Amazon's Android Store Will Make Android Even Messier

eric schmidt

Photo: AP

Amazon’s Android app store, which the company opened to developers this morning, will offer a better experience than the current Android Marketplace run by Google. Apps will be vetted by Amazon (much like Apple does with iTunes), which will get rid of a bunch of crummy apps that don’t work right or feature unsavory content like porn.That’s good news for Android users, right?

Not necessarily. Having separate app stores for the same platform contributes to the biggest problem facing Android: fragmentation into a bunch of slightly different platforms, each offering slightly different experiences and supporting different apps. That’s not a smooth user experience.

Users have already seen Verizon swap out Google search for Bing search on some phones, and Angry Birds developers Rovio have complained that the app doesn’t work as well on some older versions of the platform, forcing them to build a “light” version. Android tablets will require powerful hardware, which means that apps which run fine on them might not run at all on earlier smartphone versions of the platform.

But the problem could get much worse from here. As developer Kevin Marks explained on his blog yesterday–and TechCrunch elaborated on–there are actually two Androids. Most popular Android phones are certified by Google and come with various Google apps built in, such as Gmail and Google Talk. But there’s also the underlying Android operating system, which is open-source and can be customised by phone makers, carriers, and even Google competitors like Facebook.

As third parties build more customised phones on Android, expect more unique apps to emerge for each platform–imagine Zynga apps built for a Facebook Android phone, or a specialised Motorola app for backing up music and video, for instance. Amazon’s Android app store will be a perfect venue for apps that Google might otherwise not highlight.

So when users buy an Android phone, what will they get? That depends. How will they get new apps? That also depends. Will those apps work with every Android phone? Probably not.

In 2010, users didn’t seem to care, and bought phones based on Android anyway. But as the platform fragments further in 2011, that could change.

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