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The Android Marketplace is a Mess

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I love my HTC G1, Android-running phone, but let’s face it: The Android marketplace is a mess. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.
Android Marketplace is a Mess, According to App Developers

Information Week reported today that Android application developers are unhappy with the Android marketplace because of:

1. low download volumes,

2. poor marketplace design, and

3. concern over consumers’ difficulties in using Google Checkout to complete purchases.

Source: Informationweek.com, “Survey: Android Developers Unhappy,” November 30, 2009, http://www.informationweek.com/news/software/open_source/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=221901451.

As an Android user (for exactly one year), I was not at all surprised to hear of these complaints. Allow me to provide my own anecdotal experiences to further explain the problems experienced by app developers:

Low Download Volumes amp; Poor Marketplace Design

The first two problems cited by developers are closely related. In my experience, the low volume of downloads is largely due to the poor marketplace design, which makes it difficult for users to find new apps.

The “apps” menu that I see on my phone includes the following categories:

1. All applications

2. Comics

3. Communication

4. Entertainment

5. Finance

6. Heath

7. Lifestyle

8. Multimedia

9. News amp; Weather

10. Productivity

11. Reference

12. Shopping

13. Social

14. Sports

15. Themes

16. Tools

17. Travel

18. Demo

19. Software libraries

[there is a separate menu for games]

These vague and overlapping categories do little to help me find new apps. When I click on one of the categories, I see a list of apps, which can be sorted by “top paid,” “top free,” or “just in.” The same popular apps tend to always be at the top of these lists. To find new apps, therefore, I have to scroll through pages of old and popular apps.

Most of my good discoveries have come from the “Productivity” category – but only after scrolling through pages and pages of apps that did not interest me.

My best discoveries have come from Google searches on-line, which lead me to various bloggers’ recommendations of good apps. It is kind of ironic that Google makes it easy for me to find apps on-line, but difficult to find them on the Google-run Android marketplace.

Difficulties in using Google Checkout to complete purchases

Oddly, it is very difficult for me to purchase Android apps using Google Checkout. On at least five occasions, I have been unable to buy applications because of an inability to proceed through Google Checkout. I believe that each of these cases involved a purchase from an out-of-country app developer, so maybe there is some kind of currency conversion / credit card problem. That seems like a pretty important problem for Google to solve.

Conclusions

Even though Google rules the web, it is not at all certain that it will rule the cell-phone world. And the battle for mobile operating system supremacy will not be won by operating system designers (i.e., Apple, Google, or Microsoft); it will be won by app developers. If all the cool apps are on the iPhone, Android users will switch phones.

Obviously, I’m putting my money on Google to win this war. But to do so, it needs to create an intuitive, reliable app marketplace. Listen to the app developers because we need them.

 

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