps, without actually seeing what they look like. A written description simply does not show you what any app will look like on your device. Every store I have used from Handango, to the JAMM Store, and the iTunes App Store features screenshots of every app (or almost every). There is simply no excuse for offering apps for sale without showing you what they look like.
2. Monetary Denominations: I live in the United States. Here in the United States, we use American Dollars. When I shop, I buy things with American Dollars. So, why are so many apps in the Android Market priced in other denominations? There is simply no standardization or localization to the store. I look at an app and see it is priced in British pounds or Japanese Yen, or who knows what else, and I have no idea how much I am actually expected to pay for that app. Google needs to either localize the store, the way Apple did with the iTunes App Store, or translate all of the prices into a denomination which I designate. The hodgepodge of pricing systems which they currently have in place simply makes no sense (or cents).
3. Paypal: I hate using my credit card online. Especially in accounts which store it permanently. More and more online locations are allowing me to substitute my Paypal account instead of my credit card. The Android Market (which utilizes Google checkout) requires a credit card, and I just have no interest in giving them that information. Using Paypal would significantly increase the number of purchases I make, and I suspect many of you as well.
4. Organization: I know we all love to hate Handango…or at least we did when we all still used Windows Mobile. Before we hated Handango, though, many of us loved it. One of the things I always really appreciated about Handango was the organization. Many of the app stores today, including iTunes and Android offer only top level categorization, leaving hundreds or even thousands of apps lumped into a single loosely organized category. This can make it difficult to really narrow in on the apps you need. Handango featured second and even third level categorization, meaning you could go directly to the section you needed without hunting through dozens of irrelevant or loosely related apps. I am not suggesting that Google needs to organize their store exactly like Handango, but a little less like Apple would be nice on this one. And would it kill them to let me separate the free apps from the paid apps?
5.The Cloud. When I first stumbled upon the online version of the Android Market, I thought it was just that…and online version of the store. Not quite. It is really just a showroom for some of the apps you can purchase in the Android Market. All you can really do there is browse. There is no opportunity to purchase or download apps via the online portal. That is most unfortunate. Google needs to find a way to duplicate the marketplace online. The ability to surf the web and purchase apps from any computer, even if I left my phone at home, and then download them directly to my phone over the air…would be invaluable.
So there you go. The Android Market is currently a good store, but I think with a few minor improvements, it could be great. These are my suggestions. How about you? Have any of you given the Android Market a try? What was your experience like? Leave your suggestions for Google in the comments.