A few days ago Google started the roll-out for their new Android Marketplace for Android devices. The update is set to be received over-the-air to all devices running Android 2.2/Froyo and higher. This process takes about a month for the update to come into full circulation, but people who wish to check out the application now are free to download the .APK from the numerous sources on which it has appeared online.
After about a day’s worth of testing, I’ve come to the conclusion that Market 3.0.26 is akin to a very pretty woman. A very pretty woman that will sometimes lie to you, speak to you in a language you don’t know, and outright break down right in front of you.
To state the obvious, the new UI is absolutely stunning. Google have quite clearly taken some not-so-subtle hints from Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 OS, itself is a continuation of the Zune UI which, in my opinion, was really quite brilliant for its time. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Google have completely ditched the UI they unveiled in December 2010 when the world was shocked by a large, circular green banner taking up a third of the screen. Instead, we’re met with a much more stable rectangular layout that I feel allows for a much more pleasant browsing experience.
The Application Details Page has also had an overhaul that, in my opinion, makes much more sense usability-wise. Showing the ‘What’s New’ section (or changelog) at the top of the page seems to help keep my Internet Rage condition in check. I no longer have to press ‘View More’ in the App Description section, scroll down past the (sometimes needlessly long) app bio and then hope the developer had the courtesy to actually fill in the What’s New section in the first place.
Rating apps feels less ‘clunky’ now, too. The text area to leave a review only appears after you rate the app, saving the space that most users will unfortunately skip past anyway. After writing your review, the app gives you a nice little confirmation telling you that the review was successful, which makes me feel good about myself for roughly three seconds.
Despite the pretty looks, however, the app seems to be suffering from some nasty teething issues. For example, as you can see from the above screenshot, sometimes the Market will deliver an App Description in French. Or German. Or Spanish. Or basically any language that isn’t your phone’s system language. As well as this, the Market will often deliver blank pages with generic server messages instead of the app details you were hoping for. These little faults wouldn’t be so bad if the glitches didn’t stick to the app. I wasn’t able to access Twitter’s app details page for about an hour.
But the biggest fault, in my opinion, that appears to be happening to numerous people using the Android Market is its confusion regarding app updates. When an application has an update pending, you are informed and sent to the app details page to update, as has been Android standard for years. However, after arriving at the details page the Market tells you that there’s no update and that all is fine. This leaves you with the Market telling you two things that contradict each other, and even worse leaves you with an app that you have no way to updating. The only workaround for this is to wait for a second application to get an update (so, like, wait a few hours). This enables the ‘Batch Update’ button on the My Apps page, which will download the ‘non-existent’ update for you.
All in all, a nice effort from Google. They’ve spiced up the Android Marketplace and brought it up to the same level as the Honeycomb and Web Browser interfaces. They’ve even added some features that have long been sought from users. For example, when downloading multiple applications/updates, only one app will be downloaded at a time. Before, when you got a new device or flashed a new ROM and signed in to your Google account, Android would proceed to download your apps at once. All 48 of them.
But the update has barely hit any Android devices yet, and already Google are going to have to patch it, delaying the entire process once more.
As a lover of flashy UI, I’m going to have to say this update is the best Android has seen in a while, and should start a trend that sees more aesthetically pleasing apps arrive on the OS. With this and the recent Google+ UI making it’s way into other Google services, it’s clear Google are taking a much more serious approach to the effectiveness of a good and clean interface. Keep up the good work, Google.