Android Vs. iOS: Google Revamps Android Market - InformationWeek
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Android Vs. iOS: Google Revamps Android Market

In the U.S. Android users will be able to download apps, books, and video content through the revised Android Market client.

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Continuing its ongoing effort improve the Android Market user experience, Google on Tuesday began rolling out a redesigned version of its Android Market client for phones.

The Android Market last year endured some criticism for its security and design shortcomings, particularly in light of the standard Apple set with its iTunes App Store. Google has been taking steps to address many of the longstanding issues and in May introduced several new features for Android Market on the web to improve app discoverability and to promote top developers.

This latest revision improves the app discovery and purchase process on mobile devices, and expands the Android Market to more effectively deliver books and videos.

"The new Market client is designed to better showcase top apps and games, engage users with an improved UI, and provide a quicker path to downloading or purchasing your products," said Eric Chu, an Android group manager, in a blog post. "For developers, the new Android Market client means more opportunities for your products to be merchandised and purchased."

The Android Market mobile client home screen boasts a new promotional page to showcase popular content, including not only apps but books and movies too. In effect, the Android Market has become a general digital e-commerce site.

Android users in the U.S. will be able to rent "thousands" of movies--significantly less than video stores run by Amazon or Apple--using their phones, starting at $1.99. The Video app, available from the Android Market to U.S. users, allows movies to be downloaded for viewing on phones, tablets or the web. Video content can also be stored on devices for offline viewing.

Touting the new software's utility for e-book buying, Google product manager Paul Montoy-Wilson couldn't resist a veiled swipe at Apple and its dependence on tethered synchronization. "Like movie rentals, books are linked to your Google account, so they’re instantly available across all of your devices--computer, phone, or tablet--without the need for wires or downloads," he said in a blog post.

Such differentiation will be short-lived, however: Apple will be doing away with wired synchronization for iOS devices with the release of iOS 5 and iCloud in a few months.

Furthering its credibility as a vendor of digital goods, Google on Monday announced the impending availability of the iriver Story HD, the first dedicated e-reading device integrated with Google's eBooks platform.

Search is not the focus of the revised Android Market client, perhaps because keyword search is not all that helpful when you don't know what you're looking for. Google is after discoverability, helping users find and download unfamiliar apps and content. Toward that end, the Android Market client features app lists that can be flipped through with swipe gestures. These include lists that show users what others are buying, including Top Paid, Top Free, Top Grossing, Top New Paid, Top New Free, and Trending lists. Google has also added thumbnail links to product videos, to help developers promote their apps more effectively.

App purchasing has been streamlined so that it can be done in two clicks from the app details page, and Google is now helping developers cross-sell by including links to developers' other apps on the purchase page.

Chu says that Google has begun a phased roll-out of the new Android Market client to phones using Android 2.2 or higher, which should reach eligible Android users around the world in the next few weeks. Google has not said when Android users outside the U.S. will be able to download videos and books.

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