So Long Android Market and Hello Android Market Web Store

Honeycomb wasn’t the only thing Google had up its sleeve at its California press conference yesterday. There was also the announcement that Google is finally rolling out the new and long-awaited Android Market web store. As of today, the Android Market web store will be available, providing a more user-friendly way to purchase and download apps (with an interface that strongly resembles iTunes). At long last, it puts the Android Market on par with iTunes in terms of user-friendliness. In fact, the interface is, for all intents and purposes, identical to that of iTunes, with some minor changes here and there.

The basic interface should be pretty familiar to anyone with experience using iTunes, or buying any apps online. There’s a large graphic up top for featured apps, and categories for different types of apps, as well as lists of top free and top paid apps. The actual pages for individual apps are also pretty standard, with lists of other apps by the same developer, user ratings, and information about the app itself. Purchasing is a breeze, with one click to accept terms and another to complete payment. I could call getting the app onto your phone when downloading from your computer easy, but that wouldn’t be accurate. It is literally effortless.

Android really get a leg up on the iTunes store with the use of some homegrown cloud computing tricks. If you’re using your computer to download an app that you want for your smartphone, you can forget about wired syncing. Actually, you can just forget about syncing altogether. All you need to do is buy the app, select which Android device tied to your account you want the app on, and the market will automagically (Google’s word, not mine) start uploading the app to your smartphone. You don’t really need to do anything else, besides look at your phone and see that you’ve got a new app to play with. You can also use Twitter or email to let your friends know about your favorite apps, with direct links to the web store. They’re all long overdue features (besides the automagic, which is just pretty amazing) but nice to see nonetheless.

It’s a dream for developers and users alike. Developers can now upload YouTube videos and other promotional information to their application’s sales site, and users can browse for and find apps much, much easier than they could in the past. Another nice development tool is currency support. Basically, developers can set prices individually for U.S. Dollars, British Pounds, Euros, etc, or choose to let the Android Market automatically convert the prices. It’s supposed to make it easier for users unsure about buying apps with prices in unfamiliar currencies, too; let’s just hope that unscrupulous developers don’t start gouging international prices. By the way, go check it out now. According to the presentation, the web store goes live today.

Granted, the new Android Market web store is more Google playing catch-up than actually innovating, aside from its awesome cloud computing automagic. Of course, that’s not a bad thing; it had to happen sometime, and now that it’s that much easier for developers to sell and promote their apps, the Android OS looks even more attractive to third party developers than it already did. It definitely beats the old searching and codes systems. This is a huge step in the right direction for Android in the smartphone and tablet race, even if it is one they should have taken a while ago.

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