While Android phones seem to taking over market share against Apple’s iPhone, and also catching up in sheer numbers of software apps, Google’s Web-based Android Market still lags behind Apple’s online App Store, despite a recent refresh to the Google site.
In the refresh, Google added sections that include Featured, Top Free, and Top Paid. From the Top Free and Top Paid sections, business users and consumers can click to drill down into more than 22 subsections, ranging alphabetically from Arcade & Action to Travel. For applications listed in these categories, you can easily access descriptions, plus links to the respective developers’ Web sites.
Yet unlike the App Store component of Apple’s iTunes, Google’s Android Market is still lacking any search capabilities, along with any functionality for downloading apps and getting them sent to your phone. Instead, users of Android smartphones still need to download apps directly from their phones.
Google has announced plans to add these features to the online version of the Android Market, but not when this will happen.
Meanwhile, the number of apps in the Android store has mushroomed from about 1,000 at the time of T-Mobile’s launch of the G1, the initial Android phone, to around 50,000 today, according to Google.
Yet it’s a very good bet that few users – those who are interested in Android phones, but who don’t yet have any in hand – will be willing to browse through 50,000 apps to find out what software is available for various Droid models and other Android gadgets.
An Independent Alternative
Fortunately, an independent Web site called AppBrain is providing some answers to this dilemma, although AppBrain isn’t all that well known yet, and obviously, you have to be aware of the site to use it.
Not only is AppBrain fully searchable, but the apps listed are downloadable through the site. AppBrain contains software reviews, too. As of right now, the latest reviews include the Pure Calendar widget and Facebook for Android, for example.
AppBrain also includes a Hot Apps section, highlighting applications such as PayPal and Personal Assistant, and the Google Maps Address Book for Android. Other apps are divided into categories – immediately viewable, without the need for a single click — such as Multimedia, Communication, and Entertainment.
Some business users might be particularly interested in the Finance section on AppBrain, which lists applications such as Pocket Agent and I.O.U. – I Owe You.
Do Apps Matter?
Meanwhile, for its part, Apple’s own Web-based App Store contains a whopping 185,000 apps, all of them fully searchable and downloadable from either a computer or an iPhone.
While Apple is disputing the findings, a study released by NPD Group last week indicated that Android has now ousted the iPhone as the second highest selling smartphone platform in the United States, with RIM’s BlackBerry still the leader. RIM, however, boasts only about 7,000 applications for BlackBerry, far less than iPhone and even considerably less than Android.
RIM’s online BlackBerry App World is downloadable to BlackBerry phones from either a computer or a BlackBerry.
But given that the Android OS is now outselling the iPhone OS in the U.S., and both are behind RIM, could it be that the numbers of apps available for a phone — and their searchability and downloadability over the Web — aren’t really all that important to businesses and consumers as factors in the decision-making process?