Photo: Android Market
We’ve been waiting for Google to rollout the Android Market Web Store for a long time.Now that it has finally gone live, the time has come to adjust to a new way of finding and installing apps. In this case, the new way is shaping up to be dramatically improved.
Google has leveraged the power of their cloud infrastructure to make your phone feel totally integrated with the web-based Market.
Your Account And Devices
Once you hit the new Android Market site, log in with the primary Gmail account on your phone. All your apps are associated with a certain account, so you need to use that one to check the Market. Next, click the My Market Account link at the top of the page.
Here you can see how completely your phone is already linked with the Market. Your list of orders is very useful for finding the product page for anything you’ve ever downloaded on an Android phone. Seriously, it has records of every app you have ever installed, but just the first time. Apps that you’ve reinstalled don’t show up again.
The other tab in this section is called Settings. This is where you can see the devices associated with your Market account. For us, it only goes back about three months. It should be easy to find your current phone if you have more than one on the list. If your phone is not listed, open the Market on your device, then reload the page. You also won’t see your device if you have logged in with the wrong Google account.
Click the Edit button by your phone’s entry, and choose a nickname. This is what will show up in the Market when you are choosing apps to send to the phone. If you have more than one device, this is especially important. You can also choose to hide devices that are on your list that you don’t use anymore.
Navigating The Market And Searching
The main page of the Market is designed to bring content to the surface. You get a ticker of app splash images at the top that rotates through featured apps. Below that are two columns. The one on the left allows you to drill down into the familiar categories of the Android Market.The larger right-hand column shows featured apps at the top, and best selling games at the bottom. Clicking on any app will load its details page. There are tabs at the top of the right-hand pane that let you toggle from featured, to top free or paid apps overall. If you use the links on the left, you can use the tabs in the resulting view to see either top free or top paid apps in that category.
The details page for each app offers you all the information you could need. At the top is the app name/icon, install/buy button, and the large splash graphic. You can check out the description, reviews, recent changes, and permissions in the various tabs just below this. Your own reviews can be posted from this interface too.
On the left side, all the apps from the same dev are shown, and related apps are below that. Screens are just below the description, and if the developer has included a YouTube link, that will be below the screens.
Unfortunately, this does not play in the Market, but will open a new YouTube video tab. You can also tweet out direct links to the app that will work on the PC and the phone.
If you want to search for an app, there is a persistent search bar at the top of the page. On the results page, there is a Search Options dropdown. Here, you can sort by price, device compatibility, and relevance/popularity.
We really like that the search shows you all the apps, even if you can’t install them. It makes it easy to check out the app’s info page to find out why. That’s one of the things that bothers us about the mobile version of the Market. Some apps don’t show up, and since they are totally hidden from your phone, you can’t figure out what’s going on. If you’re not interested in tracking down a missing app, then you can set the device compatibility filter.
Buying And Installing Apps
So, if you’ve found an app you want to install, you just need to mash the button at the top of the app page. You will get a popup dialog that lets you pick the device to send the app to. It also shows you the app permissions. Free apps are installed when you hit the Install button here. Paid apps have a continue button. Just choose your payment method, and click the Complete Purchase button to, well, complete your purchase. There does not appear to be any carrier billing on the web Market.
This is where we’ve occasionally hit a snag. Sometimes, the second dialog box for buying apps won’t show up. This happened in the Google presentation too, so we assume they are aware of it and will fix it soon. If this happens to you, just reload the page and try again.
When your order is complete, a notification on your phone will indicate the app is downloading and installing. For us, the download is starting almost instantly. If you have Background Data turned off, this will not work. You can also install apps with the small button next to the app icons in the featured pages, or search results.
You may notice sometimes that your phone is grayed out in the installation popup. This is a helpful reminder that the app in question is not compatible with your phone. If you hover over your device in the dropdown, a box will appear with an explanation as to why you cannot install it.For example, some apps are carrier specific. If you search for Skype, you get the regular Skype, and you also get Skype mobile for Verizon. If your phone is not on Verizon, the reason given in the popup is “This item is not available on your carrier.” Again, we’re happy that the web store lets us see these apps, and explains what’s going on. It is much better than apps just not showing up.
Google has really taken a big step in making the Android Market more usable. The layout of the site makes it easy to navigate, and the individual app pages provide all the information you should need.Just having this new web store will make it easier to share apps, but the Twitter integration with smart links makes it even better. There is no more surreptitious filtering of apps either, you can see everything along with the reason some apps don’t work on your phone. The web-based Android Market is truly your one-stop-shop for Android apps.