Although in its infancy, I've had a chance to spend some time wandering up and down the aisles of the Android Market on my shiny new T-Mobile G1 (unlocked for use on AT&T, of course. Ahem). The shelves are a bit sparse when compared to the "big box" online stores that house bazillion apps for Windows Mobile and Palm, not to mention the ever-bloating App Store for iPhone. However, I'm encouraged that there ARE apps on the shelf, ready to download for FREE, and the availability of more apps and the entire process looks promising. Read on for a quick review!
Right off the bat, it's refreshing to have a new G1 phone, the new Android OS, and the Android Market already installed so I can browse the Market and pick up some free apps to try out on my device. I am excited for this open OS and look forward to what the development community can bring to this market (and Market) of new Android users!
Following is a short step-by-step walkthrough of using the Android Market and then some of my thoughts about it.
Using Android Market
When you first tap on the Android Market shopping bag icon on your G1, the main menu will pop up with Featured apps displayed across the top part of your screen. Below that is a scrollable list of categories: Applications (a quick look at all applications and by broader category), Games (by category), Search (pulls up a Search Android Market at the top of your screen), and My Downloads (lists all of the apps you have downloaded). At any time, you can press the "arrow" (return) hardware button on your G1 to return to the previous screen.
My immediate impression of accessing the Android Market is a good one. I like that I can jump straight into a list of Applications by category, or Search for what I want. It is rather obvious that the Android Market recognizes that enough users will want Games first and foremost that one of the few menu items on the main Market screen is, of course, Games. This is an interesting statement about the G1 and Android demographic.
When you select a specific category, like Games, you can then select a sub-category. Sub-categories under Games include All games, Arcade & Action, Brain & Puzzle, Cards & Casino, and Casual. I expect these category lists to grow as more games and, consequently, more genres are added. In this example, selecting All games pulls up a list of all game apps available with two tabs for filtering games "By popularity" or games "By date."
The Android Market "remembers" what you have already installed by placing "Installed" where the price would be. As of now, all apps are free until some future time that the Android Market is updated with purchasing capability from your G1.
Each application will have a one-to-five star designation where other users have downloaded, then rated it. Right out of the gate, I like that users are unable to rate an app unless they have downloaded it first. This, of course, is not a full-proof way of guaranteeing that an app isn't maliciously rated without being used first, but it's better than giving people the ability to rate an app they have never downloaded, much less tried.
When you revisit an app that you have previously downloaded, you have the new options of rating or uninstalling the app. When you uninstall an app, a "survey" screen pops up asking the reason you removed the app: "I don't use or want the application", "The application is defective or malicious", or "I don't want to say." This is a nice touch for quality control purposes. For example, if you select the second option for defective or malicious content, an additional window allows you to enter further information for reporting purposes. It's nice to see an effort by the Android Market to oversee quality and root out the bad apples.
When you select an app you are interested in, the next screen displays a brief description of the app, it's version and file size, and then an example of most recent comments from other users. If it looks like something you want, just tap "Install" and the app will download and install for use on your G1. A notification will appear in the upper left corner of your G1 to report the status of the download.
Hopefully in the future, Android Market will provide more information in this area, like screenshots of the app and even options to download demo versions once we are faced with the choice of buying an app or not.
Once you tap Install, the next screen informs you regarding the resources the app will require on your G1. The app you are downloading may have access and require internet service, GPS functions, personal information, and more. In essence, this is the "caveat emptor" (buyer beware) screen so you know what you are getting yourself into. Tapping "OK" indicates you agree and are walking into this transaction with your eyes wide open. Or, if the list of required resources is long and you have an uneasy feeling about it, just tap Cancel and the app will not be installed.
Like I mentioned before, the upper left corner of your G1 displays any notifications for your phone, and when in the Android Market, this area will display your downloads and the status of those downloads. To this day, I cannot download PAC-MAN, even though it's listed as FREE for a limited time. The download is always declined - perhaps you have encountered this as well?
Anyway, when this area fills up with notifications, it's easy to just tap "Clear Notifications" to refresh the screen and make room for more notifications. I like the drop-down screen so I can get the details if I want them, and then hide them by flicking my finger back up the screen.
All Applications is a look at everything in the Android Market. If you have some spare time on your hands and want to see everything in the store, by either popularity or by date (so you can see all the new stuff), then this is the way to go. Sometimes I don't have a particular category in mind, so I like being able to see it all and filter the content by popularity or "freshness."
The Android Market is new and compelling. It is evident that they have learned from where others have gone before and have made small, but noticeable, improvements to the app buying experience. The requirement of downloading material first before having access to review it, as well as being fully informed about the resources the app will require, are two big improvements in my opinion.
This is a work in progress and I am excited to see where it goes. I hope to see very soon the ability to download demos, view screenshots of the app before downloading, and the ability to purchase apps directly from my G1.
The interface is user-friendly and is a basic skeleton open for growth. Keep an eye on this one - the Android Market is already changing the game, raising the bar, and will push others to do the same.