There are more places to find apps, and that’s great. But that also makes using the Android Marketplace – or rather, marketplaces – more confusing. While you can get by with what Android offers by default, you really should take extra steps if you want to get the most out of your smartphone.
Build A Market Portfolio
All Android phones ship with the Android Market, the only official outlet for Android Apps. It works fairly well if you want to search for a specific kind of app or you already know an app’s name. It lacks a recommendation system, however, and the information provided by user reviews isn’t as detailed as it could be. Fortunately, there are other markets besides the Android Marketplace.
AppBrain is a popular market app that runs on top of the default Android Market. What AppBrain does is enhance the experience by providing better filtering and sorting capability and a “Recommended Apps” utility that offers app download suggestions. When you make a selection, however, you’re sent to the Android Market to download the app.
A new contender you may have heard of is the Amazon App Store. The Amazon App Store isn’t found on the Android Market, but instead downloaded from Amazon directly. You can also buy apps on the Amazon website rather than on your phone. The Android Market allows this as well, but Amazon’s online store is easier to navigate. Amazon is offering a paid app for free every day, so you should at least check it out for the free stuff.
Installing an alternative or supplement to the Android Market may seem a strange way to get the most out of the Android Market, but that’s what happens with an operating system that is open. I think it’s essential that everyone at least give AppBrain a whirl, as it really enhances what you can do with the Android Market. The Amazon App Store, on the other hand, fragments the market. But hey, free apps are free apps – and you might decide you like the Amazon App Store better.
Managing & Updating Apps
I know what you’re thinking. “Great. Now I have to use Android Market to search apps, but use AppBrain for recommendations and filtering, and Amazon’s App Store for my daily free app. How am I going to manage all of this stuff?”
In my opinion, AppBrain offers the best solution with its Manage and Sync feature. You open this by starting the AppBrain market and then clicking the Manage and Sync button. A list of your installed apps will be populated, and apps that require updates will be listed at the top. But you don’t even need to open AppBrain to start updating, as the program comes with a sync widget that can be placed on your desktop. Click it, and the process will begin.
Unfortunately, AppBrain can’t do it all. There so far isn’t any way to update apps purchased from the Amazon app store because you have not purchased them from the Android Market, which AppBrain is linked to. If you want to update an App purchased from Amazon you have to use the Amazon AppStore, open the menu, and then open My Apps.
You can also manage your applications using a third-party app like Android App Manager. These apps do a great job of displaying all of your apps and often offer update capability. But Amazon remains left out – I’ve yet to find one that offers compatibility with apps from Amazon. I’m sure apps will offer Amazon compatibility in the future, but Amazon’s App Store is quite new, and I’m sure most developers will want to see if it catches on before taking time to make it a part of their app.
Fragmentation is the word that’s been buzzing around Android’s head recently. This post highlights why. Obtaining Android apps can be a simple matter of opening the official Android Marketplace, but to find the best apps and manage them your best bet is to use third-party market apps in addition to the default one.
This may be confusing compared to the monolithic App Store found on iOS devices. But this is what Android is about; choices. Alternatives aren’t as simple, but they also offer more options.
What do you think? Do you find the fragmentation annoying? Or do you know another app that makes obtaining apps even easier? Let us know in the comments.