Google Android Market Client Set for Overhaul

Google's Android Market is getting a new carousel view and a streamlined discovery and purchasing process; Google is also making it easier for developers to tout their wares.

Google said it will improve its maligned Android Market application store this month, making it easier for consumers to find, purchase and download developers' apps.

Android Market sports well over 100,000 applications, one third that of Apple's App Store. Yet to many users, Android Market feels leagues behind the App Store in quality and user experience.

Android handset owners and the programmers who create apps for them have been frustrated by a number of issues, ranging from the difficulty in finding legitimate apps amid a slew of copyright-infringing programs to paying for them.

Considering that Google is seeing 300,000 Android phones switched on each day, and that users are using their handsets to consume apps, improvements are imperative.

To alleviate some of the app-searching pains, the new Android Market client will include a new carousel view on the home and category screens, said Android Developer Ecosystem advocate Eric Chu in a blog post Dec. 10.

This carousel will allow users to easily scroll through promoted applications and click through to download and, where warranted, pay for the app they want.

Also, applications that include widgets and wallpapers will be automatically added to their own categories. Google will also be adding more categories for popular apps and games. Moreover, the app details page will include related content.

To address the challenge of discovering and paying for apps, Google has streamlined the experience so that users can learn everything about an app on one page.

This new experience will also include content ratings. Applications will be categorized according to All, Pre-teen, Teen and Mature.

Google is helping developers in a big way, too, by paring the return limit for applications from 24 hours to 15 minutes. This should keep people from purchasing apps, then returning them within a day.

Google is also bringing device targeting based on screen sizes, densities and GL texture compression formats.

Finally, Google is increasing the maximum size for .apk files on Market to 50MB with an eye toward improving support for gaming apps. This will take on greater importance with Android 2.3, for which Google has added a gyroscope and better graphics for games.

Improving the Android Market client, which will support Android 1.6 devices and later, is the latest of several steps Google is taking to improve the user experience for its app store. Most of these moves have involved app payment.

For example, Google in July created a free licensing service to protect paid applications in the Market from unauthorized use.

The company has added paid app and billing support and several more countries and is working on allowing consumers to have apps they purchase billed directly to their wireless carrier bills.