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.