We have had a little over a week to ruminate on Google’s new web-based Android Market. We wrote about some of our thoughts and expectations on February 1. Unfortunately, it’s not that special except that it is a web version of the Android Market. Don’t get me wrong, it is really important that you can now browse the whole market from the comfort of your computer and then install to your device right there. Frankly, it’s amazing that it had not happened earlier.
Google’s web-based market is really a copycat service. AppBrain, AppAware, AndroLib, Cyrket and others have been listing off apps online in a format that it is easier to use than the mobile-based market. These all have their own pros and cons, but Google should have looked at their combined laundry list of features rather than trying to re-invent the wheel. I must admit here that for my own market alternative, I have been loyal to AppBrain, although I have used AndroLib several times for the interesting data analysis they offer. As such, my experience is based on AppBrain, although I have knowledge of some of the other features that the services offer.
So, what’s missing? To begin with, the web Android Market does not have lists. On AppBrain, you can have different lists. For example, I have a list of all my essential apps and all my paid apps in addition to separate lists for different devices. Since I am often loading new roms on phones or getting new phones, having all my apps on a list is really convenient. Upon using a phone for the first time (or flashing a new rom), I just need to load the AppBrain website, and copy my apps over to a new list. Then I can open the AppBrain app on the new phone, and repeatedly hit the buttons to install and agree with the permissions request. I used to be able to use Fast Web Installer so I could install all the apps from the list at once, but Google disabled that so that they could have exclusivity on web installs.
Next is search. Google is first and foremost a search company. Why is it so hard to find good apps then? You should be able to filter your search results. You should be able to choose only 3-5 star rated apps or only show apps with more than 1000 downloads. At least you can have the web-based Android Market show you your results based on relevance or popularity! AppBrain and AndroLib both have amazing filter choices (although they don’t overlap much). If you want to filter by most popular this week, you have to check out AppBrain but if you want to review by star ratings, you have to go to AndroLib. Google could have upped the ante and included all of these filter choices, and more.
Finally is a social element and an app recommendation engine. I feel these two go together. There are social app markets (like Andspot), and recommendation engines like StumbleUpon and AppBrain, but they could easily go together. Based on the apps of friends that you like, new friends and apps can be recommended to you. Google could do this right through their online market. It would sort through your contacts and see who has an Android device. Then you could see which apps your friends have, and which they recommend. Of course, this should be an opt-in service unlike the debacle that was Google Buzz.
Where should Google go from here? To the future. I have no doubt that they will continue to tweak and adjust the experience of the web market. One of the best parts of a web market is that it is all back-end computing. Google can update everything from behind the scenes, and next time that you open market.android.com, it could look totally different.
How do you feel about using the web-based Android Market? Is it better than just the mobile version? What do you think needs improvement? Let us know below.