November 23, 2014

7 Steps to Fix The Android Market

fix_android_market

There is no mistaking it.  The Android Market needs help.  As more apps are added,  and the Android user base grows, the complaints about its shortcomings are keeping step.  I’ve seen both developers and Android fans alike chime in with ways they feel it could be improved.

I’ve put together 8 steps that I feel could significantly impact the Android Market.  There’s no time like the present to implement some of these if Google wants the market to be though of as in the same realm as the Apple App Store.

  1. The “Real” Google Search
  2. Amazon-like Suggestions
  3. Continue to Improve the Comments
  4. Tags, Tags, Tags
  5. More Categories and Sub-categories
  6. Top Rated and Most Popular are Not the Same
  7. Desktop/Web Interface*

The “Real” Google Search
The first thing that really bothers me is the way search works.  It’s nowhere near what you’d expect from Google.  They need to bring over some of what makes their desktop search work so well.  Perhaps something that suggests a different search or spelling.  I love the “Did you mean?” that you get online.  I’d love to see that in the Market for those time when you type Twitdroid instead of Twidroid.

Amazon-like Suggestions
Nobody recommends products as good as Amazon.  If you’ve ever spent time on their website, you’ll notice that the movies and books they suggest to you are actually worth taking a look at.  Somehow, they find stuff relevant enough to recommend it to you, and they do it in a way that is helpful.  Imagine how many more apps might be sold if they were suggested to users who didn’t know they even existed.

Continue to Improve the Comments
While we’re talking Amazon, I’d like to also suggest taking a page out of the way their reviews are set up.  Yes, the comments have been improved in the market, but they could become much more helpful.  Ever read a comment that you found particularly useful?  Maybe it helped you determine whether or not you downloaded the app to begin with.  Wouldn’t it be nice to help push that comment towards the top of the list so that others might see it?  Many apps have over 1,000 comments, but who wants to read through all of them?  What if only the most useful comments were displayed first?

Tags, Tags, Tags
I don’t think you can tag stuff enough.  Whether it’s pictures, videos, or applications, everyone looks at something in a different way.  Maybe you view one app as a social networking client, while another person sees it a “chat” application.  This would also help enhance the search results for people who just don’t know the right terminology when looking for apps.

Google offers an online image labeler for people to play with in their spare time.  Bring something like that to the Android Market.  I’m sure plenty of people would tag an application with keywords after download if they knew it helped the cause.  

More Categories and Sub-categories
This one doesn’t need too much description.  If you’re not going to add keywords, or improve the search, the least you can do is to help narrow things down for us on the front end.

Let’s start with home screen alternatives, wallpaper apps, and ebooks.  Those alone would help trim clutter and help give apps more exposure.  Further, sub-categories would help where ebooks, or expansion packs are released.  Why dig through pages of apps when all you are looking for is new levels to a favorite game?

Top Rated and Most Popular are Not the Same
This has been a real problem child according to feedback I’ve received from many readers.  I wrote a piece a while back called “Getting Noticed in the Android Market – Will Anyone Ever Dethrone the Current Kings?”, which touched on this point.  I purported that today’s top apps will be very difficult to unseat as time goes, simply because they’re basically grandfathering themselves in as Most Popular.  This is where everyone new to Android is going to look first.  What I suggest is also throwing in a “Top Rated” category which uses some type of algorithm to calculate which apps are rated best.

The Internet Movie Database has a list of the top 250 movies of all time which is based on a handful of figures.  Maybe the Android Market could put together a list of apps that constantly evolves and adjusts over time.  I know that’s what the market is set up for right now, but I get the feeling that it could be improved.  It also shouldn’t be too difficult to put a list of applications once they cross a certain download threshold.  Perhaps a place for apps who are downloaded over 100,000 or 500,000 times.

Another sugggestion in this department would be to filter based on date.  Not everything needs to be based on all time downloads.  Let’s see what the top apps this week or quarter are.  This doesn’t seem like it would be too hard to do, and I am positive it would be well received.  They adapted the market so we can change our view of all apps to free or paid filters.  Time-based filters only seem logical to me.

Desktop/Web Client Interface
Probably the biggest difference in the Android Market and App Store experience rests with this.  This is also what could benefit Android the most in the long run.  When you are starting out a brand new (mobile) platform, you need to impress people with all that it can do.  How in the world will you attract people if they don’t get a glimpse up front?  Open the doors up and let people see what makes Android so compelling without forcing them to buy a phone first.  You already have a captive audience once they buy your device.  No need to preach to them.  Instead, you need to go after people proactively.

I don’t know who would complain about having more options and tools at their disposal.  Developers could offer up screenshots, videos, and more.  Want to compare various Twitter applications?  Pull them up in a side-by-side comparison tool.  This would help cut down on returned apps and buyer’s remorse after the 24 hour window passes.

It would probably be easier to implement some of the ideas I’ve listed above into a full web interface.  A nice, full sized way to read comments, search apps, and study up is a no-brainer.  Ask yourself – how many more apps might you download/purchase if you knew more about what is available?

Apple does a stellar job of advertising apps in print and commercial.  Everytime they show an iPhone, it has up to a dozen apps getting free exposure.  Since Google doesn’t advertise, and T-Mobile hasn’t really taken the reigns, consumers are missing out.  I can’t tell you how many times I see a commercial for something the iPhone does and say, “Well, my G1 does that and more.”  I have no doubt that more people would consider Android over other platforms if they could see the benefits beforehand.

What did I miss?

What suggestions do you have to improve the Android Market experience?  I’d like to hear from developers as well as Android owners on this one.

Edit: I dropped the word “client” and put in the proper terminology.  The first few comments indicated to me that I might confuse people.  Thanks guys!

  • Mervyn

    This is a good list of what needs to improve with the Android marketplace. After scanning the market almost daily when I first got my G1, I rarely go into the market now unless I know exactly what I am looking for. I think the nature of mobile app stores being new and not having the same usability as web stores maybe what is creating this gap in customer experience. With more mobile app markets coming out (palm, microsoft) in addition to apple and google, it'll be interesting to see what direction the 'markets' go. I have been using other ways to find new, interesting apps like reviews through blogs like this one. Also cyrket.com does a nice job presenting an online web version of the android marketplace with a link for newest content and a search tool. Cyrket also offers QR codes for apps, so if you like the description, rating, etc… you just scan the QR code with your phone and it takes you to the app page in the marketplace.

  • Louis

    Good list. I would add the ability to bookmark apps in the market. So I may not wish to install an app yet because initial review comments are not great for example – but I may wish to revisit at a later point.

  • mathiastck

    To me desktop client means an application that doesn't live in the browser. They need to make a great web and wap interface to the Android market. I like that there is an app, but you should be able to view comments, browse search etc from any browser, pc or mobile. Android can easily launch the client from the browser, and vice versa, and this would be a great way to show that off.

  • John

    I agree with Mathiastck. A web interface means I can use it running Linux. A client probably means waiting for workarounds or hacks… or the official Linux client from Google, which might be a low priority.

  • AdeloMen

    Extend the android emulator to run via the desktop via a flash front end. Allow the users to actually run the applications in the Android Market from the desktop before buying a phone or buying an application.

  • Brent

    That is the best idea I've ever read about the Android Market !

  • Walter Kovacs

    The market needs to make it really simple to pay for apps. Open mobile software markets existed long before Apple's App Store but selling mobile software never took off until simplified billing was offered either via premium SMS or simply including the charge on your mobile phone account. Consider that many G1 owners won't even have credit cards. Apple is a special case because they already had 20 million iTunes customers through being the world's largest music retailer. I understand why Google is trying to use Checkout but the Android Market shouldn't be used as a means of spreading Checkout. They should at least offer alternative payment options such as PayPal and direct carrier billing.

  • Chris Luebbe

    Assuming there's a web interface to easily rummage through all the apps, make it possible to send the app to your phone, automatically downloading and installing it, so you don't have to find it in the Market later.

  • lajos kelemen

    Listing the apps different way e.g. in price order

  • Rich

    I think one of the most important things that we need is screenshots! It's all very good having a long description, but you really need a visualisation of the app to get an idea of how it may work.

  • Mervyn

    Check out ” target=”_blank”>http://www.cyrket.com, it pretty much does as you say for the android marketplace..

  • Mervyn

    Check out ” target=”_blank”>http://www.cyrket.com, it pretty much does as you say for the android marketplace..

  • sharkyo

    Re #7, there is a web interface available, but I don't believe it is dynamically updated: ” target=”_blank”>http://www.android.com/market/free.html

  • sharkyo

    Re #7, there is a web interface available, but I don't believe it is dynamically updated: ” target=”_blank”>http://www.android.com/market/free.html

  • Wes Corp

    I don't want to sound like a downer here, but some things are becoming more obvious all the while. Problem: Android Market needs improved access and tools. Google is in a monopolist quandary. If Google wanted a properly working true marketplace for Android applications, the could make one easily with the resources they have at hand. All the while, Google is developing closed source "free" Android applications and using the Android Market for distribution. These Google "free" applications quash potential competitors from creating third party applications for Googles Android operating system. To keep potential competitors in check and monopoly regulators at bay, all Google needs to do is to weakly, lamely, support the Android Market to the extent it serves Google interests. Solution: Google needs to upgrade and strongly support an interactive vibrant Android Market for themselves, software developers, and especially the consumer. Just as Google created "Google Search" that was a step above all others, Google needs to do the same for the Android Market. The Android Market is the hinge for Google, telecoms, device manufacturers, and software developers, to all earn their way providing value to the consumer. The acceptance and usage of the Android Market by the consumer is critical. In the 21st century, consumer expectations for ease of access to goods and services, especially with smart phones and devices, will be far greater than ever before. From a consumer point of view, today they have a choice, the ” target=”_blank”>http://www.android.com/market/ or the ” target=”_blank”>http://www.apple.com/iphone/appstore/. And tomorrow maybe Blackberry, Nokia, or Symbian stores to choose from. Lets keep it simple here, open access, from the web to the depths of the Android Market with the best search, categorization tools, and payment option for consumers and developers are becoming the deciding factors for success in an increasing competitive mobile marketplace. Conclusion: Superior developer and consumer access to the Android Market will allow Android to grow to its fullest potential.

  • Wes Corp

    I don't want to sound like a downer here, but some things are becoming more obvious all the while. Problem: Android Market needs improved access and tools. Google is in a monopolist quandary. If Google wanted a properly working true marketplace for Android applications, the could make one easily with the resources they have at hand. All the while, Google is developing closed source "free" Android applications and using the Android Market for distribution. These Google "free" applications quash potential competitors from creating third party applications for Googles Android operating system. To keep potential competitors in check and monopoly regulators at bay, all Google needs to do is to weakly, lamely, support the Android Market to the extent it serves Google interests. Solution: Google needs to upgrade and strongly support an interactive vibrant Android Market for themselves, software developers, and especially the consumer. Just as Google created "Google Search" that was a step above all others, Google needs to do the same for the Android Market. The Android Market is the hinge for Google, telecoms, device manufacturers, and software developers, to all earn their way providing value to the consumer. The acceptance and usage of the Android Market by the consumer is critical. In the 21st century, consumer expectations for ease of access to goods and services, especially with smart phones and devices, will be far greater than ever before. From a consumer point of view, today they have a choice, the ” target=”_blank”>http://www.android.com/market/ or the ” target=”_blank”>http://www.apple.com/iphone/appstore/. And tomorrow maybe Blackberry, Nokia, or Symbian stores to choose from. Lets keep it simple here, open access, from the web to the depths of the Android Market with the best search, categorization tools, and payment option for consumers and developers are becoming the deciding factors for success in an increasing competitive mobile marketplace. Conclusion: Superior developer and consumer access to the Android Market will allow Android to grow to its fullest potential.

  • Walter Kovacs

    Your theory about Google might hold some water, if Google didn't allow G1 users to download apps from any other source. However, they have opened the gate to competitors to the Android Market unlike Apple who are the only shop in town. Unfortunately it seems the current crop of Android Market competitors are satisfied with being laughable jokes rather than offering any serious competition.

  • aranea

    I second that. I look at an app it sounds interesting but for one or another reason I want to download it later but 99% of the time I forget.

  • Chris_Fagan

    The problem with this is for apps that use GPS, cameras, accelerometer and other hardware that the emulator does not easily recognize. Sure you can "spoof" data in your dev env but it will be hard to do this for each user demo'ing your app. Here's another idea….. how about each app dev team create a youtube demo video of their product. Users could easily select the link and watch the vid from their PC and or their phone. If you select the link to our dev website from our product "a2b" it takes you our products web page where you can select our youtube demo video to watch from your phone. Works okay but I wish there was a better way to associate the demo video with the app other than having to mention it in our "limited "325" character prod description area.

  • Wes Corp

    Being able to download apps from "Unknown sources" sounds more like fud (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) marketing rather than something like "Enable addon applications". The average consumer knows little about the ins and outs of downloading and installing etc.. outside of the Android Market. Just being able to install applications from the Android Market is an edge of the seat experience. Hopefully, as more and more manufacturers release Android devices and carrier marketing kicks in, the Android Market will reach a critical mass to make it a worthy investment of developer resources. Then users can wade through 25,000 applications in 14 categories.

  • chefgon

    I totally agree about the searching and tagging points. This is freaking Google we're talking about, their entire success is built on their ability to write algorithms that can make assumptions about what you really want based on a simple search string. The market has none of that, even if you know EXACTLY what you're looking for it can be difficult to find because the search feature is so rigid.

  • MrChaz

    Tracking ratings over time is something that's definitely needed given the fluid, fast moving nature of current development.

  • Yoni

    have you ported qemu to Flash recently? Because otherwise, that bird ain't gonna fly, sonny. Nice idea in principle, though! I can barely get Scrabble to run in flash without pegging my dual-core CPU… can't even imagine what 400mhz ARM emulation would do :)

  • steve

    locking the dev phone people out of the paid apps is a waste of time!

  • Jeff Miser

    Ive been an internal beta tester for the AndSpot market, and those guys are doing all this stuff plus more cool stuff that i cant disclose (damn nda :) ). It's looking pretty slick and a tough competition to googles marketplace. Im pretty sure you can sign up at there site and get into the beta. You do have to sign an NDA though. AndSpot.com

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    yes they should filter by date I think and add wallpaper.

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  • CallMeLaNN

    Add another one no 8: Sorting. App should be able to sort by date, most popular, top rated, downloads, developer as well as A-Z. Even sorting option dosn't have, the current Android Market list by search keyword also does not properly sorted like browse by category. I dont know what is the meaning of the app in the top list, seems unsorted.

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